This retrospective charts the birth of grunge, the commercial rise of hip-hop, a batch of gutsy female songwriters and a few goofy one-hit wonders we’d mostly forgotten about. This episode is also Ann Powers’ debut as a member of NPR Music, and she and Stephen Thompson join Bob and Robin to take a look back at the decade of flannel and spice.
The era of flannel, platform shoes, and Tamagotchis may be long gone—but the best music from that era lives on. We’ve noticed, in fact, that some of those super-empowering, female-driven ’90s songs are still influencing female musicians today—see the rad band Juce, or even T-Swift’s new album for proof. That’s because the ’90s was kind of an important moment for women in music. Female vocalists found their voices and made sure we’d all sing along with them. They had (and still have) us feeling our feelings and our feelings cannot be stopped. So let’s bring back some of the classic songs from that decade and rock out one more time.
1. AlanisMorissette – “You Oughta Know” (1995)
Alanis understood us and how it feels after a heart-wrenching breakup. She took us from sad to angry, and we needed that. Now, girls around the world are singing this song at karaoke while thinking about that man or woman who broke them. Thank you for giving us this emotional release, Alanis.
2. TLC – “No Scrubs” (1999)
Sing it, ladies. We don’t want ‘no scrubs’ because we are better than that, and TLC made us realize our worth. They also brought us unforgettably awesome attire in their video.
3. Natalie Imbruglia – “Torn” (1997)
What’s powerful about this song is that she’s ‘wide awake’ now about the reality of her relationship and making us realize the same thing. It’s empowering to express your true emotions and become fully aware, even when everything is just the worst.
4. Destiny’s Child – “Jumpin‘, Jumpin‘” (1999)
“Ladies, leave your man at home,” go out and blast this Destiny’s Child song. This one is for the girl who wants to have a good time with her besties, leaving all that dude-drama behind. Here’s to a night of shaking it off.
5. Spice Girls – “Wannabe” (1996)
You didn’t think I would make a ’90s playlist without adding the girl group who CREATED girl power, did you? This song is all about loving your girlfriends, making it known to your significant other that they matter, and we love that. They were saying “ovaries before brovaries,” long before we did.
6. No Doubt – “Just a Girl” (1995)
Gwen Stefani was seriously on point with this 1995 song. She gets how the world views being a woman and how frustrating it can be being “just a girl.” Society can limit us as women by stereotypes and viewpoints. Stefani “had it up to here” with that outlook and so have we.
7. Meredith Brooks – “Bitch” (1997)
Women around the world were immediately singing along with Brooks about how we can’t be defined as just one thing. We are many things “all rolled into one.” Brooks spoke of needing a strong man who can handle all her different and unique sides. AMEN, SISTA.
8. Shania Twain – “Man! I Feel Like A Woman” (1997)
This woman really showed us how to love being a woman. Sometimes we forget how amazing it is to be a woman and all the things we get to enjoy about it.
9. Des’ree – “You Gotta Be” (1994)
If you ever need a boost of self-confidence, just listen to this ’90s hit by Des’ree. In this song, she is telling us we’ve got to take an active role in our lives and be all things we want to be. Positive affirmations are the way to go and Des’ree gives us an advanced lesson in that. So if you’re feeling down and need a little push in the right direction, push play on this one.