The 50 Best ‘90s Songs of All Time, from “No Scrubs” to “Wonderwall”
Plaid shirts, scrunchies, Doc Martens, tights under shorts, sagging jeans, Hot Topic, stussy signs on binders, Seinfeld, mixtapes, raver pants, America Online, apathy…there’s so much about the ‘90s we could wax nostalgic over. The one thing that ties ‘em all together? A good soundtrack, of course. We consulted women who lived through the decade for the ultimate roundup of the very best ‘90s songs. Sit back, turn on that lava lamp, bust out a Capri-Sun and get ready for a trip back in time that only a true millennial will appreciate.
The 80 Greatest Love Songs to Dedicate to Your Special Someone
1. “Tonight, Tonight” by Smashing Pumpkins (1995)
A truly iconic hit single from an emblem of ‘90s angst, with a music video that’s been seared into the mind’s eye of anyone who lived through the decade.
2. “Gangsta’s Paradise” by Coolio (1995)
Coolio sampled Stevie Wonder’s “Pastime Paradise” in this chart-topping rap hit, which won a Grammy in the mid ‘90s and has enjoyed enduring popularity ever since.
3. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana (1991)
Here, the lead single on Nevermind that catapulted Nirvana to fame, encapsulated the disenchanted spirit of ‘90s youth and made grunge the sound of the decade.
4. “Juicy” by The Notorious B.I.G. (1994)
Christopher Wallace (AKA Notorious B.I.G.) was a ‘90s rap titan and this, his breakthrough song, is widely considered to be one of the greatest hip-hop tracks of all time.
5. “Undone - the Sweater Song” by Weezer (1992)
Dorky hipsters of the decade rejoiced when Weezer came on the scene with their anti-grunge sound—and given the multiplatinum success of their debut album, it’s safe to say there were a lot of ‘em.
6. “Self Esteem” by The Offspring (1994)
It’s impossible not to sing along to this pop-punk gem from the Offspring—a group that’s widely credited with reviving the punk rock movement in the ‘90s.
7. “Rid of Me” by PJ Harvey (1993)
Primal and haunting, this song, like much of PJ Harvey’s music, tapped into the angst of the era with a feminist flourish that earned her major counterculture cred.
8. “Paranoid Android” by Radiohead (1997)
“Paranoid Android” is a perfect example of how Radiohead’s OK Computer captured the moodiness of the decade without sacrificing the kind of memorable riffs that ensure mainstream success.
9. “Glycerine” by Bush (1994)
Bush was a huge, post-grunge commercial success with a palatable alt-rock sound. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, you definitely heard this one on the radio in the ‘90s.
10. “Don’t Speak” by No Doubt (1995)
No Doubt belonged to the ska-punk scene of the ‘90s, but one of their biggest hits was a love song with major pop appeal.
11. “No Scrubs” by TLC (1999)
This earworm from R&B sensation TLC played on repeat in the ‘90s, both on the radio and in our heads.
12. “Say My Name” by Destiny’s Child (1999)
Following in the footsteps of fellow girl group TLC, Destiny’s Child cashed in on the R&B sound of the decade just before it went out the door.
13. “Torn” by Natalie Imbruglia (1997)
Millennials hate to love this melodramatic number from Natalie Imbruglia. (Go on and give it a listen—we won’t tell.)
14. “Fantasy” by Mariah Carey (1995)
Here, a candy-coated pop hit from the decade’s most infamous diva.
15. “Crash Into Me” by Dave Matthews Band (1996)
It wasn’t all grunge and rap, the ‘90s also had jams for the sensitive types in the Ivy League frat.
16. “None Of Your Business” by Salt-N-Pepa (1993)
This fist-pumping, Grammy Award-winning hip-hop track took a stand against slut-shaming way before woke culture made it cool.
17. “Stay (I Missed You)” by Lisa Loeb (1994)
If you don’t cringe at the folksy singer-songwriter cheese that is Lisa Loeb’s “Stay,” you probably weren’t around when Nine Stories dominated the airwaves.
18. “You Oughta Know” by Alanis Morisette (1995)
The ultimate bad break up song, “You Oughta Know” had an angry edge that flirted with feminism, appealed to tweens and generally vibed with the times.
19. “Losing my Religion” by REM (1991)
MTV, VH1—you couldn’t turn on the tube without seeing the critically-acclaimed music video for this chart-topping hit from early ‘90s alt-rock giants R.E.M. Call it campus rock, if you will, but it was the quality kind.
20. “Can I Kick It?” by A Tribe Called Quest (1990)
Pioneers of the ‘90s hip-hop scene, A Tribe Called Quest combined genius sampling and effortless rhymes to create a party playlist staple with staying power. Watch the music video for a real throwback.
21. “Black Hole Sun” by Soundgarden (1994)
Incredible vocal talent, moody, apocalyptic lyrics and stadium rock sound came together to create an alt-rock anthem that every millennial remembers.
22. “The World I Know” by Collective Soul (1995)
Collective Soul wasn’t a one-hit wonder, per se, but they’re probably best remembered for this heart-wrenching alt-rock ballad and its music video, which depicted a man preparing to commit suicide.
23. “Killing Me Softly With His Song” by the Fugees (1996)
Lauryn Hill and the Fugees cemented themselves as hip-hop superstars with this hit single—a fresh take on Roberta Flack’s chart-topping song from the ‘70s that features modern beats (sampled from A Tribe Called Quest) and the same sexy vibes.
24. “Crucify” by Tori Amos (1992)
Feminist singer-songwriters were all the rage in the ‘90s and Tori Amos was their patron saint.
25. “...Baby One More Time” by Britney Spears (1999)
Fast forward to the very end of the decade: This iconic teeny-bopper hit signaled a major cultural shift and marked the beginning of a new era in music where pop reigned supreme.
26. “Better Man” by Pearl Jam (1994)
Another success story from the Seattle music scene that shaped the early ‘90s, we’ll all remember Pearl Jam as the band that turned grunge into something more melodic, polished and enduring (whether you like it or not).
27. “Glory Box” by Portishead (1994)
All the cool, Goth kids know that trip-hop—another genre that defined the decade—reached its sexy, downbeat pinnacle with this hit single from Portishead.
28. “My Lovin’” by En Vogue (1992)
One of the greatest all-female R&B groups of the decade; if you’re a product of the ‘90s, you’re gonna get it.
29. “California Love” by Tupac Shakur (1995)
The West Coast hip-hop lifestyle of the ‘90s will live on forever in this—one of the most iconic songs and music videos of the genre, courtesy of the dream team that was Tupac and Dre.
30. “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion (1997)
Yep, the ‘90s gets to lay claim to this Canadian superstar with perfect pitch. (Go ahead and rewatch Titanic if you need to wash down your nostalgia with a good cry.)
31. “Under the Bridge” by Red Hot Chili Peppers (1991)
This RHCP gem reached more than just the band’s fan-base—namely because it had the emotional heft to speak to a generation.
32. “Stupid Girl” by Garbage (1995)
This blend of cynical counterculture, mainstream pop sounds and powerful female vibes has the ‘90s written all over it.
33. “Sex and Candy” by Marcy Playground (1997)
Did Marcy Playground make other music? We don’t know…but this catchy, psychedelic, post-grunge hit is indelibly imprinted in our memories.
34. “These Are Days” by 10,000 Maniacs (1992)
10,000 Maniacs had already been around the block by the time this hit single from Our Time in Eden came out, but Natalie Merchant’s talent as a female singer-songwriter was welcomed with open arms by the easy listening cadre of the ‘90s.
35. “Celebrity Skin” by Hole (1998)
It doesn’t get much more iconic than Courtney Love—a master of turbulent emotion and whip smart irony who turned the apathetic counterculture spirit of grunge into an in-your-face rebellion with mainstream appeal.
36. “Hell is Round the Corner” by Tricky (1995)
Another pioneer from the Bristol trip-hop scene, the dark lyrics and layered beats of Tricky and Massive Attack are more than a little familiar to all former ravers.
37. “Mind Playing Tricks On Me” by Geto Boys (1991)
Well before Coolio captured the raw underbelly of street life with “Gangsta’s Paradise,” the Geto Boys were keeping it real with this track—a critically praised emblem of the ‘90s hip-hop renaissance.
38. “Be My Lover” by La Bouche (1995)
If you were busting a move on the dancefloor in the ‘90s, this is what the DJ was playing.
39. “Wonderwall” by Oasis (1995)
Cue the decade’s favorite debate on whether or not Oasis was just a Beatles rip-off band.
40. “If It Makes You Happy” by Sheryl Crow (1996)
A little bit pop, a little bit country and a big female star with serious talent—Sheryl Crow’s catchy tune was impossible to escape (and the bane of every grunge-lover’s existence).
41. “Doin’ It” by LL Cool J (1995)
Unabashedly sexy and impossibly smooth…Is it just us or could LL Cool J really get you in the mood?
42. “A Design For Life” by Manic Street Preachers (1996)
If you can read the name of this Manic Street Preachers song and not immediately hear the refrain in your head, you need to brush up on your ‘90s indie knowledge stat.
43. “Range Life” by Pavement (1994)
Casual apathy, subdued angst and low-fi sounds that are easy on the ears made Pavement the indie rock voice of a generation.
44. “There She Goes” by The La’s (1990)
This British dream pop hit should ring a bell—and for what it’s worth, it pairs perfectly with an Empire Records movie night, too.
45. “Sure Shot” by Beastie Boys (1994)
The Beastie Boys had a brazen, out-there style that united hip-hop fans, feminists, grunge rockers, punks and every other listening group the decade spawned, and this track is its perfect iteration.
46. “Closer” by Nine Inch Nails (1994)
Trent Reznor is a sexy and gritty industrial rock hero, and Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer” got as much MTV time as Mariah Carey (and way more Hot Topic play, to boot).
47. “Nuthin’ But a ‘G’ Thang” by Dr. Dre and Snoop Doggy Dogg (1992)
Another Dr. Dre collab—this time with the rap talents of Snoop taking center stage—“Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang” is West Coast hip-hop at its finest.
48. “Wannabe” by Spice Girls (1996)
The mid-90s pop scene was all about Girl Power and nobody could make a tween audience lose their ever-loving minds quite like the Spice Girls.
49. “Fade Into You” by Mazzy Star (1993)
Every millennial knows that all you need for a walk down memory lane is a glass of red wine and this sultry, downbeat single from Mazzy Star.
50. “6 Underground” by Sneaker Pimps (1996)
This electronic, trip-hop group from across the pond had modest stateside success when their single “6 Underground” was first released, but made an even bigger splash when the song appeared on promotional spots for the 1999 cult classic Cruel Intentions.