I have compiled my posts of My Favorite Songs of the 90’s right here for easy reading. I have removed the embedded videos of the songs that are present on the original posts. If you would like be able to listen to the song after reading about it, please visit the links below:
I decided to make a list of my ten favorite songs of the 90’s unaware that I would not be content with that. A few days later I had a list of about 300 songs from the 90’s that I love. Narrowing it down to 100 was one of the most stressful things I’ve ever done for “fun”. This list is completely subjective and biased. Here are the results. Enjoy!
100. “Parking Lot” – Mineral (1994)
Originally released on a 7” single in 1994, this song is more famously known as the closing track to one of the greatest emo albums of all time, 1997’s The Power of Failing. Click play and don’t you dare stop this song before one of the most incredible sounding guitar parts you’ve ever heard starts at just over a minute in.
99. “Missing Person” – Michael W. Smith (1998)
The opening track to my favorite Michael W. Smith album, Live the Life. The song opens with a nice ambient passage before a killer guitar riff and big drums kick in, followed by great verse and chorus melodies.
98. “Don’t Rush” – Silk (1995)
I joined a Columbia House-type CD Club soon after receiving my first CD player in 1996. Silk’s self-titled album is the one I bought in order to receive 11 more CD’s for “free”. “Don’t Rush” is one of the two or three songs I actually listened to on the album. These are some pretty sexual lyrics for such a young boy to be listening to (I was 13), but I don’t think I really noticed at the time. The reason? This style of down-tempo R&B music sounded SO GOOD to me…and it still does. If the lyrics weren’t so “blush-worthy” this song probably would’ve placed quite a bit higher.
97. “Forever” – PFR (1997)
“Forever” was a new song recorded for The Late Great PFR, a compilation album of many of the bands finest moments. I fell in love with this tune when it was released as a single and played on CCM radio quite a bit. I bought the compilation based on this one song, but I became a fan of PFR for life thanks to there being 15 other fantastic pop-rock songs on the CD to go along with it.
96. “Hallelujah” – Jeff Buckley (1994)
Released on Jeff Buckley’s 1994 album, Grace. This is a cover of a Leonard Cohen classic. This song became a pop hit in 2007, ten years after Buckley’s death, from being featured in TV shows like The O.C. and American Idol. It’s probably not even debatable that this is one of the greatest cover songs ever recorded.
95. “Can’t Let Go” – Out of Eden (1996)
Out of Eden’s sophomore album, More Than You Know, was on blast at a youth group event I attended with a friend from middle school. Being the big R&B fan I was at the time, this “christian version” of SWV really caught my attention. I went out and bought the cassette soon after and jammed this thing constantly. There are several enjoyable songs on the album, but this one stands out as my favorite 19 years later.
94. “Street Symphony” – Monica (1998)
The first, but certainly not the last you’ll see of Monica on this list. This may come as a shock to anyone who doesn’t know me really well, but I think Monica is responsible for many of the greatest pop songs of the 90’s. This opening track to The Boy Is Mine is an R&B song with a bit of a symphonic feel, hence the title “Street Symphony”. Charge it to the game, baby.
93. “Can’t Get You Off My Mind” – Lenny Kravitz (1995)
This song is from Kravitz’s album Circus. Of all the artists to make this list Lenny may be my least favorite. I saw the video for this song on MTV, then bought the cassette single, and the rest is history. Despite my struggle to enjoy most of Lenny’s music, I can’t deny this song. Surely the first few lines are among the best Kravitz has ever written.
92. “Let Down” – Radiohead (1997)
My favorite song from what is probably the most important album released in the 90’s, OK Computer. Several songs from this album just missed the cut of being included in my top 100. The very idea of this list ignores Thom Yorke’s suggestion, “don’t get sentimental, it always ends up drivel”, but looking back on songs as great as this one makes it hard to not be a bit nostalgic.
91. “Life’s A Dance” – John Michael Montgomery (1992)
Ah, the joys of making a subjective list. Yes, that’s John Michael Montgomery with a song ranked ahead of Radiohead, but I’m going to blame it completely on that sentimental thing that Thom Yorke warned me about. While it may be considered “drivel” for me to place this song from JMM’s debut album above Radiohead, I can’t deny the fact that I grew up on country radio music…and I LOVE(D) that stuff!
90. “Nobody Knows” – The Tony Rich Project (1996)
From the album Words, this was Tony’s only big hit, but it was a pretty great one. On Babyface’s LaFace Records, he pretty much showed Babyface how it’s done with this smooth R&B slow-jam. If you had asked me shortly after this song came out what my favorite song of the 90’s was, there’s a good chance I would’ve said this one.
89. “Lakes of Canada” – The Innocence Mission (1999)
I first fell in love with this song when I came across Sufjan Stevens’ cover of this while watching videos of his on YouTube. I stumbled upon The Innocence Mission’s album Birds of My Neighborhood in a used bookstore and was very excited to see “Lakes of Canada” on the tracklist. The original version certainly didn’t disappoint and has become my “go-to” when I want to hear this song.
88. “Treasures In Heaven” – Burlap to Cashmere (1998)
This beautiful tune comes from one of my favorite albums of the 90’s, Anybody Out There?. This whole song is great, but I was always especially attracted to the bridge when Steven Delopoulos sings to “stop dancin’ with your head”. As a teenager who knew that something wasn’t quite right in my head, but unaware that I was battling with OCD, that line really resonated with me.
87. “If We Were Lovers” – All Star United (1999)
International Anthems for the Human Race was full of songs so catchy even my southern-gospel-loving mamma was glad when I popped this cassette in. I could’ve included many songs from the bands first two albums on this list, but this catchy and nostalgic sounding jam is the only one to make the top 100.
86. “Eyes of My Heart” – John Elefante (1997)
I don’t think I realized John Elefante was the former singer of the band Kansas when I bought his solo album, Corridors. All I knew was that I loved hearing this song on CCM radio, and I needed the album. This type of soft-rock isn’t usually my thing, but this whole album is really solid.
85. “Until I Fall Away” – Gin Blossoms (1992)
New Miserable Experience was an album I didn’t own until the 90’s were long gone, but it sure doesn’t feel that way considering how familiar half of this album was to me when I got it. Many of the pop-rock tunes on this album were inescapable radio hits in the early 90’s, and while all of those songs are excellent, this one is especially moving.
84. “Lost the Plot” – Newsboys (1996)
Is there any doubt that the great Steve Taylor is responsible for Take Me to Your Leader being the best album the Newsboys ever released? Taylor co-wrote the lyrics on this song, and on most of the album, and he’s one of the most original artists the CCM scene has ever had. Not to give Taylor all of the credit here, the Newsboys have crafted a brilliant slow-building rock song that’s just as good as most of Taylor’s solo work.
83. “Jonah” – Grammatrain (1997)
When I first started getting really interested in music I relied on CD sampler’s to help me find new stuff. One of the first sampler’s I ever bought, if not THE first, had a couple songs on it that made this list. The first one is this song from Grammatrain’s Flying album. The singer/guitarist in this band, Pete Stewart, would go on to record many of my favorite songs over the next several years with his solo project, Tait, and The Accident Experiment.
82. “Cemetery Gates” – Pantera (1990)
Maybe I’m just a sucker for ballads, but this is easily my favorite Pantera track. Cowboys from Hell marked Pantera’s shift into a heavier groove-metal sound, but you wouldn’t know it from this song alone. The part at the end where the high pitched screams of Phil Anselmo are matched by Dimebag Darrell’s guitar blows my mind.
81. “What If Uncle Ben Had Lived?” – Poor Old Lu (1996)
I first knew of Aaron Sprinkle from his production work on many of my favorite albums of the 2000’s. I first knew of his brother, Jesse Sprinkle, from his drumming on Dead Poetic and Demon Hunter albums. Poor Old Lu had long dissolved before I found this gem on A Picture of the Eighth Wonder, but it certainly makes me excited that the brothers are in a new band together called Blank Books.
80. “Hello, Good-Bye” – Michael W. Smith (1998)
This song, from the Live the Life album, is hands-down one of the most heartbreaking songs I’ve ever heard. It’s so gut-wrenching that I had to knock it down lower in my rankings because it can be so difficult to listen to. I always feel a little uncomfortable talking about how much I enjoy a song that is about someone else’s intense sorrow, so I’ll just stop here.
79. “Consuming Fire” – Third Day (1996)
The self-titled Third Day album had several excellent songs on it (as did their second album, Conspiracy No. 5), which just leaves me scratching my head even more about how they became the watered down, adult contemporary band they are today. As someone who grew up on southern gospel and country music, when this song came out I thought it sounded SO heavy. The fact that I still enjoy this song so much, despite my later realization that it isn’t heavy at all, is all the more proof to me that this is a truly fantastic rock song.
78. “Drift Away” – Fono (1999)
As a teenager with my feet planted firmly in the Christian music bubble, Goesaroundcomesaround was my The Colour and the Shape. You’ll be seeing a few tracks from this album where you might see “Everlong”, “My Hero”, or “Monkey Wrench” on someone else’s.
77. “Enchanted” – Chasing Furies (1999)
This is my favorite track from With Abandon, the only album this trio of siblings ever released. I have a reputation of my favorite music either being really heavy or really chill, so click play and take that!
76. “From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea” – The Cure (1992)
From my favorite post-Disintegration Cure album, Wish. This is the only song you’ll see on this list by The Cure, but you just wait ’till you see my 80’s list. I tend to prefer the more dreamy sounding songs by this band, but the heavier guitar sounds incredible on this tune.
75. “Trust” – Sixpence None The Richer (1994)
This is the version from The Fatherless and the Widow (the band recorded this song a few times). With a chorus that is basically Proverbs 3:5-6, and verses that add some personal application from Leigh Nash, this is a tender ballad that even grandma would like.
74. “Changes” – 2Pac (1998)
This is probably my favorite rap song ever. While I don’t agree with every lyric or word choice, this is a powerful posthumous plea for a better world, while knowing that “some things will never change”. The amped up Bruce Hornsby sample is the icing on the cake.
73. “Why I Love You So Much” – Monica (1995)
This is one of several excellent ballads on Miss Thang. Look, you can have Mariah, Whitney, and Christina Aguiblahblah, I’m taking Monica first pick in the diva draft.
72. “All the Evidence I Need” – 4Him (1996)
I had The Message on cassette, and I played that thing ’til I knew every lyric. I have so many memories tied to this album, so if for some reason you don’t “get” why songs like this are here, let’s just chalk it up to power of nostalgia.
71. “I Will Find You” – Seven Day Jesus (1997)
If you’re familiar with the self-titled album by this band, you’re probably wondering how this song made the list instead of power-pop juggernauts like “Down With the Ship”, “Butterfly”, and “Always Comes Around”, and the answer is, so am I. For the first couple years of owning this album, I was in love the previously mentioned hits, but somewhere down the line, this one started to grab my attention more, and it hasn’t let go.
70. “I’ll Give” – Smalltown Poets (1997)
From the ridiculously solid self-titled debut. It’s possible that if this list had 200 songs on it, that most of the rest of this album would make it. Dare I say that the CCM version of the Gin Blossoms may have actually been the better band.
69. “Just Try” – Starflyer 59 (1999)
I was pretty late to the Starflyer 59 party. I bought the album that features this song (Everybody Makes Mistakes) around 2008 in the discount bin at a used bookstore. I can now say that I’m a full-fledged Starflyer fan, and I own all of the albums. Better late than never.
68. “My Deliverer” – Ragamuffin Band (1998)
One of the last songs written by the late Rich Mullins. This version of the song and the demo recorded by Rich are on his final album, The Jesus Record.
67. “Angel of Mine” – Monica (1998)
From The Boy Is Mine. Yep, it’s another top-notch Monica tune. This one takes me back to my roller skating days.
66. “Goodbye” – Plankeye (1999)
Plankeye never really became a band that I would consider myself a “fan” of, but I sure do love this song. I used to be an annual buyer of the contemporary christian compilation series called Wow. This song isn’t the kind of tune they would typically put on the Wow albums, but thankfully they included it on the Wow 2000 music videos compilation, which I watched religiously. This comes from the Plankeye album Relocation.
65. “Nothing Compares 2 U” – Sinead O’connor (1990)
I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got is a decent enough album, but this song completely overshadows everything else on it. This heartbreaker was written by Prince, and he later recorded it himself, but even he couldn’t master this song the way Sinead did.
64. “Kissin’ You” – Total (1996)
The CD single I had of this song might has well have been stuck in my discman in 1996. The soothing guitar mixed with chill R&B was a combination that won me over back then and still does now. This comes from Total’s self-titled debut album.
63. “I Know Your Name” – Michael W. Smith (1998)
Oh, look, it’s the third song from Live the Life to make this list (so far). While not my VERY favorite album of the 90’s (that would be Much Afraid by Jars of Clay), this album is not lacking in songs that still sound great to me to this day. It sounds like something that would have been recorded either 12 year before or 12 years after it actually was. This 80’s atmospheric sound was all but dead when MWS released this song in 1998.
62. “Anybody Out There?” – Burlap to Cashmere” (1998)
From the album with the same name. This song starts out slow and pretty, but by the time the song ends I’m wondering how the guitarists arm didn’t go flying off.
61. “Your Faithfulness” – Chasing Furies (1999)
My favorite song Chasing Furies ever released wasn’t on their only album (1999’s With Abandon). This slow-burner was featured on a compilation called Listen Louder. This is one of those songs that hit me at the right time, and now everytime I listen to it, I’m back in that moment.
60. “For Me This Is Heaven” – Jimmy Eat World (1999)
I was a late-comer to Jimmy Eat World and an even later-comer to Clarity. Hey, sometimes it takes a while to get clarity. I didn’t become a JEW fan until a couple years after my sickness of “The Middle” had worn off, but when I finally came around, I picked up what would become my second favorite album by one of my favorite bands.
59. “The Longer I Lay Here” – Pedro the Lion (1998)
A song from It’s Hard to Find A Friend that David Bazan wrote while sitting in the clean room of a friend and thinking about how his room was a mess. The result is a ballad about the addiction of laziness.
58. “Under My Skin” – Fono (1999)
Here’s another excellent modern rock track from Goesaroundcomesaround. The final buildup on this song is one of my favorite moments in 90’s rock music.
57. “Fall” – John Elefante (1997)
From the album Corridors. This song really really resonated with me lyrically as a teenager who wanted to give my everything to God, but often gave in to peer pressure and such. “I don’t need what I want, what I need is what’s true” was always my favorite line.
There wasn’t a video for “Fall” on Youtube, so here’s the video for the song that was 101. “Black Metallic” – Catherine Wheel (1993)
56. “My Refuge” – SonicFlood (1999)
SonicFlood’s self-titled debut album was a trendsetter for the contemporary christian music industry. After this album went gold everyone and their mom was releasing their version of a rock worship album. It’s possible that the incredible driving drum beat at the beginning of the second verse lead to my eventual love of metalcore beats.
55. “Fade Into You” – Mazzy Star (1993)
This classic single from So Tonight That I Might See could be about puppy dogs and butterflies and it would still sound like the most melancholic song ever written thanks to Hope Sandoval’s vocals and that beautiful (slide?) guitar sound.
54. “Gone Away” – The Offspring (1997)
This is easily my favorite thing The Offspring ever recorded. From Ixnay of the Hombre, this is a song about someone who is desperately missing a deceased loved one. Maybe The Offspring should’ve stopped all the goofball stuff and tried being serious more often.
53. “Linger” – The Cranberries (1993)
Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We. Sorry, but everyone was not writing ballads this great in 1993, and they still aren’t. Put this in every movie scene about unrequited love in every movie ever. You’ll have a hard time finding a song better suited for that.
52. “A Thousand Miles From Nowhere” – Dwight Yoakam (1993)
This Time is one of my favorite country albums ever, and “A Thousand Miles From Nowhere” one of my favorite country songs. This might be the only tune in this genre where I get excited about how both the guitars and the drums sound. Everything about this song calls me to drive by myself at sundown on an open highway.
51. “Hold It Up to the Light” – Smalltown Poets (1998)
This is a gem of a rock song from Listen Closely about stepping out on faith. The outro on this track is one of my favorites of the decade.
50. “Better Off” – Pete Stewart (1999)
From his self-titled debut solo album, the former Grammatrain frontman shows off all of his strong suits on this one. Great guitar playing. Great songwriting. Great vocals. This is why Pete Stewart has been a favorite of mine for many years.
49. “Down in a Hole” – Alice in Chains (1992)
While it’s debatable if Layne Staley was writing this standout from Dirt about addiction, depression, or love (or all of the above?), there’s no debate that this is one of most haunting songs of the grunge-era.
48. “1,000 Yard Stare” – DoubleDrive (1999)
From their debut album of the same name. The riff in this song is just incredible. Is this butt-rock? It may qualify, but I don’t care. A great rock song is a great rock song. Hey Nickelback, it can be done.
47. “Crestfallen” – The Smashing Pumpkins (1998)
In my opinion, Adore is the most underrated Smashing Pumpkins album. It didn’t have the classic radio staple singles that the previous albums had, but there were several wonderful tracks sprinkled throughout, such as this one. Too slow and sad to be a radio hit, but just right for my headphones.
46. “Hold Me Jesus” – Rich Mullins (1993)
This beautiful cry for the peace and comfort that can only come for God is found on the album A Liturgy, A Legacy, and A Ragamuffin Band.
45. “On Bended Knee” – Boyz II Men (1994)
II is full of R&B Hits that I still really enjoy, so I’m pretty surprised that this is the only song from that album that placed in my top 100. To be honest, I’m surprised this is the only Boyz II Men song to make it, although “End of the Road” was a near miss. Maybe their music hasn’t aged with me as well as I would’ve liked it to, but Boyz II Men will always have a special place in my heart for being one of the first music artists that I was genuinely a fan of.
44. “Arise My Love” – Newsong (1994)
This song was recorded several times, but the version from People Get Ready is my favorite. It has many features that I love, such as the slow build up and powerful vocal performance, but the fact that it’s about the most important event in history (The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ), makes it that much greater.
43. “Fall at Your Feet” – Crowded House (1991)
Well, these Australians caught me off guard with this one. It was originally released on Woodface, but I first heard it on a hits compilation I bought so I could own the only song I knew by them, “Don’t Dream It’s Over”, of course. The beautiful chorus of this song gripped me and I played it over and over.
42. “Never Meant” – American Football (1999)
Easily one of the best jams from the golden age of emo. This comes from their self-titled debut album, which is also the only album they have released thus far. The band recently reunited to play some shows, so maybe there’s hope for new tunes.
41. “1979” – The Smashing Pumpkins (1995)
From Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, this is one of the songs that turned me into a fan of rock and alternative music. I had just started watching a lot of MTV when this song was in heavy rotation, and before I knew it, I was headed into a deeper fascination with music that was recorded with loud guitars and drums. Of course, the slower songs like this one and “Tonight, Tonight” are the ones that first caught my attention.
40. “I Gotta Be” – Jagged Edge (1997)
From A Jagged Era, this song came out just as I was beginning to lose interest in R&B and dive head-first into rock music. I was always a sucker for slow jams like this one, and the music here is one of my favorites in all of the genre.
39. “Nobody” – Keith Sweat (1996)
This comes from Keith Sweat’s self-titled album. Similar to “I Gotta Be”, “Nobody” also has some of my favorite music in all of R&B. Honestly, it’s probably my very favorite. The reason this song doesn’t rank higher is because of the lyrics. As a married man, I’m fine with a song being about sex, as long as it doesn’t specify or insinuate that it’s about sex outside of marriage. I just think the lyrics could’ve been a little more subtle and tasteful. When you listen to this jam, focus on that atmospheric, beat-heavy music. The remix of this song is also worth seeking out.
38. “Fell in Love at 22″ – Starflyer 59 (1998)
The Fashion Focus is one of the greatest purchases I ever made from the discount bin, and that didn’t happen until around 2007. Somehow I made it through the 90’s without ever really diving into Starflyer, despite being relatively deep into christian culture. Here’s one of my favorites of the many beautiful, dreamy-sounding songs Jason Martin is responsible for.
37. “A Man You Would Write About” – 4Him (1991)
It was probably my upbringing on southern gospel that made the four-part harmony sect of CCM sound appealing to me when I was first beginning to develop my own music tastes. This song most-likely came out before I even knew there was such a thing as christian music that wasn’t southern gospel or found in the hymnal. It is, however, one of my favorites to listen to when I need a jolt of cheesy, outdated music that I can sing along to in bass or baritone. Yes, these are actual desires I have. Plus, I find the subject of the song to be rather unique.
36. “When I’m Thinking About You – The Sundays (1997)
I referred to Harriet Wheeler as my favorite female vocalist in a post a couple of years ago. My wife, who has a beautiful singing voice, was not ecstatic to read those words. So…My second favorite female vocalist, Harriet Wheeler, delivers a fantastic performance on this pretty ballad from Static & Silence.
35. “Don’t Go Away” – Oasis (1997)
It’s ok if you did a double-take to make sure that didn’t say “Wonderwall”, “Champagne Supernova”, “Live Forever”, or “Don’t Look Back in Anger”. I get it. Be Here Now was the album where everyone started to jump off the Oasis train, and for good reason. This was the only song on the album worth having.
34. “Somewhere North” – Caedmon’s Call (1999)
I’m pretty surprised that only one Caedmon’s Call track made this list. This song is from 40 Acres, which isn’t even my favorite of their albums (that would be their self-titled album). Derek Webb delivers a fantastic lyrical and vocal performance on this one, though. It’s the only Caedmon’s Call song that I find myself coming back to on a regular basis, and I have been for 16 years.
33. “Reject” – Living Sacrifice (1997)
You’ve made it this far into the list without something to bang your head to. I sincerely apologize. Please accept my apology by listening to one of the greatest metal songs, from one of the greatest metal albums (Reborn), by one of the greatest metal bands.
32. “Advent of a Miracle” – Strongarm (1997)
Most of you probably won’t understand my love for this song from the album of the same name. That’s fine. The most simple way I know to describe it to you is to say that this is the sound of intense passion. When the focus of that passion is on The Lord, it makes these kinds of songs sound even better to me.
31. “Come Undone” – Duran Duran (1993)
From Duran Duran [The Wedding Album], this song may be better than anything they recorded in the height of their popularity (The 80’s, duh.), aside from the ridiculously great Rio closer, “The Chauffeur”. Here, they channel the darker pop sound that makes “Hungry Like the Wolf” sound like Kidz Bop.
30. “Only Hope” – Switchfoot (1999)
A ballad with so much hit potential that Mandy Moore wanted to sing it in her hit movie, A Walk to Remember. Before it was heard by millions on the big screen, it was released on an indie album called New Way to Be Human. Jon Foreman has had a fair amount of really good songs over the course of his career, but I think this is his finest moment.
29. “Southtown” – P.O.D. (1999)
I credit “Last Resort” by Papa Roach for getting me interested in nu-metal. Did I say credit? Maybe blame is a better word. Anyways, this first single from The Fundamental Elements of Southtown is what caused me to go all in with nu-metal for a few years. Many of the songs in that style make me cringe these days, but this one still rock’s the party all night long…even more so than the P.O.D. song that’s about doing that exact thing.
28. “Carried Away” – Sonicflood (1999)
This song, from Sonicflood’s self-titled debut, sounded SO epic to me and my limited music experience when I first heard it. I’m guessing it was because of the things I still love about it today; the orchestral sound combined with the loud guitars, the incredible guitar solo, and Jeff Deyo’s vocals.
27. “Don’t Speak” – No Doubt (1995)
This breakup anthem from Tragic Kingdom was all over the radio in the mid-to-late 90’s. I remember being bummed that they didn’t release a CD single of this song. An $18 full-length album wasn’t all that affordable for a 13 year old, but a $2 single? I could easily convince someone to buy that for me! That was how most of my early music collection was formed, by asking parents and grandparents for CD singles. So the frustration that No Doubt put me through, with this being the only song I can ever remember loving, yet being mad at, is why “Don’t Speak” is number 26 instead of…I dunno, 24 or 25.
26. “Like I Love You” – Amy Grant (1997)
I wouldn’t consider myself a very big Amy Grant fan, but Behind the Eyes has several excellent songs on it. One of those fine songs is this non-single where Amy is assuring someone that she’s never gonna leave (Side Note: I really hope this wasn’t written to comfort Gary Chapman). I forgot about this track for a few years in the 2000’s, but when I returned to it, I was reignited with the cozy, yet melancholy feeling I get when this one plays.
25. “Frail” – Jars of Clay (1997)
Surprisingly, this is the first song from my favorite album of the 90’s, Much Afraid, to make an appearance on this list. Have no fear (pun intended) , there’s more to come from that album. Jars are fantastic at slowing down and getting all chamber-sounding on us, as heard here. This song was first released in 1994 on the first (very hard to find) Jars of Clay album, Frail.
24. “Alcatraz” – Fono (1999)
I have probably forgotten most of the things I learned in 1999 that aren’t all that applicable in my daily life, but it’s going to be hard for me to forget that Leon “Whitey” Thompson was a man who was dead inside. This is the third song you’ve seen on this list from the largely unknown modern rock juggernaut Goesaroundcomesaround, but if you check out one song from that album, let it be this one. If the huge sounding drums and powerful riff that open the song (after a sample of Mr. Thompson telling us how he found himself in Alcatraz) doesn’t make you feel something, maybe you can also identify as being someone who is dead inside…or someone with different taste in music than I. Probably the former, though.
23. “Keep Waiting” – Stavesacre (1999)
1999 was a pretty monumental year for me. Nope, it was not the year I got my drivers license or graduated high school…it was the year I got the Internet. Thanks to good ol’ dial-up, I discovered exactly what I was looking for at the time, ChristianRock.Net. I was familiar with all of the big Christian rock bands, like DC Talk and Audio Adrenaline, but I knew nothing about Tooth & Nail Records and alternative Christian music. Through the website I was introduced to this amazing world that I didn’t know was out there. The first song I remember catching my attention on ChristianRock.net was this one, and I’ve loved it ever since. I eventually picked up the incredible album this song was released on, Speakeasy, which I also still very much enjoy to this day.
22. “All These Years” – Sawyer Brown (1992)
From Cafe on the Corner, this song does what a sad country song is supposed to do, makes me want to hide behind the tractor and cry my eyes out. Without going into detail, the subject matter here is something that I’m very sensitive about, so I’m sure that doesn’t help keep my eyes dry when I sink into this song. Besides all of that, this is just a well-written song with excellent vocals by Mark Miller.
21. “Live the Life” – Michael W. Smith (1998)
Michael W. Smith goes in a mildly psychedelic direction on the lead single from Live the Life, and it actually turned out great. There’s also some really good David Gilmour-esque guitar going on at the end. Aside from having the standard MWS power-chorus, this a pretty gutsy call for a lead single by a pop star near the height of his popularity.
20. “Elijah” – Rich Mullins (1996)
“Elijah” was originally released in 1986, but there is video of Rich performing this song as far back as 1982. This version is the re-recording that appeared on Songs just a year before Rich Mullins died in car accident in 1997. If you’re unfamiliar with the story of this remarkable man, please check out the movie Ragamuffin, or read one of the books written by, or about him.
19. “Don’t Underestimate” – Pete Stewart (1999)
I was familiar with a couple songs by Pete Stewart’s previous band, Grammatrain, but when I first heard “Don’t Underestimate” on the Seltzer 3 compilation is when I really became a fan. I was captivated by how much power this song brought. The vocals, drums, and guitar all just sounded so huge. I didn’t buy a whole lot of music at the time, as I was an unemployed high school sophomore, but I knew I needed to have the album with this song on it, which was Pete Stewart’s self-titled debut solo album. That album placed two songs on my list, but it wasn’t far from having five.
18. “Black” – Pearl Jam (1991)
You’ve probably noticed that this isn’t your typical 90’s music list. It’s not loaded with the alternative rock titans that dominated the decade. I guess I should go ahead and spill the beans, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is great, but I didn’t put it on my list. There’s just too many songs that I like better. Simple as that. I’m not even a huge Pearl Jam fan, outside of the Ten album. This song though, musically and lyrically, moves me more than any of the other big alternative hits of the 90’s.
17. “The King and I” – 4Him (1996)
You can call some of these kinds of songs guilty pleasures of mine if you want. If I heard “The King and I” for the first time today, I’m not sure I would consider it a favorite, but that’s the nature of nostalgia, I guess. I play this song and vivid thoughts of 8th grade come rushing to my head. In a sense, this is song is bigger than itself to me because of all of the ways it interacts with my memory. While I think this is a fine CCM song from The Message, I’m not sure I could say anything to convince most people why this song should be placed so high based on its own merits, but that’s just part of the power of music and the past. It’s a powerful combination.
16. “Hands in the Air” – The Waiting (1997)
This song comes from the self-titled album by The Waiting, but I first heard it on The Simply Fabulous $1.99 New Music Sampler. I discovered so much music from CD Samplers in the 90’s. I was broke, and they were cheap and had like 20 songs on them. It was a great thing. I liked this track when I first heard it on the sampler in 1997, but my love for it has only grown since then. At the end of the 90’s I don’t think it would have made this list, but here it is now, appearing with songs that have been among my 90’s favorites since the first time I heard them. This is a lyrically and musically powerful song about the struggle to surrender something to God that you selfishly want to hang on to.
15. “Worlds Apart” – Jars of Clay (1995)
Although this is the only song to make my list from the self-titled Jars of Clay album, I would guess that I listened to it more than any other album in the 90’s. Every song on it is excellent, and many just missed making this list. It’s surprising to me that “Worlds Apart” only clocks in at 5:18 because it seems like there’s so many different twists and turns; It’s rather slow and atmospheric at the beginning, yet it builds and cascades at the end. Thin, yet beautiful female vocals add texture to the chorus. Harmonizing male vocals here, layered sounding female “oooh’s” there. Big drums at the end. Wind chime sounds at the beginning. Vocalist Dan Haseltine sings a very emotional-sounding prayer to close it out. There’s just so many fascinating elements packed in to this one average-length song.
14. “6th Avenue Heartache” – The Wallflowers (1996)
I have loved this song since the first time I saw the black and white video on MTV. The slide guitar and overall moodiness of the track really captivated me. Jakob Dylan (son of Bob) sings lead vocals, while Adam Duritz (who wants to be Bob, according to Counting Crows hit “Mr. Jones”) lends his background vocals to the first single, yet second biggest hit, from Bringing Down the Horse. “One Headlight” is a really good song, but I’ve always been kind of surprised that it became a big hit after it seemed like pop radio didn’t want anything to do with “6th Avenue Heartache”.
13. “So Into You” – Tamia (1998)
In true 90’s fashion, the main thing I want to point out about this song is dat beat is dope. Seriously though, I love the beat to this song and I was never really one of those ‘check out that phat beat’ kinda people. Plus, Tamia’s vocals sound so smooth on this jam from her self-titled debut. It makes me want to to tuck in my t-shirt, go to the rink, and throw on some ugly khaki roller skates with orange wheels. That was just how I rolled in ’98.
12. “Crazy Times” – Jars of Clay (1997)
This first single from Much Afraid blew me away at first listen. I was already anticipating the release of the album, being that I was a big fan of their self-titled release, but I was pleasantly shocked at how heavy this song sounded compared to their previous material and everything else I had ever heard on adult contemporary Christian radio. I recorded this song off the airwaves to listen to until the album came out, and when it did I was at the Family Christian Stores release party. I consider Jars of Clay to be my favorite band of the 90’s, not only because of how much I loved them then, but also because of how great all the material from those first few albums still sounds now.
11. “I’m Still in Love with You – New Edition (1996)
New Edition were mentors and influences on the biggest hit ballad group of the 90’s, Boyz II Men. When the Bel Biv Devoe guys got back together with Bobby Brown and crew to end an eight year hiatus and release Home Again, I can’t help but wonder if they were out to try to prove that they could do it better than the Boyz. For the most part, I feel like they failed to accomplish that, but not on this huge track. As great as “End of the Road” and “Water Runs Dry” are, I’ll take this song as the greatest hit R&B ballad of the decade.
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.