Top 200 Songs of the 90s


Godsmack – “Whatever” – (1998)

This was Godsmack’s first single – and it remains one of their best-remembered songs. You can tell it was the first single but an up-and-coming rock band because the video is terrible: it’s the band playing a show at some outdoor venue. It’s quite typical of late-90s rock videos. This song was a top ten hit on the Mainstream Rock chart back in 1998.

Juvenile feat. Mannie Fresh & Lil Wayne – “Back That Thang Up” – (1998)

C’mon, you have to admit: that’s one of the work album covers you’ve ever seen. “Back That Thang Up” was the edited (and MTV-friendly) version of Juvenile’s “Back That Azz Up” (which we’ll feature at a later date). Notice that no matter what you are backing up, it is spelled incorrectly. This only made it to #15 on the Hot 100 (Juvenile would late have a #1) but this is definitely his signature song. This was actually a decent hit on TRL in 1999 and it marks an early appearance of Lil Wayne before he really got famous about five years later. His rap sort of marks the first major appearance of “drop it like it’s hot” – which I guess makes this a cultural landmark? Just kidding. Happy 4th of July.

Jon B. feat. Babyface – “Someone to Love” – (1995)

The dramatically goateed Jon B. had a #32 hit on the Hot 100 in 1995 with this duet with Babyface. It was included on the Bad Boys soundtrack and that was what caused it to be such a hit. Babyface was the driving force behind R&B in the 1990s, writing and producing over 25 #1 R&B hits. Having him included on your track was almost a guarantee for success. Kind of like Pharrell right now.

Celine Dion & Clive Griffin – “When I Fall in Love” – (1993)

Sleepless in Seattle may have been the defining “chick flick” or romantic comedy of the 90s. It was produced by David Foster and recorded by Celine Dion – who was coming on strong about this time – and Clive Griffin. Griffin’s spot was supposed to be Stevie Wonder, but I think that may have overshadowed everything. This is Griffin’s best-known work and biggest hit. This is a Grammy-winning song but it wasn’t eligible for an Oscar as it wasn’t original. The song appeared first on the Sleepless in Seattle soundtrack before coming out on Celine’s The Colour of My Love later that year.

Mariah Carey feat. Joe & 98 Degrees – “Thank God I Found You” – (1999)

This song is from Mariah Carey’s “Whisper Period” – those years in the late 1990s/early 2000s where she barely made any noise on any of her songs and it just sounds like she’s humming words in the next room. Fortunately, this track features boy band 98 Degrees and late-90s R&B dude Joe to provide actual lyrics. Because it is a Mariah Carey song technically from the 90s, it obviously went to #1. But it’s by no means the best of them.

Glenn Medeiros & Bobby Brown – “She Ain’t Worth It” – (1990)

This was a #1 hit for Glenn Medeiros (and Bobby Brown). His successful years were between 1984 and 1993. After that, he became a teacher and currently is a vice-principal at a school in Hawaii. How about that for a career turn? Imagine having a teacher who had a huge radio smash. This song is a good example of early-90s R&B/new jack swing. I like it (although I don’t care for Bobby Brown’s rap verse).

Salt-n-Pepa with En Vogue – “Whatta Man” – (1993)

This is one of the most popular songs by either Salt-n-Pepa or En Vogue (the best girl group the 90s, sorry TLC). “What a Man” was originally recorded as a soul track in 1968 by Linda Lyndell. En Vogue covered it and layered a Salt-n-Pepa rap over top of it to generate a top three hit on the Hot 100. It was also nominated for a Grammy. It’s an awesome 90s track.

Brandy & Monica – “The Boy is Mine” – (1998)

Here’s one of the greatest R&B songs of the 90s. Man I loved this song when it came out and have no idea how it wasn’t included in the top 50 in our 200 Best Songs of the 90s countdown. I messed that one up. The song was released on albums by both Brandy and Monica (Brandy first, hence her album over there at left). The song was a Hot 100 #1 for 13 weeks over the summer of 1998. It was everywhere. It won a Grammy for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group and was nominated for Record of the Year. Awesome, awesome song.

Gloria Estefan & ‘N Sync – “Music of My Heart” – (1999)

There are two big names behind this song. No, not Gloria Estefan and ‘N Sync – but Diane Warren and David Foster. If you don’t know who they are, look them up as their hit-writing/producing ability is pretty strong. This song was nominated for two Grammys and an Oscar. It was a #2 hit on the Hot 100 and as I’ve had a 90s music listening resurgence lately (this includes a lot of ‘N Sync on my car radio) – I must say, this song is pretty good. Although Joey Fatone’s super red hair in the video really isn’t.

Celine Dion & R. Kelly – “I’m Your Angel” – (1998)

This #1 hit from late 1998 appeared on albums by both Celine Dion and R. Kelly. It was the first #1 that took Billboard’s new rules into account regarding tracks that were never officially released as a single (otherwise referred to as “airplay-only”). This is neither artist’s best song although even if it was a big smash.

Shania Twain & Bryan White – “From This Moment On” – (1997)

This song was written by Shania Twain and perennial hit-writer “Mutt” Lange. Originally, it was going to be a duet between Twain and Elton John but they ended up recording it with country singer Bryan White instead and this has to be his biggest hit. The song was an adult contemporary #1 (duets really heat up the A/C chart). It hit #6 on the country chart and #4 on the Hot 100. Shania was the crossover queen of the 90s.

Eric Benet & Faith Evans – “Georgy Porgy” – (1999)

Cover songs have their place – sometimes they are a terrible idea and sometimes they make a good case for themselves. This is an really chill version of Toto’s 1978 hit (I hate myself for saying “chill” but I don’t know how else to put it). The very talented Eric Benet teamed with Faith Evans to cover this in 1999. It only made it to #55 in the U.S. – but it was a #2 hit in New Zealand.

Luther Vandross & Mariah Carey – “Endless Love” – (1994)

Didn’t we feature “Endless Love” a few weeks ago? Um, yeah. But it’s one of those songs that has been covered and covered. Instead of Lionel Richie we have the also-supremely-talented Luther Vandross and in place of Diana Ross we have the possibly-more-talented Mariah Carey (from a solo-career perspective). This was released on a Luther Vandross album and on Mariah’s Greatest Hits album seven years later. It was a #2 on the Hot 100 and is almost as good as the original.

George Michael & Elton John – “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” – (1991)

Obviously this song was a big hit for Elton John in 1974, reaching #2 on the Hot 100. In 1991, he and George Michael performed the song as a duet during the Live Aid concert. This version went to #1 on the Hot 100 and on charts around the world. This version was included on Elton John’s 1993 album Duets. The first part of the song is George Michael just blowing everyone away with incredible vocals and then he brings out Elton who kills it. This is an amazing version. It’s two incredible voices battling it out and we all win.

Natalie & Nat King Cole – “Unforgettable” – (1991)

This song was one of Nat King Cole’s biggest hits and most well-known signature songs. Natalie Cole was 15 when her father, Nat King Cole, passed away. She’s a pretty incredible talent in her own right, even if her father’s shadow is rather large. Well, in 1991 she released an album of covers of her father’s material. This track was edited as a duet with his classic rendition. The album went on to win a Grammy for Album of the Year and is certified 7x platinum. It’s an amazing song.

Aaron Lewis & Fred Durst – “Outside” – (2000)

Fred Durst was a big deal in 1999 and 2000. Limp Bizkit was huge and they did this little (okay it was huge) tour called “The Family Values Tour” with Korn, Orgy, Primus, Ja Rule, Method Man & Redman, DMX, Filter, The Crystal Method, and a little known band called Staind. That was the 1999 lineup and it was huge. “Outside” (which would later become a hit for Staind – a band led by Aaron Lewis and promoted and produced by Durst) was first performed live and acoustically in Biloxi, Mississippi in 1999 by Aaron Lewis featuring backing vocals by Durst. Some of the lyrics were made up on the spot. Radio stations started playing the acoustic version and it ended up at #56 on the Hot 100 in 2001. Later that year, Staind released Break the Cycle – which was a monumental album (in popularity). This song, for me, marked a transition from the bubblegum pop of 1999/2000 and the more rock-oriented days of 2001 and on.

John Mellencamp & Me’Shell Ndegeocello – “Wild Night” – (1994)

Covering a Van Morrison song is always a risky proposition as he is amazing. But the man formerly known as John Cougar Mellencamp – with help from singer Me’Shell Ndegeocello – really knock this one out of the park. The song has a funky feel to the bassline and pretty sweet guitar. It was a big hit too, topping out at #3 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart.

Gerald Levert & Eddie Levert Sr. – “Already Missing You” – (1995)

Eddie Levert was the lead singer of the O’Jays in the 1970s and his son Gerald was a songwriter and performer in his own right who was also a member of LSG (with Johnny Gill and Keith Sweat) in the 90s. With his father, Gerald released two albums (one posthumously). Father & Son was released in 1995. This song peaked at #7 on the R&B chart in 1995. Gerald died at age 40 in 2006.

Donna Lewis & Richard Marx – “At the Beginning” – (1997)

I will admit – I really liked this song when it came out and I haven’t heard it in a while. And I will also admit that as soon as it started I remember why I liked it so much the first time around. This song did okay on the Adult Contemporary chart and showed that Disney didn’t have a stranglehold on original songs in animated films (this one came from Anastasia and most of what I remember from the movie is that Hank Azaria did a voice and it was awesome). Good song – I don’t care if you mock me.

Bryan Adams, Rod Stewart, & Sting – “All For Love” – (1993)

The movie was The Three Musketeers and I guess Bryan Adams, Rod Stewart, and Sting were supposed to be the musical equivalent of the Three Musketeers? Maybe in 1993. Now it seems a little absurd. Let’s look at where they are now: Bryan Adams has all but disappeared off the face of the Earth after a fairly decent and long career. Sting is still a fairly well-liked and well-respected public figure, but he doesn’t put out a lot of new radio-friendly music these days. And Rod Stewart stopped singing original songs over a decade ago – releasing CD after CD of standards. This was a #1 hit on the Hot 100. The title is inspired by the Three Musketeers motto “All for one, and one for all” and was transposed into this romantic soft rock song. Ooookay.

Michael Jackson & Janet Jackson – “Scream” – (1995)

This is a brother and sister duet. Many people think Michael Jackson peaked in the 80s and while that might be true, his stuff from the 90s was awesome. At the time, this was the highest debuting single on the Hot 100 ever – jumping in at #5 (where it peaked). It’s about the tabloids that were all over Michael after his alleged child abuse among other things. It was nominated from a Grammy and one of the best remembered things about this song was the video. It was considered the most expensive music video ever made – costing over $7 million in 1995. Which is insane. In all reality, it’s probably more memorable than the song itself.

Brian Setzer Orchestra – “Hey, Louis Prima” – (1996)

Guitar Slinger was Brian Setzer’s 1996 album – his second studio album and the one released right before they hit it big in the swing revival craze of the late-1990s. As most of his albums have been, it was a mix of original and covered material. “Hey, Louis Prima” was an original song written by Setzer that shows off his impressive guitar skills. It’s also a bit of foreshadowing as his cover of Louis Prima’s “Jump, Jive An’ Wail” would take him to the stratosphere of pop music two years later.

Pearl Jam – “Black” – (1991)

Pearl Jam was one of the most important bands of the 1990s and one of the biggest in the grunge scene – even if Nirvana gets so much of the credit. “Black” was the fifth track on Ten – one of the best/most-important albums of the decade. This reached #3 on the Mainstream Rock chart and if you want an example of classic grunge music – it doesn’t come much better than this. It remains one of their best-known and most well-received songs despite the fact that it was never released as a single.

The Real McCoy – “Run Away” – (1995)

Sigh. 90’s Eurodance, how I miss you. This style of music is proof that the 90s were a happier time than now (even if the lyrics here are “Run away if you want to survive”). In a day when house music is pretty much the norm on mainstream radio, I can’t imagine how this ever became so popular in the mid-90s. I mean, it reached #3 on the Hot 100. For that brief period between summer of 1994 and the end of 1996, Eurodance became one of the 90s brief flashes of a very specific genre that would burn out really quick (I’m looking at you, Swing Revival).

Ozzy Osbourne – “Mama, I’m Coming Home” – (1991)

How about a little more hard rock this week? Ozzy’s style from the 1980s bled over seamlessly into the 1990s. This is from one of Ozzy’s two best-selling albums. The song is about his as-famous-as-he-is-now wife Sharon. Interestingly, this is Ozzy’s only solo Top 40 single on the Hot 100 – it peaked at #28. The song was written by the lead singer of Motorhead and Zakk Wylde, Ozzy’s former guitarist.

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