10. “Some Kind of Zombie” – Audio Adrenaline (1997)
From the album also called Some Kind of Zombie, this was Audio A’s final song featuring the guitar talents of Barry Blair (who is now the guitar player at my church. Small world.) I remember telling my mom something along the lines of, ‘I usually don’t like music this heavy, but I love this song’. It’s probably safe to say that this was a gateway for the love I would develop for metal in the early 2000’s. The loud-soft-loud combo was in full effect in the 90’s, but on this song they make it sound unique. The guitars are heavy, yet kinda chaotic and creepy. The soft parts utilize acoustic strumming, violins, xylophones and such. Of all of the so-called “youth group anthems” of the day, I think this is by far the best one. Sorry, “Jesus Freak”.
9. “Comfortably Numb (Live From Pulse) – Pink Floyd (1995)
I feel like I’m cheating a little by including this song, considering the original recording was released in 1979, but the truth is I prefer this live version from Pulse. I couldn’t bring myself to penalize my favorite live track ever. It just had to be in the top 10. David Gilmour plays the most impressive guitar solo I’ve ever heard, somehow improving on the already incredible solo on the version from The Wall. I’m a sucker for an atmospheric sounding song, and “Comfortably Numb” is definitely that.
8. “Tea and Sympathy” – Jars of Clay (1997)
It’s hard for me to not view this song as the soundtrack to a broken heart. I was experiencing heartbreak of different kinds in 1998 when Jars of Clay released Much Afraid. Aside from dealing with typical teenage drama, my parents were getting divorced. I found a little solace in a song that pleaded for someone to not throw away the special thing that they had together. It’s a bit perplexing that I’m still able to gain such enjoyment from a song that accompanied such a difficult time in my life. I guess that just speaks to what an incredible track “Tea and Sympathy” is.
7. “Sanctuary” – Chris Rodriguez (1999)
I used to listen to this song when I was dealing with some sort of spiritual warfare and it would help put things in perspective. I sin, but God forgives me. I run and hide, but God finds me. I’m unsure of the reasons things are happening around me, but I’m secure and sanctuaried by God. The fact that I deserve absolutely none of that makes it even more incredible, and this song from the Streams compilation is an excellent one to help me meditate on the beauty of grace. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” A beautiful song about a beautiful thing.
6. “Humble Thyself” – Luna Halo (1999)
I was already a big fan of Luna Halo when I received the Listen: Louder compilation that featured this song. The band’s debut album, Shimmer, is one of my favorites of the 2000’s. I probably picked up Listen: Louder just to have the only known Luna Halo song to not be on their album. This is a beautiful, atmospheric, remake of a worship song based on James 4:10. Well, atmospheric aside from one section near the end of the song where a dizzying guitar solo is played over a somewhat-heavy riff. I will never understand why this band abandoned this sound for more generic sounding pop-rock.
5. “To the Moon & Back” – Savage Garden (1996)
This song, from Savage Garden’s self-titled debut, combines space rock and dance music to make my favorite pop radio hit of the 90’s. There are so many elements of this song that I love: The angelic background vocals, the killer bass-line, the clean rhythm guitar riff, the memorable chorus. I can’t really imagine there ever being a pop hit more suited to my tastes than this one.
4. “Wild Horses” – The Sundays (1992)
I was raised on Southern Gospel and Country music, as many children who grew up in Baptist churches in Kentucky probably were. Rock music didn’t really catch my attention until I was 13 years old, and classic rock was pretty foreign to me until years later. But before I get to that, let me tell you about Super Bowl XXIV in 1995. It was the Chargers and the 49ers. I have no recollection of anything that happened in the game, nor did I even know that this was the specific Super Bowl that would feature one of the greatest songs I’ve ever heard, until the internet search I recently did.
For years I would occasionally remember a commercial with horses running through the snow and the sound of an ethereal voice singing a beautiful melody with the line “couldn’t drag me away”. Over time I forgot how the song sounded, and I apparently never thought to try to find it on the internet once I had it easily available a few years later. I did happen to remember that the commercial was played during a football game, which it turns out was Super Bowl XXIX.
Fast forward to 2009 when I’m listening to a Rolling Stones compilation and I hear a very familiar lyric, “Wild horses couldn’t drag me away”. ‘That’s It!’, I thought. Finally a mystery that I had forgotten existed was nearly solved. Now, I just had to find out who had covered this song. I clicked on a version by The Sundays, from their album called Blind. I heard the beautiful voice singing the first verse and it sounded promising, then that chorus hit and I knew I had found the song that had eluded me for over a decade. There was that incredible voice singing “Wild horses couldn’t drag me away”. It was like I was instantly taken back in time to when I recorded football games on VHS and watched them many times over. Mildly dramatic story aside, this is just a ridiculously beautiful song.
3. “With You” – Monica (1995)
This album cut from Miss Thang sounds like 90’s slow jam R&B mixed with late 2000’s chillwave. It sounds so obviously retro, that it almost comes across as futuristic. If you’ve been following this list, it’s no secret to you that 90’s R&B holds a special place in my heart, but this song is a perfect time capsule that sums up everything I love about the genre. The contemporary R&B movement is attempting to bring this sort of overly chill, yet beat-driven niche back, but I’ve yet to hear anything that rivals “With You”.
2. “Eileen’s Song” – Burlap to Cashmere (1998)
I purchased the album Anybody Out There? while I was in Washington D.C. on a 10th grade class trip. I don’t specifically remember what I thought about “Eileen’s Song” the first time I listened, but I know that at some point it began to impact me in a big way. I particularly remember using the “roses in your eyes” line in one of my own writings when I was I young man. Yes, I was lacking in originality, but the point is that I was so impacted by the words that I literally wished I had written them. This is more than just a song with inspiring lyrics about two people trying to make it in this crazy world, though. The atmosphere that the keys set at the very beginning of this song is breathtaking. The guitar solo two and a half minutes in is one of my favorite guitar parts in all of music. Honestly, everything about this song is perfect to me.
1. “Sorry” – Five O’clock People (1999)
It was sometime in 1999 and my cousin had just witnessed a band called Five O’clock People perform live at a local bookstore. I opted to attended a church lock-in with my then-girlfriend instead of going with him. Had I known that I would’ve been able to witness this incredible song live, and that my relationship with that girl would’ve lasted a measly three months, I wouldn’t hold any regret for my decision making on that night. My cousin probably had no idea what would be sparked in me when he brought me an autographed copy of their CD sampler that he picked up at the show. It featured three songs from their album called The Nothing Venture. Track 2 on that CD was “Sorry”. From the first time I heard it, I was absolutely blown away. The beautful sound of the instruments, the deep melancholy feel, the poetic, yet relatable lyrics. These are all things that excite me in new music to this day. This is the first song I ever remember thinking, ‘I can’t listen to this song as much as I want to, because I love it too much to cause myself to get tired of it’.
So, here it is. My Favorite Song of the 90’s, and one of my very favorites of all time, if not my very favorite.