There are certain songs that we'd rather forget, despite the fact that they seemed cool at the time. But then there are those ones that just never really get old. It's definitely pretty obvious that we're all crazy obsessed with the 1990s by now -- just call it our collective millennial nostalgia for a much simpler time. And when we're nostalgic for that time period, we definitely think about the music. There were a bunch of hits in the 1990s that were totally awesome when they were first released and, thankfully, they're just as awesome now... even if some of them are awesome in a terrible way. The 1990s were actually a pretty interesting time for music considering how many genres ended up breaking through to the top numbers on the Billboard charts. Here are 15 of the hits from that decade that we're still pretty into today.
15 "U Can't Touch This"
MC Hammer started off the 1990s with his mega hit "U Can't Touch This" which he wrote and produced. The song hit the number one spot on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks, won for Best R&B Song and a Best Rap Solo Performance at the Grammy Awards, as well as Best Rap Video and Best Dance Video at the 1990 MTV Video Music Awards. At the time, you couldn't actually buy the song as a single (we know, can you imagine?) and, of course, digital music wasn't yet a thing, so people had to buy the whole album to get the song. There was a bit of an issue when Rick James tried to sue him for sampling "Super Freak." But the two reached a settlement when MC Hammer added Rick as a co-writer to the song which got him millions of dollars in royalties. The phrases "You can't touch this" and "Stop! Hammer time!" would enter the pop culture sphere and never leave... for better or for worse, we can't really decide which.
14 "Say My Name"
"Say My Name" is considered one of Destiny's Child's signature songs. It was released in 1999 off their album The Writing's On the Wall, becoming their most popular single off the album and a critical success as well. The song won two Grammy Awards in 2001 for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals, and Best R&B Song. They were also nominated for Record of the Year and Song of the Year. The music video took home the MTV Video Music Award for Best R&B Video. The song actually took 13 weeks to get to the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100, but overall it spent 32 weeks on the list and was one of the top ten best-selling singles in the U.S. that year. It was the biggest hit that the group had in the U.K., and also got them a number one spot in Asia.
U2's "One" has been called one of the best songs of all time. The band released the song in 1992 as a benefit single with money going to AIDS research. Bono wrote the lyrics, which "were inspired by the band members' fractured relationships and the German reunification." The band actually almost broke up before getting over their differences and working on the song together. The song was number ten on the Billboard Hot 100, but topped the Billboard Album Rock Tracks and Modern Rock Tracks charts, as well as taking the seven spot on the UK singles chart. The song is often used to promote human rights or social justice issues, which makes it relevant for all time. The band actually filmed three different music videos before they felt like they made the right one.
"Waterfalls" was the third single off TLC's second album, but many people think it was the group's signature song. The song was released in 1995 and reached the top five in many different countries. In the U.S., the single spent seven weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, and it was also the number two song of the year on Billboard's 1995 year-end chart. The song was nominated for two Grammy's at the 38th Annual Grammy Awards in 1996, Record of the Year as well as Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. The song made quite an impact for its serious nature since it touched on topics like illegal drug trade, promiscuity, and HIV/AIDS. The music video got a million dollar budget and won four MTV Video Music Awards in 1995.
11 "Baby (One More Time)"
Britney Spears is killing it once again and is off in Las Vegas making an amazing comeback, but we just can't deny the amazingness that was the original Britney. "Baby (One More Time)" was one of the biggest hits of 1998. The song hit the number one spot in every country that it debuted in, not just the U.S., and in the U.K. it even became the best selling song of 1999. With over 10 million copies sold, it is one of the best-selling singles of all time. Of course, the music video was awesome too, featuring Britney dressed up like a Catholic school girl dancing around and looking hot. The video has been voted the third most influential video in the history of pop music in a Jam! poll and it was also voted the best music video of the 1990s.
Alanis Morissette's "Ironic" was released in 1996 as the third single off her mega hit album Jagged Little Pill. Of course, the song has sparked a ton of debate over whether the examples of irony in the song are actually irony at all, but who cares. In the U.S. the song hit the number four spot on the Billboard Hot 100 and was Alanis' highest-charting single. In Canada, the song topped the charts for six weeks and it topped in the top five in a few other countries. The song has been certified gold and got two Grammy Award nominations in 1997, both for Record of the Year and Best Short Form Music Video. When the MTV awards came around, the song was nominated for six awards, and Alanis won three of them. VH1's also added it to their "Greatest Music Videos" list.
9 "Baby Got Back"
Sir Mix-a-Lot's song "Baby Got Back" was controversial at the time of its 1992 release thanks to its bold mention of female butts. Believe it or not, the video was even briefly banned on MTV, but it still ended up being the second selling song of the year... only trailing behind Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You." The song is not only still pretty fun to listen to, it's still making waves in pop culture. Recently, Blake Lively got herself into some hot water when she posted a photo of herself with the caption "L.A. face with an Oakland booty," but Sir Mix-a-Lot himself came to her defense since the song was intended to celebrate all women, bottom line (pun totally intended). He also pointed out that Katy Perry and Kim Kardashian had previously used the exact same line without controversy and was surprised that people responded so negatively to Blake.
8 "What I Got"
Sublime's "What I Got" was their biggest radio hit of all time and also the band's second single. It was one of the biggest songs of 1997 and charted on the Top 40 as well as the Modern Rock Charts. The song was released after the band's singer Bradley Nowell passed away of a heroin overdose, so the video pays tribute to him with footage of he and the other band members together. The video made enough of an impact that it took home the award for Best Alternative Video at the MTV Music Awards. For anyone who listened to the radio in the 90's, those lyrics come flooding back as soon as the song starts playing: "...Let the lovin', let the lovin' come back to me/Lovin', is what I got, I said remember that..."
When the Spice Girls debuted their first single "Wannabe" in 1996 in the UK, the critics gave the song mind reviews. But it really shaped the identity of the "girl power" group as they came out on the scene. The song essentially values friendship between the girls over the potential men in their life. After the song topped the UK charts for seven weeks it was released in the U.S. in 1997, where it topped the Billboard Hot 100 for four weeks. The song ended up becoming the best-selling single by a female group in the entire world, and by the end of 1997 had sold over seven million copies. It 2014 it was called one of the most easily recognizable songs of the past 60 years, and let's be honest it's pretty popular at karaoke.
6 "Ice Ice Baby"
"Ice Ice Baby" is by far the most successful song that Vanilla Ice ever released, and it will probably never get old. Sounds weird but it's actually been released twice, since the first time it was released on his 1989 album Hooked the song didn't blow up. It was when a DJ chose to play it from the b-side of his "Play That Funky Music" cover that it started to get popular. It was re-released on his 1990 national debut To the Extreme and is considered the first hip hop single to top the Billboard charts. The song was not only written by Vanilla Ice and DJ Earthquake...but also legends Queen and David Bowie. They actually didn't get credit or royalties on the song until it became a hit. Ice, born Robert Van Winkle wrote the lyrics to the song at the age of sixteen, and the chorus originates from the signature chant of the national African American fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha.
5 "All I Wanna Do"
"All I Wanna Do" was Sheryl Crow's biggest U.S. hit, taking the number two spot on the Billboard Hot 100 for six weeks. It also hit the number one spot on the Adult Contemporary charts in both the US and Canada and ended up winning the 1995 Grammy Record of the Year and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, as well as being nominated for Song of the Year. The lyrics from the song actually came from a poem that Sheryl's producer read in a book he found at a used bookstore in Pasadena. The adapted lyrics earned the poet some pretty good royalties plus the book started being sold again after only 500 copies had initially been released. Talk about some good luck for that guy. There are actually two different versions of the music video, one which features the character "Billy" from the song and the other that does not.
4 "The Sign"
When Ace of Base released their song "The Sign" back in 1993, it was pretty notable since they were a Swedish band that was popular both in the U.S. and Europe, too. In the U.K. the song hit the number two spot, but in the U.S. it spent six (non-consecutive) weeks as the number one song on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and ended up being the top song of 1994. The song was also nominated for a Grammy at the 1995 Grammy Awards for Best Pop Vocal Performance By a Group or Duo. Interestingly the band originally tried to call themselves Tech Noir after the nightclub featured in The Terminator, but then they found out that another band had beat them to it. Instead, they went with Ace of Base, which was inspired by Motorhead’s song “Ace of Spades.”
3 "Nuthin' But a 'G' Thang"
Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre created the song that would never quit when they released "Nuthin' But a 'G' Thang" in 1992. The song was on Dre's debut solo album The Chronic, and the song hit the number two spot on the Billboard Hot 100. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame called the song one of the 500 songs that shaped rock and roll, and XXL magazine named it the top hip-hop song of the entire decade. The video bascially shows the two attending a Long Beach house party, and the MTV edit has numerous censored parts which include: nudity (a woman's top is pulled down), drug paraphernalia, Warren G smoking, some copyrighted logos, a White Sox baseball hat, and screen text. The song samples three other songs, and it has been used as a sample itself, as well as parodied as in "Nuthin' But A Glee Thang."
2 "Smells Like Teen Spirit"
"Smells Like Teen Spirit" is the opening track and lead single from Nirvana's second album Nevermind. When the band released the song back in 1991, it was an unexpected success and ended up topping the charts at the beginning of 1992 just as alternative rock was coming into the mainstream music sphere. The song ended up being the band's biggest hit and reached the number six spot on the Billboard Hot 100. When Kurt first took the song to his band bassist, Krist Novoselic said it was "ridiculous." Kurt made them play it for an hour until they worked it out. He later said, "I was trying to write the ultimate pop song. I was basically trying to rip off the Pixies. I have to admit it. When I heard the Pixies for the first time, I connected with that band so heavily that I should have been in that band—or at least a Pixies cover band. We used their sense of dynamics, being soft and quiet and then loud and hard."
1 "I Want it That Way"
It's impossible not to hear that song title and not immediately get tons of 90s flashbacks, right? This was BSB's lead single from their 1999 album Millennium. It ended up reaching the number-one spot in more than 25 countries and was nominated for three Grammy Awards. The mid-tempo ballad was new for the boys since it was a change from their previous singles, so their record execs were worried the more mature sound would alienate their fan base. But as you know, it ended up becoming one of the band's most beloved songs. Many critics found fault with the vague nature of the lyrics since they never told us what "that way" was or what they really wanted out of a relationship. There are tons of parodies of the song by other singers, bands, and personalities.