The 90´s: the decade, the music, the playlist!

The 90´s. grunge, hip hop and raves. Cable Television and the internet. Multiculturalism and liberalism and the beginning of a new way to perceive ourselves as individuals and as humans: interconnection, the sense that everything and everyone is available.

It was also the decade that we here at MVD became adults. That decade ended 14 years ago. Damn that makes us feel old. Best quickly proceed with…

Fashion, television and film

 

Fashion

Grunge Fashion
Grunge Fashion

Why did we let Kurt Cobain and Eddie Vedder influence our wardrobe??? WHY???

Grunge Fashion
Grunge Fashion

As with our previous posts there is always some hair style that steals the show, and this time it’s the “Rachel”

Jennifer Aniston
Jennifer Aniston

Television.

Frasier, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Full House, That 70s Show, Everybody Loves Raymond and Friends rules the airwaves and set the tone for the humor of the decade. To be honest, their re-runs still rule!

Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
The cast of 20-something sit-com Friends
The cast of 20-something sit-com Friends

On the drama side, there will never be another medical drama such as ER. I loved it! I saw it all, I could do a marathon each year and it lasted 1.000 seasons (not really but a lot). It stared Noah Wyle, Anthony Edwards and gave birth to the star that is George Clooney.

ER bought us high-quality hospital drama and George Clooney
ER bought us high-quality hospital drama.

And then there was Beverly Hills 90210, Dawson´s Creek, Felicity, Melrose Place and Baywatch.

Dawson´s Creek
Dawson´s Creek

The sad part is that reality television was born.

The adult animated-series became popular, particularly The Simpsons (it premiered in December 1989 but consolidated itself in the 90´s) as well as Beavis and Butt-Head, South Park and Family Guy. And Anime was popular with series like Sailor Moon, Pokemon, Dragon Ball Z and Evangelion whilst 1997 saw the birth of the world’s favourite baby-sitter the Cartoon Network.

Movies.

Pixar´s Toy Story was released revolutionizing animated films forever. We are not huge fans of animated movies but Toy Story is undeniably fantastic!  Disney fought back and returned to making traditionally animated films such as The Lion King.

Toy Story
Toy Story starring Tom Hanks

The world was introduced to Hannibal Lecter and the fantastic thriller that is The Silence of the Lambs.

Anthony Hopkins won an oscar playing Hannibal Lecter. The film won all five major honours in 1991.
Anthony Hopkins won an Oscar playing Hannibal Lecter. The film won all five major Oscars in 1991.

Steven Spielberg decided to make Schindler´s List and I cried 9 times during the movie the first time I saw it…we both knew what kind of story it was, but I think we were blown away but how we chose to narrate the story, the use of black and white, the music, the girl in the red dress. Masterpiece.

Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta in Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction
Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction.

Then came 1994 and the fight between Forrest Gump and Pulp Fiction  We won´t go down that road or this post will never be done. Suffice to say Pulp Fiction had one of the 90’s best soundtracks. And then there were blockbusters like Braveheart, The English Patient, American Beauty and Shakespeare in Love not to mention Dumb & Dumber, Men In Black, Jurassic Park, The Shawshank Redemption, and Trainspotting (another very cool soundtrack). Titanic becomes the highest grossing film of all time (until 2010 when the same director James cameron released Avatar).

Science and Technology

The 90’s was the decade when the digital revolution really took hold. In particular, there were two objects that would start to become more and more ubiquitous: the mobile phone and the personal computer, or PC which you used to access the decades biggest arrival (massive drum roll here……) the World Wide Web, otherwise known as the internet or mankind’s new best friend (sorry dogs, it’s true).

A real and typical early 90's mobile phone user...
A real and typical early 90’s mobile phone user. (Honestly)

Early mobile phones were the shape and size of bricks, and with coverage being very limited the appeal was small. However, by the end of the decade coverage was (kind of) everywhere and the handsets had become lighter, smaller and prettier (although not very smart, yet) and suddenly everyone had one, revolutionising the way we organised our social lives and making overheard one-sided conversations a commonplace thing.

Personal computers went from being clunky, ugly things that no-one but gamers and programmers really knew what to do with to being something that people used to download tons of pornography and free (but illegal) music on the internet. Oh yes, in the 90’s – before the social-networking boom kicked in – file-sharing and/or masturbation were the main reasons most of us wanted to surf the web….

Then of course there was Y2K. The internet was going to crash causing the world to implode. Or something. It didn’t happen.

Global politics and events

In the United States, Bill Clinton was president, the most popular one since World War II who not only managed not to start any wars, but also played an important part trying to negotiate peace in the Middle East. However, most people won´t remember him for that but rather for his sexual relationship with the White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

Bill Clinton playing the sax and definitely not inhaling
Bill Clinton playing the sax and definitely not inhaling.

The first gulf war, the Kosovo war, the Yugoslavian war, the Bosnian war, the Croatian Independence war, the Genocide in Rwanda, the Ethiopian Civil war and The Taliban taking over power in Afghanistan, things have still not improved in that part. Humanity does not learn from history.

In Africa Nelson Mandela is released after being in prison for 30 years for fighting the Apartheid and white minorities in South Africa. In 1994 he was elected president of the Republic.

Nelson Mandela, father of a new South Africa.
Nelson Mandela, father of a new South Africa.

Germany is reunited! In October 1990 the economic and political structure is united again. Also, the Iron Curtain falls and the dissolution of the USSR and in Great Britain the IRA agree to a cease fire and a truce.

Music

Musically speaking the 90’s was the decade where more than ever before the barriers between different styles and genres started to be torn down and old styles started to be recycled, whilst at the same time in other quarters great leaps forward were also being made. There’s plenty to cram in so – deep breath – here we go….

As the decade began Britain was in the grip of two things: Madchester, an indie scene rooted in and around Manchester that threw up the likes of The Charlatans, Inspiral Carpets and the two biggest bands the The Stone Roses and the Happy Mondays. Both of these bands took an indie-rock template and infused it with funky dance rhythms, an influence taken from the other big scene of the time which was….

A raver havin' it LAAARGE
A raver havin’ it LAAARGE.

…rave culture which in the first few years of the decade spread out across Europe. Free parties, giant ticketed mega raves and massive super-clubs were the order of the day, and the drug of choice was Ecstacy, guaranteed to keep you dancing and sweating and pulling ridiculous faces all night. The stars of this scene weren’t the people making the records but the DJ’s spinning them. Masters on the wheels-of-steel included Carl Cox, John Digweed, Sasha, Paul Oakenfold (who also produced the Happy Mondays classic 1990 lp Pills, Thrills & Bellyaches) and Pete Tong who would go on to become famous for his weekly BBC radio show broadcast on Friday and Saturday nights which brought a little bit of rave culture in to people’s cars and homes….

Superstar DJ Carl Cox on the wheels of steel...
Superstar DJ Carl Cox on the ones and twos…

Meanwhile, as Madchester faded guitar bands weren’t having a great time with only two big British bands – Blur (of whom more in a while) and Suede (in contrast this is the only time I’ll mention them) really coming through, whilst cult American bands R.E.M. and Red Hot Chili Peppers were suddenly huge international acts. Then from out of nowhere, or more accurately Seattle, came grunge which included bands like Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins, Soundgarden and last but absolutely not least Nirvana who would prove to be the biggest rock act of the decade. Grunge was angry and drawing on the spirit of punk and yet it was also full of inrospective self-loathing, directing the anger inwards rather than outwards. Yep, amongst other things grunge made self-pity very fashionable.

Grunge stars Smashing Pumpkins with an impressive array of shiny shirts.
Grunge stars Smashing Pumpkins with an impressive array of shiny shirts.

The 90’s wasn’t all about miserable boys with guitars though. Pop music was alive and well on both sides of the Atlantic. In the US Janet Jackson had a string of hits, usurping her brother as the main pop star of the family, with Madonna and Cyndi Lauper also carrying over from the previous decade to release big selling records. Boybands such as New Kids On The Block and Backstreet Boys were huge leading to the likes of Take That and Boyzone springing up in the UK.

Portishead's Beth Gibbons, whose torch singing very much defined the band's sound
Portishead’s Beth Gibbons, whose torch-singing style helped defined the band’s unique sound.

Elsewhere, dance music had fragmented off in to many different genres from happy hardcore to techno to drum & bass, as well as having a blunted cousin in one form of music that would throw up some big names: trip-hop. Centered around Bristol in the south-west of Britain, acts like Portishead, Tricky and Massive Attack became big names. Massive Attack’s albums Blue Lines and Protection, which featured vocalists such as Everything But The Girl’s Tracey Thorn and reggae legend Horace Andy fused a whole array of musical stylings to create a sound that was dark, atmospheric, and transcended the trip-hop label so lazily applied to them (they hated it, apparently).

Original gangstas Dr Dre and Snoop Doggy Dogg
Original gangstas Dr Dre and Snoop Doggy Dogg

As for hip-hop, the 90’s was when Gangsta rap took over. Former N.W.A member Dr. Dre gave us his album The Chronic as well as Snoop Doggy Dogg’s Doggystyle, both of which were full of guns, blunts and rampant misogyny, fo shizzle. The guns and blunts theme was picked up and taken to the n’th degree by every stoner student’s favourite Cypress Hill, whilst New York’s Wu-Tang Clan gave us nine emcees and kung-fu movie philosophy, and artists like Nas and Jay-Z dropped important records too. The biggest event in hip-hop however was the east-west coast feud culminating in the deaths, 6 months apart, of the rappers Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls aka The Notorious B.I.G., both from drive-by shootings.

Oasis brother Liam and Noel before the brotherly love ran out.
Oasis siblings Liam and Noel before the brotherly love ran out.

And finally the 90’s was the age of Britpop! Oasis and Blur did battle in the charts and bands like Supergrass, Kula Shaker, Elastica, and, erm, Shed Seven took indie overground and in to the mainstream with music that wore it’s 60’s and 70’s influences loud and proud. It seemed in some ways as if rock n’ roll had reached the point where all it could do was eat itself. Not all bands were looking backwards though, and whilst all this was going on Radiohead emerged carving new sonic territory with their adventurous 1997 album Ok Computer.

Spice Girls

Spice Girls
Spice Girls

We are giving you a glimpse into 5 important musical acts of the 90s decade, and although we are not fans of the Spice Girls they were undoubtedly famous and important within that decade, so we have to include them. The group had five members: Melanie Brown (“Scary Spice”), Melanie Chisholm (“Sporty Spice”), Emma Bunton (“Baby Spice”), Geri Halliwell (“Ginger Spice”) and Victoria Adams – now Victoria Beckham (“Posh Spice”). They sold over 30 million copies of their debut album worldwide and became the best selling group of all time as well as a pop culture phenomenon.

Say You’ll Be There – Spice Girls

This is was written by the girls and Elliot Kennedy. It was taken from their first album Spice in 1996. The video shows them as female warriors. The song is very catchy, we´ll give it that.

Nirvana

Nirvana
Nirvana

Nirvana did what few bands have really done, they changed music, they left their mark, they influenced their era. There was a before and after Nirvana, and only a handful of bands can say that. They were formed by singer/guitarist/songwriter Kurt Cobain and bass player Krist Novoselic in 1987 and Dave Grohl joined the band in 1990 as the drummer and broke into mainstream with their second album Nevermind, released in 1991. The band was considered the band for Generation X. It is amazing that they only released 3 studio albums and yet became so big, especially when you realise that they only lasted until 1994, when Kurt Cobain committed suicide. They have sold over 75 million records worldwide.

Come As You Are – Nirvana

This song was written by Cobain and it was the second single released from their album Nevermind in 1992. The song starts and every one that lived through the nineties intermediately recognizes it, hell I think EVERYONE can play that on guitar (even people that don´t play the guitar).

California Love – Tupac Shakur

In his lifetime Tupac Shakur was one rapper amongst many. After his death though he became a legend of the genre and is now seen as one of the most important and influential rappers of all-time.

Born in New York to parents who were heavily involved in the Black Panther party, Shakur was originally a budding stage-actor before turning to rapping properly after moving to California in his late teens. A voracious reader and Shakespeare fan, his lyricism was intelligent and infused with his parent’s political teachings.

2pac

After becoming involved in a series of spats with east-coast rappers, particularly Biggie Smalls, he was gunned down in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas. His assailants were never caught, but his status grew and grew making him even more popular in death than he had been in life.

Girls & Boys – Blur

Blur had released their first album in 1990, at the height of Madchester and the ‘baggy’ movement. It wasn’t until their third album Parklife was released in 1994 that they became truly famous as one of the two biggest bands of the Britpop era. Their chart battle with Oasis, when both bands released new singles on the same day generating some kind of national frenzy, represented the high watermark of Britpop.

blur

Whilst Oasis won that particular battle we here at MVD consider that Blur won the war, releasing albums that were full of stylistic invention and well-observed lyrics. With Parklife and follow-up album The Great Escape they captured the mid-90’s zeitgeist perfectly, whilst later albums saw the band mature and become moodier and more experimental. Lead singer Damon Albarn would go on to become one of the most consistently inventive and interesting musical artists in Britain. In the meantime Oasis plodded along making every succesive album sound a like a duller version of the last one before petering out to nothing long after most of us had stopped caring. Yep, definitely Blur’s victory…

Karmacoma – Massive Attack

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XYwppq29Uko

Formed from the heat of a Bristol party-scene collective known as The Wild Bunch the core trio of Robert “3D” Del Naja, Grant “Daddy G” Marshall and Andy “Mushroom” Vowles formed Massive Attack, a band who were placed at the head of the so-called trip-hop scene.

massive attack

In fact, they were much more important than that bringing in to the mainstream a whole new approach to electronic music which slowed everything down and fused elements of hip-hop, dance music, psychedelia, reggae, and more besides to create a heady, richly layered sound full of dark dramatic atmospherics. At the time few bands were as forward thinking and adventurous. To date Massive Attack have sold nearly 11 million albums worldwide.

And finally… the playlist!

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5 thoughts on “The 90´s: the decade, the music, the playlist!

  1. Oh this post MUST continue! fabulous summaries…A few points about me. I was not a fan of gangsta rap. At all. I loved battle raps and raps that created dances and got the party started. Gangsta rap did none of those things for me and when I heard it at parties people just stood there or raised their hands or drinks in the head and bobbed their heads…what?? Not fun in my book, but as you say an influential part of the decade. NIRVANA yes – the end of glamrock – no more lipstick and unbelievably dyed hair from rock stars. From the moment the first pangs of the video “Smells like teen spirit” hit the airwaves it was over for them. Generation X wanted a different sound! Loved Brit Pop, it was fun. I had fun with the fashions and have no regrets ;-)…The Real World…reality TV….while the show started out interesting it spawned monstrous devilish children YUCK…I won’t even name the god-awful shows that created “celebrities” known only for being famous….I will end on a positive note MOVIES! yes a bunch of fun I will not get into the Gump/Fiction argument even though I do have a fave. This was a great post!

    1. Once again, thanks SO MUCH for the great comments! Really pleased you enjoyed the article. As for the Gump/Fiction thing, maybe there’s a whole post on that to be written, and you and Naty can properly chew the whole issue over hahaha. 😉

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