The internet explosion. Blur against Oasis. Friends . The grungy. The Harry Potter books. The DVD. The PlayStation. The 1990s were a turbulent and exciting decade for pop culture. Trying to reconstruct this puzzle through the best albums of the 90s is a complicated task and one that also usually has the same usual suspects clamoring for attention: Radiohead, U2, Nirvana… Reducing the list to just 20 albums is even more difficult. difficult, but let’s try anyway.
After all, here on your trusted website we have made such diverse rankings that go from the best roadside restaurants in Spain to the craziest stories of the WWF and the books that you should read yes or yes before you turn 30. It will be by lists!
Musically, the ’90s were filled with rap, slack punk, and teen pop as it saw the invasion of Britpop, the popularization of grunge, and the rise of alternative rock. We could say that, musically, the decade started with the first chords of Smells Like Teen Spirit and died in the piano introduction of Britney Spears’ Hit Me Baby One More Time . The anti-pop defeated by the pop. The endless cycle. The lion king and all that.
But there was much more to the 1990s, with 1980s survivors like U2 and REM reaching their creative peaks with Achtung Baby and Automatic for the people in the last golden age of the increasingly languid recording industry, with acid jazz, trip hop, electronic music… And we’re going to go through all those years record by record. Because if we have already tracked the 30 best songs of the 90s, it is logical that we compile the most rounded combinations of those great songs. Many of these records will sound familiar to you, others will be new to you and you will surely miss others, but we assure you that the sound journey through time will be worth it. Prepared?
Alanis Morissette – Jagged Little Pill
The wonderful Jagged Little Pill marked Alanis Morissette’s leap from small-time Canadian star to international phenomenon. Big singles such as the bitter but powerful You Oughta Know and Ironic, but also the impressive a cappella performance of Your House brought a lot of well-deserved attention to a singer who was just taking her first steps towards stardom at the time. With the collaboration of Flea, bassist for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, this is perhaps the most ’90s’ album on this list.
My Bloody Valentine – Loveless
Loveless is the album that Robert Smith of The Cure wishes he had made. It’s a record that reinvented alternative music, and rock in general, while being recorded over three years, in 19 different studios, and nearly ruining his record company.
Tom Waits – Bone Machine
The old Tom Waits entered the 90s with eleven albums already behind him and with the same cracked voice as always. But that didn’t stop him from delivering with Bone Machine a brutal album full of dark references to death and murder based on the best blues rock.
Madonna – Ray Of Light
Like other pop giants such as David Bowie or Prince, Madonna has gone through phases that have fixed her sound and style at different times, whether it was her provocation during the Like A Virgin era or her sexual liberation with the album Erotica . With Ray Of Light , Madonna did a 180-degree turn to focus on spirituality and surprisingly, the songs that came out of that epiphany won critics and audiences alike.
Rage Against the Machine – Rage Against the Machine
Rage Against the Machine’s mix of radical politics and rabid sonic discharge was a startling anomaly in the middle of the year that grunge died. His commercial success with songs as danceable as Killing in the name –with its many versions of the chorus in the Spanish of the time– was a confirmation of the power of rock as a weapon of protest.
Billie Joe Armstrong sang “Do you have time to listen to me complain?” on Dookie ‘s second single , the mighty Basket Case , and more than a quarter of a century later, we continue to answer with a resounding “yes.” Because the vibrant, youthful energy of Green Day ‘s third album still sounds as good now as it did then, proof that the record has stood the test of time phenomenally with a set of tracks that are simply flawless. As drummer Tre Cool noted on the album’s 25th anniversary in 2019, “fuck y’all, we’re still here.”
Every time Weezer release a new ‘colourful’ album ( 2001’s Green Album , 2008’s Red Album …), Rivers Cuomo and friends admit that they reached their peak in 1994. The group’s debut is a piece classic alternative rock staple, and tracks like Buddy Holly or Undone (The Sweater Song) are the reason why half of today’s best indie rock bands picked up their guitars for the first time.
Manic Street Preachers – Generation Terrorists
Generation Terrorists s is a brave and provocative title, appropriate for a debut album. It must be recognized that they were plenty of cockiness, assuring themselves that it would be “the best rock album in history” and that it would sell “16 million copies around the world, from Bangkok to Senegal.” Though they never quite reached those figures, with tracks as perfect as Motorcycle emptiness , the record ushered in a multi-decade career that still continues.
With music in his blood as the son of 1960s folk-pop icon Tim Buckley and gifted with an impressive voice, he sadly left us this Grace as his only masterpiece before drowning in a freak accident in Memphis in May of 1997.
Blur’s best album is the closest the band came to rivaling the magnitude of Oasis, creating a record that spoke to the hearts of millions of their British compatriots. Along with Suede’s Dog Man Star and Pulp ‘s His ‘N’ Hers , Parklife became an essential cog in the Britpop machine thanks to huge hits like Girls & Boys, To the End and the title track. .
Another cover with dogs, in this case starring a komondor, originally from Hungary, serves as a letter of introduction to this jewel by Beck based on folk, hip hop and even bossa nova that was originally going to be titled Orale . His talent and a couple of samplers result in one of the most notable works of the decade.
Counting Crows – August and Everything After
Led by frontman Adam Duritz’s vocals and enigmatic lyrics, Counting Crows’ wonderful mix of pop and Americana contained enough brains to earn critical acclaim and enough pop hits to keep audiences gushing over hits like Mr Jones . Thus, it is not surprising that the album sold more than 7 million copies.
Oasis – (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?
Blur’s war against Oasis was essentially built to sell newspapers. And it worked. But whichever side you’re on, there are two battles tipping the contest in favor of Oasis: the two 1996 Knebworth concerts, held to a combined 250,000 people, and (What’s The Story) Morning Glory ? , an album full of perfect songs that show the exceptional compositional talent of Noel Gallagher.
Guns n’ Roses – Use Your Illusion I y II
It had been five years now since their brutal breakthrough with Appetite for Destruction , so when Use Your Illusion I and II , two separate albums released simultaneously, landed, they hit with a bang. It was not surprising with songs like the rock ballad (and its epic video clip) Don’t Cry , November Rain with an even more epic video clip or the single You Could Be Mine , which received an extra boost when it was included in the Terminator soundtrack. 2 . Bob Dylan’s version of Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door was the perfect icing on the cake.
Pet shop boys – Behavior
After scoring a few hits on their previous albums, the Pet Shop Boys were free to experiment. This album may not have as catchy melodies as others by the English duo, but lyrically Neil Tennant is at his best and with his best voice. Musically deep and with suggestive and poetic lyrics, songs like Being boring or Jealousy are sublime works of art.
Radiohead – OK Computer
The English group made sure to put an end to the comparisons with Blur and Oasis with the masterpiece that is OK Computer . While the Gallagher and Albarn brothers and company continued to fight, Radiohead marked one of the essential albums of the decade and changed rock forever. And Thom Yorke proves that he was at his lyrical prime in songs like Paranoid android .
R.E.M. – Automatic for the People
Choosing the best REM album is not an easy task by any means, but the gold mine of wonderful songs that is Automatic for the people , is undoubtedly the most logical choice. With themes as valid to sing out loud in a concert as to be played at your funeral, the voice of Michael Stipe guides us on an exciting and melancholic journey that is one of the great artistic jewels of the 90s.
When their debut came out, Pearl Jam was competing with Nirvana in a grunge popularity contest that they were destined to lose. However, Ten is a nearly perfect record: Eddie Vedder’s agonized voice and Mike McCready’s guitar solos on Alive and Jeremy were instrumental in popularizing alternative rock in the mainstream.
U2’s was one of the most extreme transformations of pop-rock music. With Achtung baby the Irish bards said goodbye to the eighties reinventing their sound with both commercial and critical success. Recorded between Berlin and Dublin and released in November 1991, U2’s basic chops remain intact, but they add electronic dance music and alternative rock with flying colors. Essential.
Leaving Nevermind off a list of the best albums of the ’90s is like leaving out Star Wars from science fiction. Just thinking back to that time brings to mind the infamous album cover featuring a four-month-old Spencer Elden underwater, as well as the unmistakable sound of Smells Like Teen Spirit . Grunge had its share of wonderful releases, but this was the record that made its way into every teen’s bedroom. In addition to a perfect tracklist that includes In bloom, Come as you are and Lithium, we cannot forget one of the tops of grunge, the sinister instrumental that appears for the first time 45″ after the secret final track,Endless, Nameless.