Tag Archives: Fiona Apple

Why 90s Kids Love 90s Music

Have you ever noticed how annoying people who grew up in the 90s are about music? Well, I am one, so watch it! I think the reason we love that music goes beyond the fact that we grew up in that era (though that helps), and I’d like to explore those reasons.

Nerdvana? Seriously? So, I was in a particularly 90s-like area the other day (grungy, the ex-cool part of town, angsty music), and I was talking to another 90s friend of mine about that era of music and culture. Of course, culture and music are slippery, in that, they cannot be summed up as a singularity every decade, so for the purpose of this discussion, I am talking about early to mid-90s grunge and folk music.

So, the first thing that I think 90s kids love about 90s music is the earnestness. There was no irony in those early 90s lyrics. It may have been difficult and obfuscated, maybe best represented by lyrics like “A mulatto / An albino / A mosquito / My libido / Yay!” But all that aside, there was a feeling at the time that music was actually making a difference. The culture was aggressively shouting for political and social change (not so different from the late 60s), and we reconnected with a more earnest (in my opinion) approach to music, eschewing the over-produced party music of the 80s. That that, Reagan! “Jelly beans, Nancy?” … Nevermind (get it?).

You’re embarrassing yourself. Not only that, it felt like that age of music was better for women. We had female song-writers who weren’t just pretty and put on stage for their beauty (as Tom Petty so accurately describes in his song “Joe” off The Last DJ album) but were great songwriters and played music traditionally owned by men: Alanis Morissette, Tori Amos, Dar Williams, Dolores O’Riordan, Sinead O’Connor, Fiona Apple, Shirley Manson, Sheryl Crow (before she got lame), and others. This feels, in looking back, a huge shift from the 80s pseudo-hyper-masculine face of popular music, though people like Joan Jett and the women from Hart were movers. Now, I recognize and concede that Indie music (where I find any and all good music at this point) today has some great female musicians, but I’m talking popular music here.

Remember the good ol’ days? Okay, gramps. Not only that, many of my favorite musicians of different eras put out amazing albums in that time, maybe their best work. Tom Petty’s Wildflowers, Into The Great Wide Open, and Echo are perhaps my favorite albums of his. R.E.M.’s Automatic For The People came out in 1991. Bob Dylan’s Time Out Of Mind is a classic. Johnny Cash’s unforgettable American albums began to come out in the 90s as well. The list goes on …

So, what’s your gripe with modern music, lamo? I guess I would say that I’m tired of the American Idol approach to music. I’m tired of image over substance. I’m tired of dishonest music, where pretty people sing karaoke to lyrics and music written by someone else (and yes, I know this has gone on for a long time, but it was not always so rampant in our popular musicians). I think the Indie music scene is exciting, though often “ironic.” It’s solid stuff, but lacks the sort of punchy hope that came along with the early 90s music scene.

You may disagree with me. I’m sure you will (unless you’re a 90s kid like me … at which point, I would say, “GET THEE TO THE 00s, BENEDICT ARNOLD!”), but the point is, every era does some things really well. I’m just highlighting why the 90s were a special time in music. Maybe it is just loving what we’re used to, what we grew up with, but I do think it’s more than that. Besides, my personal favorite era of music is the late 50s – early 60s. What do you think?

Leave a comment Posted in Fire Starters Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,