Every decade brings a fresh batch of iconic songs. The 1990s are no exception, with an explosion of innovative genres and a new selection of dominant superstars. In this 90s music playlist, we explore some of the biggest songs of the 90s.
There are several awesome 90s songs, and this list could be substantially more extensive. But, we have selected the most iconic 90s songs that helped define a generation. Let’s dive into the most famous 90s songs and the biggest hits you should have in your listening rotation.
Warren G – Regulate
Kicking off the list is this smooth tune that solidified G-funk as one of the slickest and most engaging styles of rap and hip-hop of the 90s. The laid-back lyrical style of Warren G and Nate Dogg is a perfect example of the West Coast and Gangsta Rap genre.
Regulate was a hit, made it to number 2 on the Billboard charts, and went double Platinum with 2 million copies sold. It also reached the top 10 of several charts worldwide. It is a groovy portrayal of the hard life on the streets and stands as one of the best 90s hip hop songs.
Boyz II Men – End Of The Road
With origins in the late 70s and early 80s, contemporary R&B became one of the most defining genres of the 90s. One of the most influential groups spearheading this combination of rhythm and blues with soul and funk was Boyz II Men.
This powerful track solidified the group as one of the best in the business. It reached the coveted number 1 position on the Billboard charts and hit number 1 in Australia, Ireland, Netherlands, and the UK. Truly one of the best R&B songs of the 90s.
Vanilla Ice – Ice Ice Baby
At the start of the 90s, hip-hop was set to explode into the mainstream. Leading the charge was American rapper Vanilla Ice with this famous tune. As the lead single from the album To The Extreme, it topped the charts in several countries and is the first hip-hop single to do so.
The success and popularity of Ice Ice Baby also helped make his debut album the fastest-selling hip-hop album of all time. A pioneer that forged a path for so many talented rap and hip-hop artists to experience commercial success. It also goes down as one of the best 90s one hit wonders.
Whitney Houston – I Will Always Love You
One of the best 90s love songs is this soul ballad from Whitney Houston. Originally a Dolly Parton track, this fresh take was a huge hit, and it dominated the charts and held onto the number 1 position in the US for a whopping 14 weeks.
It was also a massive international hit reaching the number 1 position practically worldwide. It also holds the title of a Diamond record with 10 million copies sold. An outstanding song that perfectly highlights Whitney Houston’s incredible voice.
The Cranberries – Zombie
Alternative rock and grunge is another defining genre of the 90s. One of the most memorable songs representing this genre is this smash hit from the Irish band The Cranberries. It reached the top 10 in several countries and is the band’s most iconic release.
The unique vocal style of lead singer Dolores O’Riordan captivated fans and was a perfect combination with the bleak subject matter inspired by the Troubles in Ireland. It also holds the title of the first track from an Irish band to crack the 1 billion view mark on YouTube and is on of the best 90s karaoke songs.
Backstreet Boys – Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)
Pop music is always a mainstay of the charts, and the 90s saw some memorable releases from a variety of artists. Boy bands were not a new idea in 1997 when this track was released, but few would argue the impact and popularity that the Backstreet Boys eventually commanded.
It’s a catchy tune that does an excellent job of highlighting the group’s vocal talents. It went Platinum in the US with 1.2 million copies sold and comfortably made the top 10 in multiple countries. A true icon boy band pop music and one of the best 90s party songs.
Dr. Dre ft. Snoop Dogg – Still D.R.E.
Ask any fan of hip-hop and rap to name some iconic artists of the 90s, and without a doubt, they will likely name Dr. Dre in that list. His work as a rapper and producer helped establish West Coast hip-hop and saw him work with many of the decade’s biggest rap stars.
This huge track featuring another legendary rapper Snoop Dogg was a perfect ending to the 90s and ensured that Dr. Dre was still a force to be reckoned with in the hip-hop scene. It also helped drive sales for his second studio album, cementing his popularity. This song among many others also made it to our Dr. Dre 90s songs list.
Snoop Dogg – Gin & Juice
Speaking of Snoop Dogg, there is no denying he is one of the most famous rappers from the 90s. He had a string of hits throughout the decade, but Gin and Juice is often considered one of his best. Released in 1994, it climbed to number 8 on the US Billboard charts.
It has all the hallmarks of the G-funk rap era, with sex, drugs, and alcohol themes playing a dominant role in the lyrics. A laidback tune with a fantastic chorus sung by David Ruffin. Rightly so, this song also tops our Snoop Dogg 90s songs list.
Usher – You Make Me Wanna…
Usher is another breakout star of the 90s. With an album under his belt already, Usher would continue his early success with this lead single from his second album. You Make Me Wanna… is a smooth R&B tune with Soul and Pop influences.
It went triple Platinum in the US, selling 2 million copies, and peaked at the number 2 position on the charts. It also saw success overseas, reaching the number 1 position in the UK and the top 10 in several other countries. One of his best songs, it’s also featured on our Usher 90s songs list.
Mary J. Blige – Not Gon’ Cry
Mary J. Blige’s voice is among the best, and in 1996 she teamed up with producer Babyface for Not Gon’ Cry. Babyface is among the most prolific songwriters and producers in the music scene, with a staggering amount of number 1 R&B hits.
This combination was always going to be a powerhouse, and this single sold 1 million copies in the US, making it one of Mary’s most successful tracks. It also earned her a nomination for the Best Female R&B Vocal Performance Grammy. With so many other successfully hits, this song is also featured on our Mary J Blige 90s songs list.
Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit
Every time a new genre bubbles beneath the surface, it takes one huge breakout hit to catapult the new genre into the mainstream. Smells Like Teen Spirit did that for the Grunge and Alternative Rock scene.
An icon of the MTV era, it was Nirvana’s most successful single, reaching number 6 on the Billboard charts and being certified Platinum. Its appeal extended beyond the US, with the song hitting the top 10 across Oceania, the UK, and Europe.
The Notorious B.I.G. – Mo Money Mo Problems
The West Coast rap scene was experiencing tremendous success, but the East Coast was also delivering hit after hit. One of the biggest names from the East Coast was The Notorious B.I.G., and this release was one of his most successful.
With its big beats and more uplifting groove, it rocketed up the charts and hit number 1 on the US Billboard chart selling 1.3 million copies. With a slick video to complement it and guest appearances from Puff Daddy and Mase, it was a highlight of 1997.
TLC – No Scrubs
TLC is not your typical girl group. Featuring the talents of T-Boz, Left Eye, and Chilli, this superstar group released three albums throughout the 90s and had multiple top-10 hits. No Scrubs is one of their most influential releases and came from their third album.
Release in 1999, it went to number 1 in the US and sold a monstrous 5 million copies. It also went triple Platinum in the UK and scored the number one position in New Zealand, Australia, and Canada, solidifying the term Scrub into women’s vocabulary worldwide.
Coolio – Gangsta’s Paradise
Gangsta’s Paradise was the biggest-selling single of 1995 in the US, with 3 million copies sold. Featuring the rapping talents of Coolio and a guest appearance from singer L.V, it was the showcase single for the movie Dangerous Minds featuring lead actress Michell Pfieffer.
The music video also featured Michelle Pfieffer and won the Best Rap Video award at the MTV Video Music Awards. It was also a smash hit across Oceania, Europe, and the UK and made Coolio a household name.
Mark Morrison – Return of the Mack
The British were also embracing the R&B scene of the 90s, and this release by singer Mark Morrison is one of the best to come from that decade. A smooth combination of lyrical talent, new jack swing vibes, and warm R&B flavors.
In the UK, it hit number 1 and sold 1.2 million copies, and it was also a hit across the pond selling 1.4 million copies in the US. While his other releases performed well, he could never replicate the massive success of Return of the Mack.
Daft Punk – Da Funk
For much of the 90s, the charts would feature the usual suspects when it came to genres. But the growing underground electronic music movement was also picking up steam. This big beat acid house monster from Daft Punk put the French Duo on the map.
It sold well and cracked the top 50 in several countries, including France, Scotland, the UK, and Australia. A legendary track from a talented pair that legitimized mainstream house music. A must-listen for anyone that is a fan of Daft Punk’s later work.
2Pac – California Love
No list of the greatest 90s songs is complete without adding a song from iconic rapper 2Pac. In 1995 Tupac Shakur completed his prison sentence. And after signing with Death Row Records, California Love was his triumphant comeback to the charts.
With Dr. Dre on producer duties, this smash hit sold 2 million copies, reaching number 1 in the US. The music video featuring a Mad Max-inspired theme was also very popular and picked up the 1996 MOBO Award for Best Video.
Spice Girls – Wannabe
Now and then, a new group comes along and instantly explodes onto the scene with immense success. The Spice Girls are the perfect example of this. This debut single was an instant smash hit, earning them millions of fans worldwide.
Girl power was in full effect, with this single selling nearly 3 million copies in the US and 2.2 million in the UK. It also dominated charts worldwide, making the English girl group one of the most defining acts of the 90s.
Ginuwine – Pony
One of the most prolific artists and producers to emerge from the 90s is Timbaland. He has had his hands on multiple hits both from a production and songwriting standpoint. His breakout production was with Ginuwine for his debut single, Pony.
It was an excellent start to Ginuwine’s career, with the song reaching number 6 on the US Billboard charts. It was also popular internationally and climbed into the top 40 charts of several European countries.
Montell Jordan – This Is How We Do It
Look no further than this hit from Montell Jordan when you need to start a party. Merging hip-hop, soul, and R&B into a fusion of pure party energy, this debut single went Platinum in the US and Gold in the UK.
Montell Jordan did release more albums and singles in the following years, but they never managed to reach the same heights as his debut offering, which spent seven weeks in the number 1 position on the US Billboard charts.
The Verve – Bitter Sweet Symphony
The Brits have an excellent reputation for discovering fantastic rock bands, and in 1997 the trend continued with this powerful song by The Verve. It climbed to number 2 on the UK charts and charted in the top 20 in the US, Australia, France, and Sweden, to name a few.
The song features a Rolling Stones sample, which led to a rights dispute that saw the Verve lose royalties. Thankfully cooler heads eventually prevailed, and the credit (and royalties) for this excellent and original song returned to songwriter Richard Ashcroft.
Blackstreet – No Diggity
Blackstreet is another American R&B group that found success throughout the 90s. While they did release three albums over the decade, No Diggity featuring Dr. Dre and Queen Pen, is their most successful offering with a fantastic blend of R&B and hip-hop.
It sold 1.6 million copies in the US and peaked at number 1 on the Billboard charts. It also cracked the top ten in the UK and Canada, along with several European countries making it their biggest commercial success.
Red Hot Chili Peppers – Under The Bridge
Red Hot Chilli Peppers formed in the early 80s, but this single from their fifth album started their meteoric rise to become one of the best rock groups of all time. It was released in 1992 and climbed the US Billboard charts, eventually peaking at number 2.
The melancholy and emotionally powerful lyrics crafted by Anthony Kiedis departed from the band’s usual songs. And it nearly never saw the light of day until producer Rick Rubin discovered it in Kiedis’s notebook and presented it to the group. The rest is history.
Toni Braxton – You’re Makin’ Me High
This stunning song was Toni Braxton’s first number 1 hit single. Released in 1996, it was a huge success both in the US, selling 1.5 million copies, and internationally, reaching the top 10 in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, and Canada.
With her unique vocal style and stunning range, Toni Braxton would go on to release other memorable hits like You’re Making Me High and Un-break My Heart. A true star and an R&B and Soul diva icon of the 90s.
Britney Spears – Baby One More Time
Teen pop sensation Britney Spears is no stranger to commercial success. Her work throughout the 90s and early naughties established her as one of the world’s biggest pop icons, and it all started with the massive debut release of Baby One More Time from her first album.
Britney Spears was initially in the running to join a female pop group, but her unique voice and charisma landed her a solo career and eventually led to her receiving a nomination for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for this debut song.
Eminem – My Name Is
Highly talented and equally controversial rapper Eminem is another icon of the 90s. Under the guidance of producer Dr. Dre, this top 40 hit went on to sell 3 million copies in the US and launched him into the mainstream.
With his brutal blend of comedy and hip-hop, no one was safe from his scathing lyrics. It also landed him in hot water when his mother, Debbie Mathers, filed a lawsuit against him for slander, which was eventually settled in 2001.
Alanis Morissette – You Oughta Know
Canadian singer Alanis Morrissette was another popular artist in the 90s. Her initial style leaned heavily into bubblegum pop, but after the lackluster performance of her second album, she teamed up with producer Glen Ballard.
The result was a shift to alternative rock and a string of popular releases. You Oughta Know reached number 6 on the US Billboard charts and performed well in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. It just goes to show it is never too late to reinvent yourself.
Salt-N-Pepa – Shoop
Amongst the backdrop of the early 90s hip-hop revolution, the group Salt-N-Pepa was in full stride. This song from their fourth album was a big success selling 1.2 million copies in the US, and helped drive the sales for the album.
True pioneers for both hip-hop and, more specifically, women’s hip-hop, the group is often credited as “The First Ladies of Rap and Hip Hop”. With over 15 million records sold worldwide, it’s a title that is well deserved.
Cher – Believe
By the time the 90s rolled around, Cher had already enjoyed a career that spanned decades. But you can’t keep an icon like Cher out of the spotlight for long. In 1998 the lead single for her 22nd studio album was released, and it was a colossal success.
With an uptempo dance-pop style, this catchy release dominated the charts worldwide, hitting number 1 in a staggering amount of countries, ensuring that Cher remained relevant in an increasingly competitive and crowded music industry.
No Doubt – Don’t Speak
I love a great power ballad as much as the next person, and this song from No Doubt is one of the best examples that emerged from the Alternative Rock genre. It went double Platinum in the US and the UK.
The group continued to release new material throughout the 90s and early noughties. But lead singer Gwen Stafani would eventually leave the group to pursue a solo career, leading to more success and chart-topping singles.
Lauryn Hill – Doo-Wop (That Thing)
Talk about making a splash on your solo debut. Lauryn Hill from the group Fugees burst into the charts in 1998 with her debut single Doo Wop (That Thing). She wrote and produced the song, which reached the number 1 position on the US Billboard charts.
The song’s infectious style also landed her a couple of Grammy Awards in 1999. One for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance and Best R&B Song. As one of the most decorated female rappers of all time, this iconic track is an instant inclusion for any 90s music playlist.
Destiny’s Child – Say My Name
American R&B and Pop group Destiny’s Child is another illustrious group from the 90s. Featuring the talents of future solo superstar Beyonce this song from their second album was a chart-topper in the US and a top 10 hit worldwide.
It went on to sell 3 million copies in the US and 1.2 million in the UK. It is widely regarded as one of Destiny Child’s most iconic releases. The music video also netted the group an MTV Video Music Award for Best R&B Video.
Foo Fighters – Learn To Fly
After the death of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain the group disbanded, leaving its drummer Dave Grohl in a tough spot. The result was Dave Grohl’s decision to pursue a solo career. After recording some material under the Foo Fighters banner, he recruited some bandmates.
By the close of the 90s, the group was onto their third album, and the power ballad Alternative Rock anthem Learn To Fly led the charge. It was a huge success and ended as the band’s second-highest charting Billboard hit.
Eagle-Eye Cherry – Save Tonight
This one-hit wonder from Swedish rock musician Eagle-Eye Cherry is another fantastic alternative rock song from the 90s. It was an international hit, reaching number 5 on the US Billboard charts and the top ten in several other countries.
It also helped his album Desireless sell 4 million copies worldwide. His follow-up album Living in the Present Future in the year 2000 charted well, but he could never replicate the success of his debut release.
Hanson – MMMBop
Walk into any teenage girl’s bedroom in the late 90s, and you’d likely come across a poster of either the Backstreet Boys or a poster for the pop rock band Hanson. The group consisted of brothers Issac, Taylor, and Zac, and they hit the big time with their debut single MMMBop.
The song sold 1.5 million copies in the US and hit number 1 on the Billboard Charts. It also hit number 1 in the UK, Sweden, Scotland, Canada, and Australia. A catchy and pop-loaded hit from a talented group of brothers.
Jennifer Lopez – Waiting For Tonight
After Ricky Martin’s success opened the door for Latin acts, there was a wave of infectious Latin-house hits from a selection of talented artists. Jennifer Lopez is one of the most successful and popular artists to emerge from this era.
This single from her debut album launched her career and climbed into the top 10 in both the US and UK charts. It also performed well across Europe and Oceania. And considering its release at the tail-end of 1999, it was the perfect anthem for the switch to the new millennium.
Madonna – Vogue
Cher wasn’t the only decade-spanning artist to experience renewed success in the 90s. This house hit from Madonna that would become one of her most successful and iconic releases kicked off the new decade.
It hit number 1 on the US Billboard charts and would go double Platinum with 2 million copies sold and a further 4 million copies sold worldwide. It also introduced the world to voguing, a popular dance style still going strong today.
The Decade Of Change
More than any other decade in history, the 90s were a time of immense change. Look at fashion and technology at the start of the decade and compare it with the end; the differences are astounding.
This era of change also helped deliver one of the most unique and diverse decades in music history. New genres sprouted left and right, and existing genres evolved and embraced new directions. It was a decade fuelled by creativity and exploration and delivered some of the most memorable songs of all time.
Watch The Full Playlist
The full playlist with every song in this post can be watched via the video below or directly on our YouTube channel.