The Most Popular Songs of the 90s


Those who grew up in the 90s would remember its vivid and unique music scene. You had a bit of everything to choose from, while musicians from each genre seemed to be at the top of their game. The decade started out with R&B and hip hop, had an explosion of grunge rock in the middle, and spun out with the girl group and boy bands for the pop music lovers. In fact, some of the best pop songs that remind us of summer are from this decade.

The very best songs of the 90s might be a debatable topic, so it’s probably safer to discuss the most popular songs from that decade. There are still way too many to do justice to each work, but here are a few of the top ones:

“Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana

Nirvana was a grunge rock band—THE grunge rock band for many in the 90s. While they disbanded in 1994 following the tragic death of their front man Kurt Cobain, this band had several memorable songs to their name. many 90s kids would wear flannel after being inspired by this particular song and the band’s own look. Plus, Nirvana also set the standard for disaffected rock music for years to come.

‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ could probably be described as a song that blew up the music world as we knew it. It defied the rules, crammed raw emotion into cheap chords, and basically challenged the audience in every way.

“I Want it That Way” by the Backstreet Boys

“I Want it That Way” by the Backstreet Boys

The Backstreet Boys might still be together as a band today, but their popularity and success in the 90s remain unparalleled. Several of their songs were a must in any dance party, school event, or any other occasion in the 90s. Since they started out in 1993, they had plenty of time and opportunity to make their mark in the rest of the 90s decade.

It’s very hard to choose just one BSB song that was popular in the 90s. ‘I Want it That Way’ is widely regarded as the pop anthem for this decade, though several others might also take that honor. These include ‘Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)’ and ‘Everybody (Backstreet’s Back’. However, ‘I Want it That Way’ was probably the most representative song of this band and widely regarded as the pop ballad of the year it was released (1999).

“…Baby One More Time” by Britney Spears

"...Baby One More Time" by Britney Spears

The video of this song was an instant hit, while the music itself is still relevant for many youngsters. Those who were around in the 90s regard Britney’s’ earlier works as the classics they still enjoy. Incidentally, the whole concept of a very young Britney Spears taking the world by the storm with her music was a defining factor of the 90s.

Britney Spears was (and is) not just a popular singer, but may also have been a pop genius in her day. This particular music video was all her, including the idea of the school setting, the schoolgirl look, etc. She was one of the top pop female stars of the 90s, no doubt. Many of her other songs may also be counted as 90s pop classics, such as ‘Crazy’ and ‘Sometimes’. In fact, she’s one of the pop icons that can be credited for reviving the teen pop genre in the late 90s as well as the early 2000s.

“Cut Your Hair” by Pavement

Cut Your Hair by Pavement

This is arguable the catchiest song that Pavement offered its audience in the 90s. It’s about forming a band, selling out for success—a somewhat ironic topic for a hit song. Moreover, the music video for this song was also featured on an episode of the quintessentially 90s show ‘Beavis and Butthead’. The latter was a 90s cultural artifact in itself, which only increases the importance of this Pavement song.

“Don’t Look Back in Anger” by Oasis

Don't Look Back in Anger by Oasis

This song was popular in its own right, but also because it was and still is so easy to sing. It’s a favorite in karaoke to this date in some locations, with people even singing along when the chorus comes up. This is probably because the key of the song is quite forgiving, allowing us to it the big notes fairly easily.

“Wannabe” by the Spice Girls

"Wannabe" by the Spice Girls

Speaking of the best female pop icons of the 90s, the Spice Girls fit quite nicely into this category as well. Almost every teenage girl back then would have a poster of this girl group in her bedroom, while their songs are still being remixed and enjoyed today. ‘Wannabe’ was one of the songs in the popular show ‘Glee’, which ended not too long ago. Basically, this is a fun song with easy lyrics and a rhythm that make it impossible to stay still.

In a nutshell, the Spice Girls embodied girl power back in the 90s. ‘Wannabe’ is the epitome of that, being the favorite of many girl squads when they cruised together and shouted the lyrics out of the car windows.

“Creep” by Radiohead

This song was another ‘Glee’ cover, but it’s also been covered by several other artists as well. This is just one indication of its popularity well into the 21st century. Back in the 90s, though, this simple song of the rock genre was a massive hit. Along with the tune, the lyrics were what spoke to the audience back then, making it okay for them to acknowledge their inner creep, weirdo, or freak.

“Vogue” by Madonna

"Vogue" by Madonna

One could say that Madonna jumpstarted the 90s by introducing a certain dance move that anyone could at least pretend to execute. This was celebrated in the ‘Vogue’ video, which is still an iconic production to this date.

“The Sign” by Ace of Base

The Sign by Ace of Base

Many would now recognize this song on another level; namely, through the movie “Pitch Perfect’. However, this is one of the most iconic songs from the 90s decade, with a catchy tune and fun lyrics. It’s still played on road trips, parties, and whenever you want an extra dose of 90s nostalgia.

With this song, the band Ace of Base also proved that American charts could be dominated by Swedish musicians. ABBA might have been one of the trailblazers in this regard, 

but Ace of Base took up the torch quite well. ‘The Sign’ is a peppy, upbeat song that ended up on the very top place on the Billboard chart in 1994. It’s still one of the most recognized works if you’re into pop music today.

“Nightswimming” by R.E.M.

While there are still many, many popular songs of the 90s to discuss, we’ll close out here with a memorable ballad. R.E.M gave us a song with melancholy lyrics, reminiscent of lonely nights in the 0s. It’s a simple work, but elegantly beautiful and iconic in its own quiet way.


The 90s were a golden time for music; it not really possible to capture that unique magic once again. Luckily, we can now pull up all the songs and music videos from the 90s and enjoy the music nostalgia quite easily. The songs we’ve discussed above might also be a good start on the playlist for your next road trip.

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