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The ‘90s. Yo Homeboy, dat bling-bling is phat …NOT! . Here it is! You’ve made it to the ’90s . You’ve come very far. Let’s look back through what we’ve studied so far and try to sum up the music of each decade in only a few words. Here we go:

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the 90s

The ‘90s

Yo Homeboy, datbling-bling is phat…NOT!


Here it is! You’ve made it to the ’90s. You’ve come very far. Let’s look back through what we’ve studied so far and try to sum up the music of each decade in only a few words. Here we go:

  • 1900’s: Ragtime, Scott Joplin, Player piano
  • 1910’s: Ragtime, early Blues
  • 20’s: Blues, small Jazz bands, Louis Armstrong
  • 30’s: Blues, Robert Johnson, Swing, Big Band, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington
  • 40’s: Big Band, Frank Sinatra
  • 50’s: Rhythm and Blues, Early Rock-n-Roll, Elvis, Doo-wop
  • 60’s: Beatlemania, British Invasion, Hippie bands
  • 70’s: Hard rock, Soul music, Punk, Disco
  • 80’s: Glam metal, New Wave, Michael Jackson, early Hip-Hop
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The 90’s

Okay, now let’s get to the music of the 90’s. Since music is a direct reflection of society, we will also take a look at what was going on in the world at the time.

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The ‘90s
  • The World Wide Web was introduced in the 90’s. Suddenly, information was right at one’s fingertips. Many bands started creating websites to boost their popularity.
  • People began to email each other. It was so much faster than mailing letters, and it was FREE! No stamps.
  • An Internet Service Provider was necessary to access the World Wide Web. AOL was the largest. Before getting on the internet, you had to “dial up” the internet. The internet came through your phone line, so you wouldn’t be able to receive phone calls while you were online and you might have to pay long distance phone charges.

AOL Video from 1995

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The ‘90s
  • Up to this time, MTV showed mostly pop and rock videos, but now MTV began to show a much wider selection of music thanks to smaller video segments. The Subterranean segment showed alternative rock and underground videos. Headbanger’s Ball showed heavy metal videos. Yo! MTV Raps showed hip-hop and rap videos.
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The ‘90s

MTV was always known as the channel that showed music videos 24 hours a day, but during this time, MTV

began airing

TV shows

that appealed to young audiences. Reality shows like The Real World and animated shows like Beavis and Butthead.

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The ‘90s

Rock music evolved in a totally different direction once again in the ‘90s

The Grunge Movement was one of the biggest movements of the 90’s. It basically killed Glam metal overnight. Where Glam was all about big hair, a fancy image, and a spectacular video, Grunge was characterized by having a messy, “I just woke up” look, and no dramatic videos. Many Grunge bands bought their clothes at Goodwill or thrift stores.

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The 90’s

Grunge music came out of Seattle, Washington and was a subcategory of the alternative rock that was started in the ’80s. It had very distorted guitars, frantic drumming, intense but unclear vocals, and sarcastic, uncaring, or angry lyrics. Grunge was originally an underground type of music and many grunge bands were uncomfortable with the popularity of the movement.

Alice in Chains

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The 90’s

One of the biggest grunge bands was Nirvana. Their album Nevermindbecame an instant sensation selling 300,000 copies a week. The record company couldn’t meet the demand for it. The band wasn’t happy about their success. They wanted to stay small.

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The 90’s

Kurt Cobain was the lead singer and guitarist of Nirvana. When he was 8, his parents divorced. From this point on, Kurt became angry towards adults and was a rebellious teenager. Two weeks before graduation, he dropped out of high school, and struggled to make ends meet for the next few years.

Video – Smells Like Teen Spirit

Cobain’s influences were The Beatles, classic rock, such as Led Zeppelin and Kiss, and punk bands of the 80’s. His songwriting reflects the depression that tormented him his whole life. He was very frustrated by Nirvana’s success and thought that his artistic vision was not understood by the public. In 1994, still struggling with depression, heroin addiction, and his recent divorce to singer Courtney Love, he committed suicide.

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The 90’s

Another Grunge giant was Pearl Jam. Nirvana and Pearl Jam can be credited for starting the entire Grunge movement, with many other bands that followed. Like Nirvana, Pearl Jam also had an aggressive, but mentally unstable lead singer in Eddie Vedder. Also, like Nirvana, Pearl Jam did not like the pressures of success, so they refused to make videos of their popular songs, and even refused to use Ticketmaster for ticket sales for their concerts, which limited their ability to tour for 3 years.

Pearl Jam Video


Eventually, the band became visually spectacular to watch live when touring, often employing light shows along with the music.

Nine Inch Nails burst into the Grunge scene, adding an industrial sound into the mix. The band got its start in the music industry when their future band leader, Trent Reznor was an assistant engineer and janitor in a recording studio and asked if he could record some of his own music for free during off-hours. His boss agreed.


One of the first Grunge bands to sign a record deal with a major label was Soundgarden. This would make sense, since they were pioneers of the genre.

One of their biggest hits was 1994’s “Black Hole Sun,” which you are listening to




Yet another Grunge band with an interesting twist was Stone Temple Pilots. These guys actually were very influenced by Classic Hard Rock

Stone Temple Pilots can trace its beginnings to a Black Flag concert in Long Beach, California in 1986, where Scott Weiland met Robert DeLeo. They began discussing their girlfriends, and, after realizing they were dating the same woman, developed a bond. They each subsequently broke it off with the girl, who left town, whereupon Weiland and DeLeo moved into her vacated apartment. They eventually met up with some of Weiland’s old high school friends and started the band.

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The 90’s

Some other Alternative rock groups criticized the Grunge movement for being too hyper-masculine and/or for being too mainstream. They decided to go their own route and experiment with new compositional styles and sounds in that were different from Grunge.

Some of these groups included…


With their debut album, Devil’s Night Out released in 1989, this band rose to fame in the ‘90s. Heavily influenced by Ska, saxophones and a trombone were included as well in the otherwise typical rock band lineup. Their lead vocalist, Dicky Barrett, is currently the announcer for Jimmy Kimmel Live.


This was another rock band started in the ‘80s that enjoyed even greater success in the ‘90s. They were one of the first popular alternative bands, with a signature sound created by guitarist Peter Buck’s arpeggiated style of playing and lead singer Michael Stipe’s unclear vocals. Their albums in the ‘90s included Out of Time, Automatic for the People, Monster, New Adventures in Hi-Fi, and Up.


This English band featured expansive sound and themes of modern alienation. Their album OK Computer is often acclaimed as a landmark recording of the ‘90s.


This band was started by Ed Roland, who studied music composition and guitar playing at Berklee College of Music in Massachusetts.

Roland and his friends went on to record 7 number one mainstream rock hits, the first of which was “Shine.”


The Smashing Pumpkins

The Pumpkins have a diverse, densely layered and guitar-heavy sound, containing elements of gothic rock, grunge, heavy metal, dream pop, psychedelic rock, progressive rock, shoegazer style production and, in later recordings, electronica.



The band is best known for their successful singles "Buddy Holly", "Undone - The Sweater Song", "Say It Ain't So", "Perfect Situation", "Island in the Sun", "Beverly Hills" and "Pork and Beans".


Best remembered for their 1993 single "No Rain", the group enjoyed critical and commercial success in the early 1990s with their neo-psychedelic take on alternative rock. The 1995 death of lead vocalist Shannon Hoon halted the band's activity, and the members went on hiatus until officially disbanding in 1999. The band reformed with new lead vocalist Travis Warren in 2006, and although Warren departed two years later, he has since resumed performing with the band.



Punk was still alive and kickin’ in the ‘90s—over a decade after it’s creation. As a refresher for those of you who may have forgotten, Punk emphasized simplicity in terms of composition: basic easy chords and lyrics and was created as a backlash to Glam and other types of rock that were considered too elaborate and flashy.



One of the biggest names in ‘90s Punk was Green Day. Part of the reason for

their great success was the fact that they got started in Berkeley, CA—not far from

Hollywood. When they put out their first recordings for an independent label, they

earned a large grassroots fanbase.


The Offspring

Often credited alongside Green Day for bringing Punk into the American popular

mainstream, the Offspring created hit songs such as “Come Out and Play” and

“Gone Away.” Like Green Day, they were also from California.


Here’s a third Punk band from California:

Rage Against the Machine

In 1992, the band released its self-titled debut album, which became a commercial success, leading to a slot in the 1993 Lollapalooza.


Other Happenings in the ‘90s

With the advent of the internet in mainstream America, many online businesses

followed and were very successful. This was known as the “Dot Com Boom.”


The Dot Com boom along with the fact that then President Bill Clinton had

balanced the federal budget only helped to maintain a strong economy for America.

Americans were able to buy more at this point, and with gasoline prices running

at about an average of $1.09 a gallon, Americans were certainly more able to afford…


Larger cars!



As you can see, many Americans in the ‘90s were all about the excess, and many

musical genres mirrored this—though none did it better than the pop divas of the


Female pop singers at this time placed a heavy emphasis on computer-generated

dance tracks, intense choreography (often with background dancers), and elaborate stage sets. Their record companies usually hired pop composers to ensure that the songs were catchy and would gain lots of airtime on the radio. Of course, being good-looking certainly didn’t hurt your marketability either.


Britney Jean Spears was born in McComb, Mississippi, and raised in Kentwood, Louisiana, Spears began performing as a child, landing acting roles in stage productions and television shows. She signed with Jive Records in 1997 and released her debut album ...Baby One More Time in 1999. During her first decade in the music industry, she became a prominent figure in mainstream popular music and popular culture, followed by a much-publicized personal life. Her first two albums established her as a pop icon and broke sales records, while title tracks "...Baby One More Time" and "Oops!... I Did It Again" became international number-one hits. Spears was credited with influencing the revival of teen pop during the late 1990s.


Christina María Aguilera first appeared on national television in 1990 as a contestant on the Star Search program, and went on to star in Disney Channel's television series The Mickey Mouse Club from 1993–1994 (co-starring with Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake). Aguilera signed to RCA Records after recording "Reflection", the theme song for the animated film Mulan (1998).


But the ladies weren’t the only ones making a splash in the pop world. Guys were

doing it too—albeit in a more-group oriented fashion. BOY BANDS hit the stage in

a bigger way than ever before, with two of the biggest vocal groups leading the pack:

Interestingly enough, the format for the songs and performances were roughly

the same as that for the pop divas at the time.


With the success of the boy bands, British record producers Bob and Chris

Herbert wondered if they could make a profit with a similar all girl group. Soon

after, the Spice Girls were born.

The girls were individually selected through auditions that tested their dancing

and singing skills.


The pop world wasn’t for every artist though. Some preferred a more intimate,

hands-on, compose-it-yourself approach. These artists were often referred to as



Tori Amos is an American pianist, singer-songwriter and composer. She was at the forefront of a number of female singer-songwriters in the early 1990s and was noteworthy early in her career as one of the few alternative rock performers to use a piano as her primary instrument. Some of her charting singles include "Crucify", "Silent All These Years", "God", "Cornflake Girl", "Caught a Lite Sneeze", "Professional Widow", "Spark", "1000 Oceans", and "A Sorta Fairytale", her most commercially successful single in the U.S. to date.


MandyMoore is an American singer-songwriter, actress and fashion designer. Moore became famous as a teenager in the late 1990s, after the release of her teen pop albums So Real,I Wanna Be with You, and Mandy Moore. In 2007, she took an adult pop-folk direction with the release of Wild Hope. Her most recent album, Amanda Leigh, was released on May 26, 2009.Moore has sold more than 10 million records worldwide. Moore subsequently branched out into film, starring in 2002's A Walk to Remember and later in other movies, such as Chasing Liberty, Saved! and License to Wed. Most recently Moore provided the voice of Rapunzel in Tangled. In April 2011, she ranked 5th in People's annual Most Beautiful issue.


Sarah Ann McLachlan is a Canadian musician, singer and songwriter. Known for her emotional ballads and mezzo-soprano vocal range, as of 2009, she has sold over 40 million albums worldwide. McLachlan's best-selling album to date is Surfacing, for which she won two Grammy Awards (out of four nominations).


Fiona Apple is an American singer-songwriter and pianist. Apple met international acclaim for her 1996 debut album, Tidal, which was a critical and commercial success. At the age of nineteen she received a Grammy Award for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance for the single "Criminal" from that album in 1998.


Alanis Morissette is a Canadian singer-songwriter, guitarist, record producer, and actress. She has won 16 Juno Awards and seven Grammy Awards, was nominated for two Golden Globe Awards and also shortlisted for an Academy Award nomination. Morissette began her career in Canada, and as a teenager recorded two dance-pop albums, Alanis and Now Is the Time, under MCA Records Canada.


Now, how could you talk about the ‘90s without mentioning Rap? This decade

could easily be called Rap’s golden age simply because of the sheer number and

diversity of rappers recording at the time.


Serious Rap

Andre Romelle Young, better known by his stage name Dr. Dre, is an American rapper, record producer, record executive, entrepreneur, and occasional actor He has produced albums for and overseen the careers of many rappers, including Snoop Dogg, Eminem and 50 Cent. As a producer he is credited as a key figure in the popularization of West Coast G-funk, a style of rap music characterized as synthesizer-based with slow, heavy beats.

Dre began his career in music as a member of the World Class Wreckin' Cru and he later found fame with the influential gangsta rap group N.W.A ,which popularized the use of explicit lyrics in rap to detail the violence of street life.


Snoop is best known as a rapper in the West Coast hip hop scene, and for being one of Dr. Dre's most notable protégés. Snoop Dogg was a Crip gang member while in high school. Shortly after graduation, he was arrested for cocaine possession and spent six months in Wayside County Jail. His music career began in 1992 after his release when he was discovered by Dr. Dre. He collaborated on several tracks on Dre's solo debut, The Chronic


Eminem, as was previously mentioned, was another one of Dre’sproteges.

Eminem’s trademark could always be found in his lyrics; quite possibly some of the

most twisted out there—frequently making reference to drug use, sexual acts,

mental instability, over-the-top violence, and marital problems.


Fun Rap: a little less serious

There was also more kid and family-friendly rap out there that wasn’t as dark.

One-hit-wonder Vanilla Ice exemplified this with “Ice Ice Baby”


Will Smith

Smith started as the MC of the hip-hop duo DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, with his childhood friend Jeffrey "DJ Jazzy Jeff" Townes as turntablist and producer, as well as Ready Rock C as the human beat box. The trio was known for performing humorous, radio-friendly songs, most notably "Parents Just Don't Understand" and "Summertime". They gained critical acclaim and won the first Grammy awarded in the Rap category (1988).