For the past few years, a wave of 1990s nostalgia has swept the world. Part of this nostalgic wave has been a renewed appreciation for 1990s music. Here are the most popular songs from that era according to the Billboard Hot 100. Do you remember all of them?
5. ‘You Were Meant for Me/Foolish Games’ by Jewel
Though she’s largely forgotten today, folk singer Jewel was one of the biggest pop stars of the 1990s. The biggest hit of her career was a double A-side of her singles “You Were Meant for Me” and “Foolish Games.” The latter became especially prominent in the popular consciousness thanks to its inclusion in the soundtrack of Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever. Long before Ed Sheeran ever picked up a guitar, Jewel proved that pop and folk could exist together harmoniously.
4. ‘Unbreak My Heart’ by Toni Braxton
Like all genres, R&B goes in cycles of commercial relevance and irrelevance. R&B was huge in the 1990s, especially when it came to ballads. One of the biggest crossover ballads of the era was Toni Braxton’s “Unbreak My Heart.” The track was written by Diane Warren, who also wrote hits for Cher, Aerosmith, Ace of Base, LeAnn Rimes, and numerous others. Braxton’s vocal performance on the song is so powerful that it makes Whitney Houston’s version of “I Will Always Love You” seem restrained by comparison. The song might sound a little overblown by the standards of modern pop, but lovers of 1990s music wouldn’t have it any other way.
3. ‘Macarena’ (Bayside Boys remix) by Los del Río
One of the biggest and most lasting dance crazes of all time was the “Macarena.” Numerous kids who weren’t even born when the the song was released know the “Macarena” dance. It might shock casual music fans to know how massively successful the song was. No major dance craze has swept the world since, making the “Macarena” the end of an era of dance music.
2. ‘How Do I Live’ by LeAnn Rimes/Trisha Yearwood
The Nicolas Cage action movie Con Air has been completely removed from the cultural memory. It wasn’t even that big of a hit. However, it gave the world one of the biggest hit songs of all time: “How Do I Live.” While Trisha Yearwood’s version was used in the film, LeAnn Rimes was just a teenager when she released the song. The song catapulted Rimes into the mainstream in a way that none of her earlier singles had.
“How Do I Live” also changed the way that Con Air’s producer, Jerry Bruckheimer, made movies. For the next several years, Bruckheimer productions would feature massive power ballads on their soundtracks. Most of those soundtracks would feature contributions by Diane Warren, further cementing her status as a legendary songwriter.
1. ‘Smooth’ by Santana featuring Rob Thomas
“Smooth” features one of the greatest riffs in 1990s rock, if not all of rock music. The song could have been about anything and it would have been a hit. In recent years, the song has become a meme. Many now mock its bizarre lyrics about a woman who makes her boyfriend feel “just like the ocean under the moon.” Despite all the mockery, the song still has an amazing groove.