The 90s is often the black sheep of the “best decade of music” debate. However, nary a ten-year period goes by in which there aren't a few bangers released into the airwaves. The 90s is no exception.
And, depending on your take on popular music today, and the quality of your sound system, you might even believe that the most iconic albums of the 90s sound even better today than they did decades ago.
1. Outkast, Aquemini (1998)
Reddit user toomuchisnotenough included Aquemini in her list of 90s albums that still slap. And why not? Outkast remains one of the most enduring hip-hop acts, with Andre 3000 and Big Boi combining utter originality, crisp lyricism, and trunk-rattling beats on every album.
Aquemini standouts include “Rosa Parks”, the eponymous “Aquemini”, and “Da Art of Storytellin' (Pts. 1 & 2), though the entire album is meant for replay after replay.
2. Nirvana, MTV Unplugged in New York (1994)
When Redittor peas8carrots asked for 90s albums that hold up well today, they likely anticipated a wide array of responses. That's what they got, with Outkast, Nirvana, and a slew of other disparate musical acts filling the thread.
Nirvana's MTV Unplugged in New York highlights Cobain, Grohl, Novoselic, and guests playing a semi-electric set that is unique to the typically acoustic MTV Unplugged series. They play the hits plus a few covers, making for a one-of-a-kind album that stands the test of time.
3. A Tribe Called Quest, The Low End Theory (1991)
“You on point, Phife?”, “All the time, Tip”, is just one of those back-and-forths that never gets old. Whether you were jamming The Low End Theory CD in your 1990 Honda Civic or through Spotify in your 2022 Tesla, it is among the most original, upbeat, and ear-watering hip-hop albums you will ever hear.
4. Alanis Morisette, Jagged Little Pill (1995)
Reddit user AmethystRealm2049 sums up this selection perfectly:
“Make a list of every Alanis Morissette song you can think of. There’s a good chance all of them were on Jagged Little Pill. It’s like Hendrix’s Are You Experienced in that it’s an album that a lot of people probably mistakenly think is the greatest hits.”
“You Ought Know” that this 1996 Grammy winner for Album of the Year still, in its own unique way, slaps.
5. Nas, Illmatic (1994)
Considered by many rap enthusiasts to be the best album in the genre's history, Nas' Illmatic follows a simple formula to a T: Gritty, timeless beats inseparable from the New York sound plus picture-painting lyrics from Nas. The result is an album that still slaps nearly three decades after its release.
6. Rage Against the Machine, Rage Against the Machine (1992)
Though fans could argue that all three of Rage Against the Machine's 90s albums belong on this list, the band's self-titled debut album was critically adored and expectation-setting. Foreboding of a genre that blends heavy metal with hip-hop-style lyricism, this album's biggest hit was “Killing In the Name”.
7. Soundgarden, Superunknown (1994)
Fans unfamiliar with popular 90s bands from the Pacific Northwest not called Nirvana will be struck by the captivating nature of Soundgarden's Superunknown. Chris Cornell's occasionally haunting vocals tie together a track listing that keeps the listener on their toes while experiencing a nearly full spectrum of emotions.
While songs like “Spoonman” provide a speaker-rattling song suitable for a heavy lift, ballads like “Fell on Black Days” inspire a decidedly more somber mood. Cornell's passing has further ingrained the feeling of importance and longevity that Superunknown possesses.
8. Alice in Chains, Dirt (1992)
The 90s was the time for the Seattle rock scene, and Alice in Chains' Dirt was a massive part of grunge ad grunge-adjacent rock's come-up. The band's second studio album captured critics and remains Alice in Chains' highest-selling album (and with streaming what it is, that is unlikely to change).
“Rooster” is the song that casual music fans would most readily recognize, but like all albums on this list, Dirt should be consumed as a whole.
This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.