I think many of us who grew up during the ’90s can safely say that much of what we hear today doesn’t compare to the sounds of the ’90s. Of course, there are some great talents right now (Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift to name a few), but there was just something about the ’90s that this generation can’t touch.
Maybe I miss that period of time more, because it reminds me of a time when life was a lot simpler and uncomplicated – so perhaps I felt a deeper connection to the music then? Whatever the case may be, I find myself reminiscing more and more about the good ole days.
I particular remember 1998 as being a huge year for R&B music. Many of the great artists of that time were in their prime and delivered some of the most memorable tunes of my teenage years.
I could go on for miles if I were to name every single amazing track of the 90’s, so I’ll keep it short and simple:
Here are my top 10 picks, in no particular order, categorized by artist:
Mariah Carey was undoubtedly one of the musical icons of the ’90s, and the fact that four of the 10 songs I’ve chosen include her, speaks to that. While she continues to deliver popular music today, nothing quite tops Mariah from the ’90’s. I could have a top 10 list of Mariah’s hits alone, but if I had to scale down, I’d choose the following:
1) Can’t Let Go – Emotions (1991)
This song just oozes sensuality. From Mariah’s 1991 album, Emotions, it is a powerful ballad that talks about the burning desire to have a lost love back in your life. The soothing melody just gives you all kinds of feels.
2) Underneath the Stars – Daydream (1995)
Daydream, ironically, was the first ever cassette tape I purchased (yes, cassettes! Remember those?!) I would so post a pic of it, but to be honest, I have no clue where it is now.
How this album didn’t win a single Grammy the year following its release is beyond me; but industry politics aside, Daydream was one of Mariah’s best and most successful albums of the ’90s.
Underneath the Stars was one of the more underrated singles off Daydream and although it was never commercially released, it was widely considered as one of the best singles by critics at the time for its soft, subtle melody and romantic vibe.
3) One Sweet Day – Daydream (1995)
Another great single off the album. The song is about dealing with the pain of losing a loved one. Mariah blending her perfect vocals with Boyz II Men just made for a beautiful collaboration. The song just tugs at your heart strings and will likely make you shed a tear without even trying.
Although the group has gone through many changes over the years with members coming and going, En Vogue remains one of the most successful female R&B groups of the 90’s.
4) Don’t Let Go (Love) – Set It Off Soundtrack (1996)
This song was one of the group’s most successful singles and my personal karaoke favourite. Reaching platinum status, this track really charged ahead of their previous hits and catapulted them further into the limelight. It’s a sultry song that speaks to an attraction that goes beyond a friendship and how neither party wants to continue to pretend anymore. It was also the last song recorded with Dawn Robinson, one of the group’s original members and lead vocalists.
Brandy and Monica
5) The Boy is Mine – Brandy’s Never Say Never & Monica’s The Boy is Mine (1998)
These two ladies on their own have had very successful solo careers throughout the ’90s and beyond, but when they came together to record the 1998 hit The Boy is Mine, they took the R&B world by storm. The song has two women exchanging jabs with each other as they compete for the same man. With the single being the lead track for each of their albums that year, and the video being equally entertaining with both women playing up the dramatics of the song, it became a memorable hit.
“Street but sweet” sums up Aaliyah nicely. Gone entirely too soon, Aaliyah definitely left a lasting legacy in the ’90s with her silky vocals, natural beauty, and subtle sex appeal.
6) Are You That Somebody? – Dr. Doolittle Soundtrack (1998)
Her track off the Dr. Doolittle soundtrack was a personal favourite for me in 1998. Produced by Timbaland, who also was a close friend of Aaliyah’s, the unique, fast-paced yet punchy melody, gave this song a spot on the list as one of the best songs of the ’90s. Aaliyah’s natural, effortless talent as a dancer also shined through in the video for the song.
7) Daydreamin’ – Kiss the Sky (1998)
You’ll probably better remember her as Ashley from the hit ’90s TV sitcom, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and while her character had a singing gig as part of the storyline in a latter season of the show, the actress filtered her talent off-screen when she released her debut album, Kiss the Sky, shortly after the show ended. Although the album did not evoke any number 1 hits, and went highly under-rated in my opinion, her lead single, Daydreamin’ which made it to #6 on the US charts, became a personal favourite for its catchy upbeat melody.
Mariah Carey & Whitney Houston
8) When You Believe – Prince of Egypt Soundtrack (1998)
This song is a no-brainer to be on a favourites list. Two incredible powerhouses in the music industry joining forces to make one of the most beautiful ballads of the ’90s. You just can’t go wrong with that. This song gives me chills every time and made the holiday season of ’98 that much more special.
Somethin’ For the People
9) My Love is the Shh – This Time It’s Personal (1997)
I call this group the ‘One Hit Wonders’ because as far as I can remember, this California-based R&B group (that has long since disbanded), made their mark with the 1997 single, “My Love is the Shh”, with single going platinum, but then they seemingly vanished shortly after the success of the song. Regardless, it became a notable ’90s favourite for me.
10) I’ll Always Love You – The Bodyguard Soundtrack (1992)
Of course, there is no way I could cap off this list without acknowledging one of the greatest love songs of the ’90s, not too mention, ever. Whitney captured the hearts of many with her spine-tingling rendition of Dolly Parton’s original 1973 classic “I Will Always Love You”. Spending a staggering three and a half months on the Billboard Hot 100 chart at the time, the song solidified Whitney’s mark as the queen of ’90s pop.
So there you have it. Each song title links to the corresponding video for your viewing pleasure. Of course, there are so many other awesome hits, but like I said, I could have gone on for a mile. 🙂 I’m just grateful to have the opportunity to reminisce and take that trip down memory lane. Sometimes, you just need that escape from the realities of present-day life and just reflect on a period that can never and will never be repeated.
As the saying goes, “If the love doesn’t feel like ’90s R&B, I don’t want it!”
What are your favourite hits from the ’90s? Please share your playlist!