Thursday, April 17, 2008

1. Alanis Morissette - You Oughta Know

Found On: Jagged Little Pill (1995)

Do I need to tell you about this song? The big hit on the big album of the decade, its rage was as unbridled as its success. Wherever the guy is who inspired such anger, he’s probably still smarting. - RN

2. Lisa Loeb – Stay (I Missed You)

Found On: Tails (1994)

You know, Stay doesn’t have a chorus to speak of, and yet nearly anyone aged 25 – 35 can sing large portions of it, if not the entire song. How does THAT happen?

3. They Might Be Giants – Birdhouse In Your Soul

Found On: Flood (1990)
Picked By: MT

Not to put too fine a point on it, but this is TMBG’s best song, an ode to a nightlight that is full of non-sequiters and SAT vocabulary words, but still comes off as oddly touching .

4. Deee-Lite - Groove Is In the Heart

Found On: World Clique (1990)

Because groove IS in the heart. - EE

5. Nirvana - Smells Like Teen Spirit

Found On: Nevermind (1991)
Picked By: MT

The most influential song ever inspired by a deodorant.

6. Smashing Pumpkins - Mayonaise

Found On: Siamese Dream (1993)
Picked By: DH

Dave wanted to nominate the entire Siamese Dream album, and I wouldn’t let him. Still, it had more songs nominated from it than any other album. Mayonaise, unlike its differently-spelled namesake, is not heavy, but it does bring a different flavor to the album.

7. R.E.M. - Losing My Religion

Found On: Out Of Time (1991)

I was mildly scandalized by the song's title / chorus when I first heard it. I was a good church-goin' boy and it felt wrong to enjoy the song so much. Now that I've learned the song is actually about a huge hidden crush and not spirituality, I like it both less and more.

8. Radiohead – Creep

Found On: Pablo Honey (1993)

Did I beat Richard in suggesting this? – MT

Yes, you did.

9. Ice Cube – It Was A Good Day

Found On: The Predator (1993)
Picked By: MT

Ice Cube’s idea of a perfect day (a game of basketball followed by craps and dominoes, a Laker win, drunk driving, the Goodyear blimp displaying that you are, in fact, a pimp) may differ slightly from mine, but his enthusiasm is contagious.

10. Green Day – Basket Case

Found On: Dookie (1994)

In purer times I actually discovered new music via MTV. When I saw the video for Basket Case one night I knew that I had to get the album right away. Like the Sex Pistols and Ramones before them, Billie Joe and the boys expressed teenage alienation flawlessly.

11. Sinead O'Connor - Nothing Compares 2 U

Found On: I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got (1990)

Can Prince write a song or can Prince write a song?! This tune was first performed by a group called The Family in ’85 and it wasn’t until Sinead’s impassioned performance that it became the classic it is now.

12. Weezer – Buddy Holly

Found On: Weezer (1994)

I’m going to admit this here: As a high schooler I had a big crush on Mary Tyler Moore. Not the single-gal-in-Minneapolis version, but the sassy-wife-of-Dick Van Dyke version. So this song always made perfect sense to me. And the video is my favorite ever.

13. Sting - Fields Of Gold

Found On: Ten Summoner's Tales (1993)

Reflective, gentle and vaguely sensual, this song knocks my socks off.

14. Counting Crows - Mr. Jones

Found On: August And Everything After (1993)

Adam Duritz name-checks Bob Dylan and Pablo Picasso while anticipating reality television: “When I look at the television, I want to see me staring right back at me!” The Crows would have many more hits, but none touched the sheer bliss of this. - RN

15. Freedy Johnston - Bad Reputation

Found On: This Perfect World (1994)

I’d be more convinced of Mr. Johnston’s alleged “bad reputation” if this song weren’t so pretty. A sweet musical yin to Joan Jett’s sassy yang.

16. Toad The Wet Sprocket - Walk On The Ocean

Found On: Fear (1991)
Picked By: MT

As far as I can tell this song is NOT about Jesus.

17. The Jayhawks - Blue

Found On: Tomorrow The Green Grass (1995)

My grandfather bought this CD for me at a Venture department store in Decatur, Illinois. How had I heard of it? That detail is lost to time. All I know is that as a college freshman who supposedly hated country, it sounded pretty sweet to my ear.

18. Fiona Apple - Criminal

Found On: Tidal (1996)

She may have been a bad, bad girl—the video for this song was downright naughty—but this is a remarkable song. “I’ve been careless with a delicate man?” Perhaps—but there isn’t a careless or misplaced note or word here. - RN

19. Beta Band - Dry The Rain

Found On: The 3 E.P.s (1998)

You might remember this song from the scene in High Fidelity where John Cusack’s character says “I will now sell 5 copies of The Three E.P.’s by The Beta Band.” Why were the patrons of Championship Vinyl compelled to buy a copy of this album? Because this song is fucking good, that’s why. - EE

20. Backstreet Boys - I Want It That Way

Found On: Millennium (1999)

While the European version makes more sense, lyrically, than the slightly schizophrenic version that ruled American charts, there’s no question that this was one of the catchiest songs of this or any decade. - RN

21. Bel Biv Devoe – Poison

Found On: Poison (1990)
Picked By: CR

Three background guys from New Edition came together to form Bel Biv Devoe and immediately scored a hit about a girl who’s “just a big butt and a smile.” To put in perspective how unexpected that was, imagine Chris Kirkpatrick, Joey Fatone and Lance Bass forming a group and people actually giving a damn.

22. Bonnie Raitt – Something To Talk About

Found On: Luck Of The Draw (1991)

An acknowledgment of rumors, an admission of feelings and a come-on in one fell swoop. I bet Bonnie sang this to Danny Noonan and won him right over.

23. Oasis – Wonderwall

Found On: What’s The Story (Morning Glory)? (1995)

Ryan Hobart, who lived two dorm rooms down from me freshman year, played Wonderwall incessantly at ear-splitting volume for at least three weeks straight (before he moved on to Gangsta’s Paradise). I still love it.

24. Jimmy Eat World – Lucky Denver Mint

Found On: Clarity (1998)

Emo’s best band delivers an ode to wishful thinking and humility. Looking back, it’s not hard to see the commercial breakthrough that happened 3 years later.

25. Spin Doctors – Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong

Found On: Pocket Full Of Kryptonite (1991)
Picked By: MT

What a mean song. I love it.

26. Ben Folds Five - Brick

Found On: Whatever And Ever Amen (1996)

This was the one that shot the group, and eventually the man, into stardom. Who’d have guessed that a song about driving a girlfriend to have an abortion would touch such a nerve? - RN

27. Stone Temple Pilots – Interstate Love Song

Found On: Purple (1995)

You won't find a song with a more appropriate title. Everytime I hear this I think of a lone gas station by the side of the road in the southwest.

28. Depeche Mode - Enjoy The Silence

Found On: Violater (1990)

DM are one of the few bands associated with the ‘80s but who were actually BETTER in the ‘90s. They outdid themselves on Enjoy The Silence, an ironic title given the top quality of the song.

29. The Cranberries – Dreams

Found On: Everyone Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?
Picked By: ND

Like their countrymen U2, the ‘berries had an anthemic, ringing guitar-driven sound. Unlike U2, they had a singer who actually sounded Irish.

30. Deep Blue Something - Breakfast At Tiffany's

Found On: Home (1995)

The song that inspired a generation of guys to rent the old Audrey Hepburn movie, just in case they met a girl who liked it. And then those same guys fell in love with Holly Golightly

31. Hole - Boys On The Radio

Found On: Celebrity Skin (1998)

Wherein Courtney Love looks back on the revolution her husband started. Coming so soon after grunge’s commercial nadir, it reads as instant nostalgia, a eulogy for the music and the men who made it. Plus, the song itself sounds like a lost Christine McVie composition.

32. Haddaway - What Is Love

Found On: Haddaway (1993)
Picked By: EV

If you can listen to this song and NOT think of Will Ferrell and Chris Kattan in purple suits, you’re a better person than me.

33. Jann Arden - Insensitive

Found On: Living Under June (1997)
Picked By: SB

The mid-‘90s really were interesting musical times. Grunge was blowing up, but simultaneously the Lilith Fair revolution was making its own kind of sensitive noise. Jann Arden was one of many to cash in on this, taking a little Alanis and adding a good dose of Heart to create a rueful kiss-off.

34. Tori Amos - Silent All These Years

Found On: Little Earthquakes (1991)
Picked By: MT

What use does a mermaid have for jeans?

35. Shawn Colvin - Sunny Came Home

Found On: A Few Small Repairs (1996)

There’s something fascinating about this song, which cryptically carries the listener through the anguished mind of Sunny as she—what? Burns down her house? Is it a metaphor? Is she crazy? Listen again and again; I defy you to figure it out for certain. - RN

36. Beastie Boys - Intergalactic

Found On: Hello Nasty (1999)

It just goes to show that robot voices are always a good idea.

37. Dr. Dre feat. Snoop Dogg - Nuthin' But A "G" Thang

Found On: The Chronic (1992)

Back to the lecture at hand: This was a genuine cultural moment, responsible for 1) Introducing us to Snoop Dogg, 2) the continuing popularity of marijuana t-shirts and hats, and 3) Dolomite rentals tripling.

38. Sir Mix-A-Lot - Baby Got Back

Found On: Mack Daddy (1992)

A song to help you kick them nasty thoughts. And by “kick” I mean “indulge”.

39. Smashing Pumpkins - I Am One

Found On: Gish (1991)

When Melissa Auf Der Maur left Hole to replace D'Arcy in Smashing Pumpkins, Courtney Love remarked: "If I had the chance to play I Am One every night, I'd leave too." The song is a straight-out rocker, but its best feature is the intro, where the instruments come in one at a time.

40. Pretenders - I'll Stand By You

Found On: Last Of The Independents (1994)
Picked By: SB

See Ben E. King, you didn’t have to worry after all

41. Squirrel Nut Zippers - Hell

Found On: Hot (1996)

The best thing to come out of the swing revival of the mid-'90s. Hell is simultaneously joyful and creepy, a fiery sermon worthy of Jonathan Edwards ("Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God") himself. And when they start spelling "damnation"? Forget it.

42. Christina Aguilera - Come On Over (All I Want Is You)

Found On: Christina Aguilera (1999)

Criminally overlooked in any list of Aguilera’s biggest hits is this infectious dance track. She’s performed prettier and more powerful songs since, but she’s never cooed for attention quite like this. - RN

43. Toad The Wet Sprocket - Something's Always Wrong

Found On: Dulcinea (1994)

Dulcinea spawned an alternative rock hit with Fall Down, but this track seems to keep on keepin’ on even a decade-plus after its release. “Another day of putting things aside as if we’ll come back to them sometime”—who hasn’t felt that? - RN

44. Sloan - Everything You've Done Wrong

Found On: One Chord To Another (1996)

Sweet poppy goodness, full of hope and encouragement. Who could ask for more? - EE

45. Jay-Z - Can't Knock The Hustle

Found On: Reasonable Doubt (1996)

Hova emerged with his skills fully intact: “I got extensive hos with expensive clothes and I sip fine wines and spit vintage flows.” Could Mary have guessed how right she was when she sang “one day you’re going to be a star” on the hook?

46. Guns N' Roses - November Rain

Found On: Use Your Illusion I (1991)

This is the first video - 11 minutes, by the way - that made me cry. - SB

47. Liz Phair - Divorce Song

Found On: Exile In Guyville (1993)

But I miss the days when she wrote songs like this. - EE

48. P.M. Dawn - Set Adrift On Memory Bliss

Found On: Of The Heart, Of The Soul And Of The Cross (1991)
Picked By: MT

The groove so nice it became a hit twice. The Cordes brothers took True by Spandau Ballet and made it into something completely their own, foreshadowing the development of their own considerable composing talents.

49. Duncan Sheik - Barely Breathing

Found On: Duncan Sheik (1996)

James Van Der Beek, I mean, Duncan Sheik has yet to live up to the full commercial potential of his debut single. Even so, it's not a bad legacy. I love the way the last line repeats the first, but with added wisdom, as though he worked it out just by singing the song.

50. Neutral Milk Hotel - Oh Comely

Found On: In The Aeroplane Over The Sea (1998)

This may forever be in my top 5 albums of all time. And this song is the best of the best. Frontman Jeff Magnum hasn’t made an album since. Who can blame him? After you’ve made perfection, what else are you supposed to do? - EE