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90s Music: Last of a dying breed?
90s music is considered by a lot of people as the last great decade of music. The reason that opinion is shared by the majority of musicians and historians are because of a variety of reasons.
One of the reasons is the lyrics. The lyrics of any song are one of the most telling aspects of a good song. People say the lyrics of 90s songs were of substance, relevance, and a sense of innocence. Substance: the songs were talking about issues that mattered to the world that day. Lyrics were dealing with intimate relationships whether friendship, romantic, and biological. Lyrics that were to tap into your basic sense of being.
Relevance: the most identifying part of whether music is timeless is its relevance. Relevance says, does the song have any importance right now as it did 20 years ago? That is what the vast majority of music lacks today. The songs made today are suited for this precise moment, but they will be outdated in 5, 10, 15 years from now. 90s music is a testament of a time. Where the 80s was of excess, the 90s was about the basics of life and society.
Also, the music of the 90s had a sense of innocence to them. Songs such as “Kiss Me,” “Kissing Game,” and others spoke of a certain feeling of naivete to them. Before cell phones and the internet was huge. These songs were shared through interpersonal means, meaning if people wanted to get a song, you had to actually give the tape, CD, or album to someone. There, you could discuss what songs you liked, where they were on the CD, and what they meant to you.
90s music also had a sense of honesty to them. From Matchbox 20's “Back 2 Good” to Toni Braxton’s “Unbreak My Heart”—songs such as those were felt with a universal, honest appeal to them, not superficial, unrealistic themes. To say that today’s music does not have an honest appeal would be inaccurate because we live in a superficial, unrealistic type of society. However, 90s music was the pendulum swinging back to a more realistic, idealistic spectrum as opposed to the excess spectrum of the 80s.
Another aspect of 90’s music is that the majority of songs and groups were of substance. Substance means they had a certain talent or something substantial in them that made them special. Like the Wallflowers or En Vogue, those groups were of substance because what made them stand out was their sheer talent and their talent is what made them stars. The substance is also what you as an artist represent. The majority of groups in the 90s were authentic to an extent but the authenticity of their presentation was what people remember most about them. For me, they represented a time where you had a lot of artists who were passionate about their art and who cared about the music they created consequently when you have artists that care about what kind of music they put out, you have quality music. As a result, when you have great artists putting out great music, then music as a whole is great. That is the vast difference between then and now. You have the occasional good artist now, maybe two or three but the vast majority of the artists are not and as a result, music as a whole suffers.
90s music was also where you could follow your path and be successful. You could be who you were and there was enough open-mindedness that it not only you would be accepted but successful. From Genuine, Erykah Badu, Green Day—all these artists were very different yet they were able to find their niche without altering who they were and crowds not only accepted them but embrace and admire their uniqueness. In 2019, these artists have not only stood the test of time but, in some ways, help define the decade.
To me 90s music was the time before social media took what was social out of society. 90s music was a time where you could ride in a car and really listen to songs without worrying about the content. To me, 90s music was a time where innocence was a good thing. To me, 90s music was about the craft and the love of the art, not the love of likes, followers, or the dollar. To say that music won’t get back to a more substantial level is to be pessimistic, but it is a realistic approach. 90s music will always be regarded as the last decade of great, not good, music. Nothing will ever be the same again.