No Doubt – Don't Speak
During a time when alternative rock and grunge dominated the radio, No Doubt emerged with a new sound. Fronted by powerhouse Gwen Stefani, No Doubt pulsated with raw energy without relying on a heavy sound.
The band’s entrance into the mainstream audiences came with their track, Don’t Speak. Since then, the song has become a 1990s classic and has been featured in several video games.
Toni Braxton – Un-Break My Heart
In today’s climate, Toni Braxton often is not given the widespread recognition that she likely deserves. However, in the 1990s, Toni Braxton was almost unstoppable, especially after releasing Un-Break My Heart.
Un-Break My Heart is an R&B ballad with all of the hallmark production qualities of a 1990s pop hit. Audiences were so enamored with the song that it stayed at the top of the charts for 2-1/2 months.
Madonna – La Isla Bonita
Madonna is undoubtedly one of the biggest stars in the history of pop music. So much of what she did as an artist is emulated to varying degrees by today’s artists following her footsteps.
The song, La Isla Bonita, is an early track that is often overlooked by songs such as, Like A Virgin. La Isla Bonita has an upbeat 1980s digital sound infused with the essence of Latin music.
Stormzy – Vossi Bop
The days of being discovered by a record label are largely a thing of the past. That is, unless you include modern social media and other internet platforms into your strategy as an artist.
Stormzy’s rise to fame actually came from a YouTube video he upload featuring his rapping style. A number of years later in 2019, he would top the charts with his hit single, Vossi Bop.
Luther Vandross – Never Too Much
People often associate Luther Vandross for music when they’re about to visit the bedroom. In his prime, his voice was definitely one of the most buttery to have ever been recorded.
However, if you visit the beginning of his career, you’ll find his smash-hit song, Never Too Much. This track is ridiculously funky, to the point that it could almost be a Talking Heads song.
Johnny Cash – Hurt
Johnny Cash had one of the most illustrious careers as a country music artist. Toward the end of his life, he recorded a track that was both surprising and a powerful gut punch.
His decision to record the Nine Inch Nails song, Hurt, might be one of the best he’s ever made. He gave the song new meaning by singing from the viewpoint of old age.
Fugees – Killing Me Softly With His Song
Killing Me Softly With His Song is a legendary song in its own right, with numerous famous cover versions. Roberta Flack’s version from 1973 is especially exquisite.
In 1996, the song would find itself being reinvented once again and enjoying the top of the charts worldwide. The Fugees applied modern hip hop stylings, which actually fit together exceptionally well with the R&B foundation.
M.C. Hammer – U Can't Touch This
During the start of the 1990s, rap, and hip-hop was just starting to find solid footing in the mainstream. By today’s standards, many of the songs from that period might sound a little primitive in production.
That didn’t stop legendary songs from being created, including M.C. Hammer’s classic, U Can’t Touch This. It is almost an obligation to include this song on a playlist curated for parties.
Ice Cube – It Was A Good Day
Before Ice Cube saw the big screen in Friday, he was one of the industry’s biggest rappers. He is, after all, one of the founding fathers of gangsta rap due to his involvement with N.W.A.
In 1992, Ice Cube decided to take a different approach from the common subject matters of gangsta rap. It Was A Good Day highlights the feeling of gratitude and satisfaction on those days of his fondest memories.
Céline Dion – I'm Alive
Like Enya, Céline Dion has a very distinct sound that is usually soft, delicate, and incredibly melodic. A good swath of the population became familiar with this sound by means of the 1997 film, Titanic.
However, if her work featured in the Titanic film is all you know, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Her 2002 track, I’m Alive is one of her best, with a powerful message that anyone can relate to.
The Beach Boys – Good Vibrations
The Beach Boys might have had some of the best vocal harmonies in all of recorded music. Even The Beatles admired the group and considered The Beach Boys to be direct competition.
Good Vibrations is their best-known track aside from the golden hits to be found on Pet Sounds. This track features the group at their best, with kooky orchestral instrumentation to supplement their perfected harmonies.
Sean Kingston – Beautiful Girls
It isn’t very often that a song finds itself being hyped up and enjoyed by just about everyone you know. However, in 2007, that very thing happened when Sean Kingston released his song, Beautiful Girls.
Despite being about attraction, Beautiful Girls is actually a relatively clean song about falling in love. This was a nice change of pace to the songs that were overly sexualized in subject matter.
Gwen Stefani – Hollaback Girl
Although she made her name with No Doubt, Gwen Stefani proved she could do just fine on her own. After all, her personality was a major drawing factor attracting audiences to the band’s music.
Since she’s gone solo, she’s had a number of hits that all have enjoyed repeated airplay on mainstream channels. Hollaback Girl is especially iconic.