Some of the most iconic songs from the 90s still hold up today. From grunge to pop, hip-hop to R&B, the decade was a melting pot of genres that gave birth to some of the greatest hits of all time. Let's take a trip down memory lane and revisit the 23 greatest songs from the 90s that still hit today.
1. Nirvana – Come As You Are (1992)
Many music fans believe that “Come As You Are” by Nirvana is an evergreen piece of art, especially their live version of it on MTV Unplugged.
2. Beastie Boys – Sabotage (1994)
If you didn't work out with the Beastie Boys in the 90s, you better start now! “Sabotage” was a song that everyone loved to listen to when they needed to get pumped up.
3. Technotronic – Pump Up the Jam (1990)
Have you pumped up the jam recently? Well, there's a phrase none of us have heard in a while. “Pump Up the Jam” was a staple song in the 90s and school dance floors everywhere have never been the same.
4. The Cranberries – Zombie (1994)
“Zombie” by The Cranberries is a protest song about the violence and bloodshed caused by the Troubles in Northern Ireland. The combination of the haunting melody, Dolores O'Riordan's powerful vocals, and the impactful lyrics made it a classic and an anthem for social justice.
5. Soundgarden – Black Hole Sun (1994)
“Black Hole Sun” is a grunge masterpiece that features dark, surreal lyrics and an eerie, psychedelic sound. The song's haunting melody and Chris Cornell's captivating voice made it an instant hit that captured the melancholy of the grunge era.
6. Nine Inch Nails – Closer (1994)
This controversial song features explicit lyrics and a raw, industrial sound. The song's hypnotic beat and Trent Reznor's intense vocals made it a landmark in industrial music and a defining song of the 90s.
7. The Cardigans – Lovefool (1996)
The Cardigans' sugary-sweet pop song features a catchy melody and Nina Persson's charming vocals. The song's upbeat tempo and infectious chorus made it an instant hit and a staple of 90s pop music.
8. The Cranberries – Linger (1993)
“Linger” is a melodic, romantic ballad that features Dolores O'Riordan's angelic vocals and a simple, yet captivating melody. The song's emotional lyrics and heartfelt delivery made it a classic and a testament to the power of love.
9. Sir Mix-A-Lot – Baby Got Back (1992)
This raunchy, irreverent rap song that celebrates the beauty and curves of the female body is sure to have everyone on the dance floor the second you hear the beat. The song's catchy beat, infectious chorus, and humorous lyrics made it an instant hit and a pop culture phenomenon. It's a timeless classic that may have paved the way for the future cultural embracement of curves.
10. TLC – Waterfalls (1995)
“Waterfalls” is a soulful R&B song that addresses the dangers in urban communities. The song's beautiful harmonies, poignant lyrics, and TLC's signature style made it an iconic song of the 90s. This song saw a resurgence after it was featured in 2013's We're the Millers.
11. No Doubt – Just a Girl (1995)
No Doubt's “Just a Girl” is an anthemic song that addresses the challenges and stereotypes faced by women in society. The song's infectious melody, Gwen Stefani's powerful vocals, and the band's unique ska-punk style made it a feminist anthem and a classic of 90s rock.
12. No Doubt – Don't Speak (1996)
“Don't Speak” is a heart-wrenching breakup song that features Gwen Stefani's emotional vocals and a simple yet powerful melody. The song's relatable lyrics and raw, emotional delivery made it a timeless classic and a quintessential song of the 90s.
13. Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit (1991)
Kurt Cobain's signature raspy vocals and the song's heavy, distorted sound solidifies “Smells Like Teen Spirit” as the grunge anthem of the 90s. The song's powerful chorus, rebellious spirit, and anti-establishment lyrics made it an instant classic and a defining song of the 90s.
14. Natalie Imbruglia – Torn (1997)
Natalie Imbruglia's angelic voice and simple, melancholic melody made this a pop ballad you can't resist singing along to. The song's poignant lyrics and Imbruglia's emotional delivery made it a worldwide hit and a testament to the power of vulnerability in music.
15. Coolio – Gangsta's Paradise (1995)
Coolio's 1995 hit song featuring singer L.V. explores the harsh realities of inner-city life and poverty. Coolio's powerful delivery and the unforgettable chorus made it a classic 90s hit, with an iconic music video to match.
16. Mazzy Star – Fade Into You (1993)
“Fade Into You” is a 1993 hit by Mazzy Star. The song's dreamy and hypnotic sound and Hope Sandoval's haunting vocals made it a standout hit of the 90s. This song has had so much exposure over the past 30 years as one of the most covered songs in singing competitions and is featured in movies and television shows.
17. The Backstreet Boys – Everybody (Backstreet's Back) (1997)
Love them or hate them, The Backstreet Boys' infectious pop beat, catchy chorus, and iconic music video made this song a fan favorite and cemented the group's place in the pop music pantheon. No one can deny the bop that is “Everybody (Backstreet's Back).” The utterance of a single word drives people out onto the dance floor in droves.
18. Sublime – Santeria (1996)
Sublime's fusion of ska, reggae, and punk rock, combined with Bradley Nowell's soulful vocals, made “Santeria” a genre-bending hit that still resonates with fans today. It's another go-to cover song for many performing singers.
19. Shania Twain – Man, I Feel Like a Woman (1999)
“Man, I Feel Like a Woman” is a 1999 hit by Shania Twain. The song's empowering message, infectious melody, and Twain's dynamic performance made it a crossover country-pop hit and a feminist anthem. This country pop song is a dance floor must for a girl's night out.
20. Mariah Carey – Always Be My Baby (1995)
90s It girl Mariah Carey was pushing out bop after bop, but this one holds a special place in the decade. The song's upbeat tempo, catchy chorus, and Carey's signature vocal range made it a fan favorite and one of the singer's most successful singles.
21. Fiona Apple – Criminal (1996)
“Criminal” by Fiona Apple is a hauntingly beautiful and controversial song that explores themes of guilt, shame, and assault. The lyrics and Apple's raw, powerful vocals capture the pain and complexity of these emotions, making it a timeless and unforgettable hit of the 90s. The song was a commercial and critical success, winning Apple a Grammy Award for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance.
22. Goo Goo Dolls – Iris (1998)
“Iris” is a 1998 hit by Goo Goo Dolls. The song's emotional lyrics, Johnny Rzeznik's soaring vocals, and the memorable hook made it a timeless power ballad and a romantic classic.
23. Aqua – Barbie Girl (1997)
Aqua's “Barbie Girl” was an instant classic with its infectious dance beat, catchy chorus, and playful lyrics, which made it a global phenomenon and a staple of 90s pop culture.
Jaimee Marshall is a writer who hails from the suburbs of Philadelphia but has spent the past few years living abroad in Australia. She considers herself a bit of a movie buff with a knack for horror and clever sci-fi flicks. When she isn't watching or writing about movies, she's probably either posting political memes, cooking vegan food, or being active. She covers entertainment news, and reviews films and television for Wealth of Geeks. You can also catch her deep dives on sociopolitical issues at Evie Magazine, Katie Couric Media, and Her Campus or watch her appearance on Popcorned Planet, where she discusses heated issues like due process in our current social climate.