Today we make playlists. Mostly for ourselves, and while the concept of a “mixtape” isn’t yet dead, it certainly has picked out a plot in the cemetery. We just don’t need to make them anymore, for our friends or a girl. Personally, most of my mixtapes were honestly just me holding a recorder to the radio when songs played so that I could “own” my favorite songs. Then I got suckered into the Columbia House situation, and while that turned into a tumultuous relationship it did give me access to a lot of fantastic records.
1994 might be one of the greatest years in music history, and I say that with the knowledge of my age. I was in the prime early music listening years at the time. Fifteen years old, walking home with my first Walkman, complete with a “no skip” feature that worked enough for me to only have to reset an album every few blocks.
It was the year Kurt Cobain died, but also the year Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged album released and changed my world. Pearl Jam released Vitalogy, Biggie Smalls was alive and ruling rap, Under the Pink introduced me to not only Tori Amos, but also Trent Reznor. It was the year that Garth Brooks was bigger than anything, ever. While they would go on to do more noteworthy things, 1994 was the year that the world met the likes of Cake, blink-182, and Korn.
So, my dear friends I have made you a pseudo mixtape. To learn, to enjoy, heck to even lose your mind to. These aren’t the best songs of 1994, we all know that All-4-One had that honor with “I Swear.” Some are timeless classics, but many are icons held in the bubble of time that is the 90s.
This is what you need to know about 1994.
In 1994 we wanted sex
1. “Welcome To Paradise,” Green Day’s Dookie.Sometimes loving yourself is oh so right.
2. “Closer,” Nine Inch Nails’ The Downward SpiralWild animal sex.
3. “Waterfalls,” TLC’s crazysexycoolBut if we do SEX, then we should be safe. 90s pop culture said so, a lot.
4. “I’ll Make Love To You,” Boys II Men’s IIWho needs subtlety and nuance? I’ll hold you close, all through the night while we bang.
In 1994 there was an inordinate amount of pain in love.
5. “Doll Parts,” Hole’s Live Through ThisAnd you thought Kurt had trouble accepting adoration.
6. “Interstate Love Song,” Stone Temple Pilots’ PurpleHonesty, dishonesty, it’s all the same in love. Right?
7. “Better Man,” Pearl Jam’s VitalogyI mean, there has to be a better man than this.
In 1994 we expressed our loss with platitudes of love
8. “Stay,” Lisa Loeb’s Tails and Reality Bites SoundtrackOh to go through the trials and tribulations of love while hearing someone else sing your song.
9. “The Sign,” Ace of Base’s Happy NationSo catchy. So upbeat. So actually sad and Swedish.
10. “Only Want To Be With You,” Hootie and the Blowfish’s Cracked Rear ViewDolphins make Hootie cry.
In 1994 we didn’t always understand what the song meant, but we knew it was fun.
11. “Come Out And Play,” The Offspring’s SmashSomeone’s fighting? Adolescent on adolescent violence? Or just a catchy chorus?
12. “Say It Ain’t So,” Weezer’s Weezer (Blue Album)Is your step-father following the same path as your real-father? No matter, this shit is catchy as hell.
13. “Hook,” Blues Traveler’s fourThis song should be meta’s theme song. It doesn’t matter what the lyrics say, as long as he sings it with inflection.
In 1994 angst sold records
14. “No Excuses,” Alice In Chains’ Jar of FliesWhen bandmates have trouble, we reap the rewards
15. “Black Hole Sun,” Soundgarden’s superuknownHey Chris, could you try to be a bit more esoteric next time?
16. “Loser,” Beck’s Mellow GoldIn the time of chimpanzees this is the most wonderfully folksy rock/hip-hop hybrid complete with self loathing lamentation.
17. “Glycerine,” Bush’s Sixteen StoneAngsty sad post breakup song.
In 1994 rap lyrics were hypnotizing
18. “Big Poppa,” Notorious B.I.G.’s Ready to DieI dare you to not love this song.
19. “Regulate,” Warren G’s Regulate….G Funk EraGettin’ them bitches. So misogynistic, and yet so wonderful.
20. “Sabotage,” Beastie Boys’ Ill CommunicationMight be the Boys’ best song, it’s certainly their most insanely awesome music video.
21. “Zombie,” The Cranberries’ No Need To ArgueThe song may be fun, but hey...shit’s real over in Ireland. Expand your worldview.