The 1990s, the unforgettable decade, a decade of relative peace and prosperity: The Soviet Union fell, ending the decades-long Cold War, and the rise of the internet ushered in a revolutionary new era of communication, business, and entertainment.
It’s the years of music liberty, the beginning of freestyle music; the 1990s was possibly the most diverse period of pop music in history.
Starting soon after the 1980s ended, musical trends quickly shifted from the 1980s standards, most notably the shift from synthpop to House music from the years 1989 to 1991, the replacement of hair metal and classic rock with alternative rock and Grunge, and the popularity of Gangsta rap and the dominance of hip hop, in general, starting in the early 1990s.
So let’s start the party by reviewing the most unforgettable hits of the 90s.
1. Because I Love You – Stevie B (1990)
It peaked at number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart in December 1990 and remained there for four consecutive weeks. It also spent two weeks at number one on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart.
The song reached the top ten in several countries worldwide, including Belgium and the Netherlands, peaked at number two. It received a Gold certification in Australia and the United States.
In August 2018, Billboard ranked the song the 71st-biggest hit in the history of the Hot 100.
2. More Than Words – Extreme (1991)
The American rock band Extreme’s song More Than Words is the fifth track and third single from their 1990 album Pornograffitti.
The piece detaches from the funk metal style that permeates the band’s records. As such, it has often been described as “a blessing and a curse” due to its overwhelming success and recognition worldwide, but the band ultimately embraced it and played it at every show.
The song is a ballad in which the singer wants his lover to do more to prove her love other than saying the phrase “I love you.” Nuno Bettencourt (band member) described it as a warning that the words were becoming meaningless: “People use it so easily and so lightly that they think you can say that and fix everything, or you can say that and everything’s OK. Sometimes you have to do more, and you have to show it—there are other ways to say ‘I love you.'”
On March 23, 1991, “More Than Words” entered the US Billboard Hot 100 at number 81 and soon after reached number one. It also came number two in the United Kingdom, where the group had success before its American breakthrough. Though they had made a few European charts before, this brought the band to their first mainstream success in the United States.
3. I Will Always Love You – Whitney Houston (1992)
“I Will Always Love You” was written and initially recorded in 1973 by American singer-songwriter Dolly Parton. Registered as a farewell to her business partner and mentor, Porter Wagoner, expressing Parton’s decision to pursue a solo career, the country single was released in 1974.
The song was a commercial success for Parton, twice reaching the top spot of Billboard Hot Country Songs: first in June 1974, then again in October 1982, with a re-recording for The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas soundtrack.
Whitney Housten recorded a rendition of the song for the 1992 film The Bodyguard. Houston’s single spent 14 weeks at the number one spot of the Billboard Hot 100 chart, setting a new record at the time, becoming one of the best-selling singles of all time, and the best-selling single by a woman.
4. I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That) – Meat Loaf (1993)
The song was released in August 1993 as the first single from the album Bat Out of Hell II: Back into Hell. The last six verses feature Crosby, credited only as “Mrs. Loud” in the album notes. She does not appear in the video, in which Dana Patrick lip-synchs her vocals. Meat Loaf promoted the single with American singer Patti Russo.
Reaching number one in 28 countries. The single was certified platinum in the United States and became Meat Loaf’s first and only number-one single on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and the UK Singles Chart, and was the best-selling single of 1993 in the United Kingdom. The song earned Meat Loaf a Grammy Award for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Solo.
5. Here Comes the Hotstepper – Ini Kamoze (1994)
It is a song co-written and recorded by Jamaican dancehall artist Ini Kamoze. It was released as the lead single from his 1995 album Here Comes the Hotstepper and the soundtrack to the film Pret-a-Porter. It is best known for its “naaaa na na na naaaa…” chorus inspired by the Wilson Pickett cover of “Land of 1000 Dances”.
Kamoze’s only song reached the top 40 on the US Billboard Hot 100, peaking atop the chart on December 17, 1994, and remaining there for two weeks. It also became a number-one hit in Denmark, New Zealand, and Zimbabwe and a top-10 hit in 13 other countries. John Gibbons made a remix of the song in 2018.
6. Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman? – Bryan Adams (1995)
It is a song written by Bryan Adams, Micheal Kamen, and Robert John “Mutt” Lange and recorded by Adams for Don Juan DeMarco (1995).
The song stayed at number one for five weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States, making it the third number-one song for the songwriting team. It also went to number one in Canada, Australia, Austria, and Switzerland while reaching the top five in 10 additional countries, including France and the United Kingdom, and the top ten in four countries.
7. Because You Loved Me – Celine Dion (1996)
“Because You Loved Me” was written by Diane Warren and produced by David Foster and served as the theme song from the 1996 film Up Close & Personal. The song was recorded by Canadian singer Celine Dion for her fourth English-language studio album, Falling into you(1996). It was released on February 19, 1996, as the first single in North America and the second single in the United Kingdom on May 20, 1996.
“Because You Loved Me” won the Grammy Award for Best Song Written for Visual Media. The song became a worldwide hit, reaching number one in the United States, Canada, and Australia and reaching the top ten in many other countries. In the United States alone, it has sold over two million copies.
The single sold more than five million copies in its first six months of availability worldwide.
8. Wannabe – The Spice Girls (1997)
Wannabe” is the debut single by the Spice Girls’ English girl group. Written and composed by the group members in collaboration with Matt Rowe and Richard “Biff” Stannard during the group’s first professional songwriting session. Rowe and Stannard produced it for Spice’s debut album, released in November 1996.
“Wannabe” is a moderately-paced dance-pop song that features Mel B and Geri Halliwell (Band Members) rapping. The lyrics, which address the value of female friendship over the heterosexual bond, became an iconic symbol of female empowerment and the most emblematic song of the group’s Girl Power philosophy.
Despite receiving mixed reviews from music critics, the song won for Best British-Written Single at the 1997 Ivor Novello Awards and for British Single of the Year at the 1997 Brit Awards.
The song topped the Billboard Hot 100 for four weeks; by the end of 1996, “Wannabe” had topped the charts in 22 nations, and by March 1997, this number had climbed to 37, “Wannabe” became the best-selling single by a girl group in the world.
9. Truly Madly Deeply – Savage Garden (1998)
This song is by Australian pop duo Savage Garde, released as the third single from their self-titled debut album in March 1997 by Roadshow and Warner Music. It won the 1997 ARIA Music Awad for Single of the Year, Highest Selling Single, and was nominated for Song of the Year.
Written by bandmates Darren Hayes and Daniel Jones, the song is a reworking of a song called “Magical Kisses” that the pair wrote together during their debut album.
In November 2019, Darren Hayes and Daniel Jones (band members) were sent to Sydney for eight months to record material for a debut album. The song reached number one in Australia, Canada, and the United States. For Hayes, it was his first time in life being away from his family and his native Brisbane. The longing for his family and his then-wife pushed him towards writing a song that would express those feelings.
10. Bailamos – Enrique Iglesias (1999)
“Bailamos” (English: “We Dance“) is a single by Spanish singer Enrique Iglesias sung in Spanglish. The song was released in 1999 as part of the soundtrack to the film Wild Wild West(1999) and later as the lead single from Iglesias’s fourth and debut English-language album, Enrique(1999).
“Bailamos” reached number one on the Spanish Singles Chart and the US Billboard Hot 100, and it became a top-three hit in Canada, Hungary, New Zealand, Norway, and Sweden. In both New Zealand and Spain, it was the second-most-successful single of 1999.
11. Opposites Attract – Paula Abdul and The Wild Pair (1990)
“Opposites Attract” is a song recorded by Paula Abdul, featured on her debut album Forever Your Girl. It was written and produced by Oliver Leiber. Vocals on the song, in addition to Abdul, were provided by Bruce DeShazer and Marv Gunn, also known as The Wild Pair.
“Opposites Attract” was the sixth and final single from the album. It achieved success in many countries, including the United States, Canada, and Australia, where it was a number-one hit. Lyrically, the song is about a couple who love each other despite being different in almost every way possible.
“Opposites Attract” became one of the most popular R&B and dance-pop singles of 1990. The single initially rose from number 72 to number 47 the week of December 23, 1989, and landed at number one the week of February 10, 1990, where it remained for three weeks, matching the run of “Straight Up.” It became Abdul’s fourth number-one single on the Billboard Hot 100.
12. (Everything I Do) I Do It for You – Bryan Adams (1991)
It is a Power ballad by Canadian singer-songwriter Bryan Adams, Written by Adams, Micheal Kamen, and Robert John “Mutt” Lange; it was the lead single for both the soundtrack album from the 1991 film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, and Adams’s sixth studio album, Waking Up the Neighbours(1991).
The song was an enormous chart success internationally, reaching the number-one position on the music charts of at least nineteen countries. The Western world’s notable exceptions were Italy (number three) and Spain (number four).
It is particularly notable for its success in the United Kingdom. It spent sixteen consecutive weeks at number one on the UK Singles Chart, the longest uninterrupted run ever on that chart as of 2022. It also topped the Europe-wide sales chart for eighteen continuous weeks.
In the United States, it topped the Billboard Hot 100, which combines radio airplay and sales, for seven weeks, but stayed at number one for seventeen consecutive weeks on the sales-only chart.
It sold more than 15 million copies worldwide, making it Adams’s most successful song, and one of the best-selling singles of all time. The song has been covered by hundreds of singers and artists worldwide.
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