Yesterday afternoon, I read an article posted by Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone titled “50 Best Songs of the Nineties.”
In a word, it’s garbage…and I’m not talking about the Shirley Manson fronted band, either. Although, I am shocked to see the band listed at #18.
I don’t know what Sheffield was/was not smoking while coming up with this list, and I know it’s silly to get into a huff over such things because everyone is entitled to their opinions, except when they’re so amazingly wrong, it probably cut a whole in the time/space continuum and it’s all Rob Sheffield’s fault. If we all die in some sort of alien siege, you can kindly write your opinion letters to Rolling Stone’s editorial staff.
Why will my list be better than Rob’s? Because, it just will be.
Okay, probably not, but the man left out some glaringly obvious artists in favor of claiming Blackstreet with their song “No Diggity” is fit to deserve the #2 song of the ’90s. I was fifteen years old in 1996 when this song came out and recall fondly dancing awkwardly at my high school homecoming dance. I had on a pair of brown corduroy shorts, a denim shirt, and matching brown corduroy vest, and I swear I could hear the sound of the fabric swooshing over the music of Blackstreet. No diggity, no doubt.
I generally like to think the nineties were my decade, even though I was 10 years old at the start. Lucky for me, I have a seven years older brother, so through him, I unknowingly got exposed to some of the greatest music of that decade, or any decade. Some music, I would like to add, that Mr. Sheffield omitted for whatever reason. I’ve read through his list a few times now, and every time, I shake my damn head at who got left out and who got put on, and at his apparent boner for ’90s rap/hip hop.
Here I go; I’ll share his picks in bold text, and then my own. Okay!
50. Fuzzy, “Flashlight”. I have never heard this song before, I admit, so that in and of itself is reason for dismissal and shame upon the House Sheffield. I don’t care that in his article, he includes YouTube videos to watch. I will not do what Rob Sheffield tells me. I’m sure it’s one of those songs that I’ll recognize if I heard it, but it’s doubtful. My pick for #50 is “Push th’ Little Daisies” by Ween. I won’t go into a long reason why. It’s 50 because I want it to be.
49. Britney Spears, “Sometimes”. Rob flexing his edgy, alternative muscle here by not giving #49 to “Baby One More Time.” Amateur. Not picking that song is like saying you prefer The GoBots to Transformers, just to seem cool. My pick is what his should have been. You couldn’t turn the radio on in 1999 and not have this song in your face. And who’d have thunk that the pig-tailed, schoolgirl skirt wearing moppet from the video would have a major meltdown in 2007 and shave her head? I sure didn’t.
48. The Offspring, “Self Esteem”. I have no beef with this choice. I like this song. Carry on.
47. Selena, “Fotos y Recuerdos”. Call me an asshole, but I think the only reason he added this was to tip his hat to the tragically murdered singer. I’m going to counter his pick with Aaliyah’s “Are You That Somebody.” It’s been about 20 years, and I can still hear that baby cooing in the background. This song is actually listed further up Rob’s own, but I don’t think it deserves to be ranked that high. Ass. Hole.
46. Silver Jews, “Random Rules”. Again, never heard it. I think Rob is defeating the purpose of a Best Of list if he’s naming shit I haven’t heard of. I’m not saying my musical interests span a wide range, but come on, man. Or maybe I really am being an asshole. Whatever the case, I shun this and instead pick “She Don’t Use Jelly” by The Flaming Lips. I liked to sing that song at karaoke because inevitably, I’d hear a “fuck yeah!” from some enthusiast who had forgotten about this ditty. You’re welcome.
45. Lil Kim with Lil Cease, “Crush On You”. I’m going to be honest here. The only thing I remember of Lil Kim is when she wore that seashell pasty over her boob at the MTV Music Awards. I’ve never been a fan of this kind of music, save the occasional songs, such as my pick: Missy Elliott’s “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)”. It was supa! And dupa! And fly!
44. Stereolab, “Cybele’s Reverie”. Nope. How about “Superstar” by Sonic Youth. Okay.
43. Supergrass, “Alright”. Oddly enough, I respect this choice, but because this is my list, I’ll also pick Supergrass, but the song “Pumping On Your Stereo.” Have you ever seen this video? It’s entertaining.
42. Ace of Base, “The Sign”. Confession: the summer of 1994, all I did while home alone was listen to this CD on repeat while I played with my barbies. I even based a barbie story line off of “All That She Wants.” I was a weird kid. This song stays, even though I know its appearance outraged some folks. Settle down.
41. Sophie B. Hawkins “Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover”. Good pick, Rob.
40. Big Pun featuring Joe, “Still Not A Player”. Two hip hop songs in the first 10. What’s up with that, Rob? Do me a favor and google “Rob Sheffield,” then giggle to yourself as you picture this guy bobbing his head to some phat beats, maybe throwing a hand or two up in the air like he doesn’t care. Perhaps a roof shall be raised. Who knows? But a big fat “NO” to this song. How about–and hear me out–“Leader of Men” by Nickelback? I know, we’ve all been taught to hate these Canadians, but honestly? This song is decent. This was pre-douche Chad Kroeger. This was pre-Avril Lavigne. This was a simpler time when we (okay, *I*) was captivated by this band. No, YOU shut up!
39. Sebadoh, “Brand New Love”. Pass. “Set Adrift on Memory Bliss” by PM Dawn. Sold!
38. Geto Boys, “Mind Playing Tricks On Me”. This is like, the 3rd song I’ve never heard. These are Sheffield’s actual words from the article: “The scariest gangsta tale ever…” You know he calls his pals “gangsta” or “playa.” I would like to replace this with “Bitches Ain’t Shit” by Dr. Dre.
37. New Radicals, “You Get What You Give”. I remember singing along to this song and feeling extra naughty when the line “we’ll kick their asses!” was sang. Oh goodness! I knew this song was junk because my dad liked it. “Right Here Right Now” by Jesus Jones is much better.
36. Portishead, “Glory Box”. Eh. Not my favorite Portishead song, but that’s okay. You can stay.
35. Sheryl Crow, “If It Makes You Happy”. Ah, Sheryl Crow. I’m actually rather impressed he picked this song and not “All I Wanna Do.” My suggestion would have either been this song or “Home,” which is off the amazing self-titled album from 1996.
34. En Vogue, “Don’t Let Go (Love)”. En Vouge’s cool. This one may stay.
33. Helium, “XXX”. I really should take a listen to songs I don’t recognize offhand because I might actually know them, but I’m not going to because I want to stick to The Man Sheffield. First, I have to admit I’m not as “in the know” with female artists. Call me a terrible feminist or what have you, but I just like more male artists. Having said that, I’m giving my #33 spot to Oleander with their song “I Walk Alone.” I love that goddamn song. It’s an anthem of sorts, I guess. Helium. Pshaw, Rob. PSHAW.
32. Foxy Brown with Jay Z, “I’ll Be”. Ixnay on the Oxy-Fay Rown-Bay. I choose “The Distance” by Cake. I’ve always loved this dude and his monotone talking throughout the songs.
31. Underworld, “Born Slippy Nuxx”. Props to the song from Trainspotting. I pick not this song, but The Brian Setzer Orchestra and “Zoot Suit Riot.” Again, mainly for nostalgic reasons; my friend Mandi and I would “swing dance” to it. Oh, how cool we thought we were.
30. Sir Mix-A-Lot, “Baby Got Back”. I didn’t have an issue to this song until I read what Rob wrote about it: “Butt of course.” I don’t appreciate that terrible pun, sir, which is why I’m substituting Tone Loc with “Wild Thing.” I can’t be certain, but I think this song is about sex!
29. Fiona Apple, “Paper Bag”. I like Ms. Apple. You best believe I sang my little heart out to Criminal on many occasions, and still do. I just don’t much care for Sheffield picking more obscure titles as compared to the most widely known singles. Look at me! I’m Rob Sheffield and I know songs! Cool story, Rob. Shut up.
28. Weezer, “Pink Triangle”. Who among us owns “Pinkerton”? Not many, I bet (I have one song from that album on my iPod, and that’s “El Scorcho.”) Who among us owns “The Blue Album”? Dude, like, way more people that Pinkerton, I guaran-goddamn-tee it. Why? Because of goddamn Undone- The Sweater Song. Because of goddamn Buddy Holly. Because of goddamn My Name is Jonas. Because of goddamn Say It Ain’t So. Because of goddamn Only In Dreams, a song I actually really like. Pink Triangle? Get out of my face with Pink Triangle, you putz.
27. Daft Punk, “Around The World”. I’m a fan of Daft Punk. I remember when this song came out and I was the only person in my small group of friends who liked it. Yes, it’s monotonous with repeating “around the world” throughout the entire song, but it’s catchy as shit. I’m not mad at his choice here.
26. Natalie Imbruglia, “Torn”. I don’t mind this pick. You may stay.
25. Harvey Danger, “Flagpole Sitta”. Here’s a long story that I’m kind of concerned I remember, but go with it: the year was 1998. My high school marching band had just got done performing in two parades that day, and because we were small town kids in the “big city,” we usually got to pal around the mall afterwards. We were in Hastings, NE at the Imperial Mall. I was thrilled because they had a Sam Goody music store. I specifically remember asking my friend Corey, “should I buy Harvey Danger, or Rammstein?” Honestly, I was scared to buy the Rammstein CD because it was unlike any other music I had in my collection and I was just adorable back then, so I chose Harvey Danger. I love that CD, and I actually still listen to it regularly nearly 20 years later. The song “Problems and Bigger Ones” is solid. Take a listen. So anyway, I guess my point is this song is fine.
24. Aaliyah, “Are You That Somebody”. Rob put her here. I put her at #47. My pick is “Volcano Girls” by Veruca Salt. Those gals are fucking amazing musicians and can shred. Plus, I like the contrast between the heavy guitars and Nina Gordon’s innocent sounding voice. Warm us up and watch us blow, indeed.
23. Oasis, “Wonderwall”. Oh, Jesus wept. There is something you should know, and that is I adored “What’s The Story Morning Glory” a tremendous amount back in my youth. I loved it. Champagne Supernover? Come on! However. I have grown and matured and find both Liam and Noel Gallagher to be the biggest fucking blowhards in all of musicdom, so they and this song can get fucked. Let’s go with “Got You Were I Want You” by The Flys. That’s much more deserving than goddamn Oasis.
22. Mobb Deep, “Shook Ones, Part II”. No. “Sunburn” by Fuel.
21. Smashing Pumpkins, “1979”. Again, I admit I was a SP fan. I was also a dumb kid and the fact Billy Corgan insists upon being called “William” now irritates me. Move aside, 1979, and make way for Mr. Big, “Be With You.” Goddamn it, Rob.
Okay, this is getting serious now. The top 20 songs of the nineties, as interpreted by me. Shit will really get real when I hit the top 1o. Buckle up, kids.
20. Beck, “Loser”. Yes, Rob. Yes. Beck is a fantastic artist and I love the squirrely fucker. Few artists can get away with developing their sound over the years without people flipping out about it (Radiohead comes to mind here). He has gone from talking about getting crazy with Cheez Wiz in Odelay to some of the most gorgeous, melodic, gut-ripping songs in Sea Change and Morning Phase. Beck is truly a gift, and I’m glad Rob realized that, as well.
19. Whitney Houston featuring Faith Evans and Kelly Price, “Heartbreak Hotel”. Egads. “Prayer for the Dying” by Seal.
18. Garbage, “Queer”. Shirley Manson will eat you alive. This one can stay.
17. Beastie Boys, “Sure Shot”. Nothing to see here; move along.
16. Sleater-Kinney, “Get Up.” Okay.
15. Outkast, “Rosa Parks.” Fine.
14. R.E.M. “Nightswimming”. Yep.
13. Ol’ Dirty Bastard, “Brooklyn Zoo”. Whew. Finally a song I disagree on. I was getting nervous! Former Wu Tang Clan’s ODB (or Big Baby Jesus or Dirt McGirt, if you prefer) is a fine enough choice, but not on this list, pal! Alice In Chains, “No Excuses.” I love AIC. I love the near-perfect harmonies of the late Layne Staley and Jerry Cantrell. I love their depressing lyrics. I just love them, period.
12. The Breeders, “Cannonball”. It’s such a nineties song, but I never liked it, so buh-bye. “Break It Down Again” by Tears for Fears.
11. Hole, “Doll Parts”. The former Mrs. Kurt Cobain is tricky. While I did have a thing for Hole’s album “Celebrity Skin,” I cannot let this song be so highly ranked. If this were a top 100 list, sure, but it isn’t, so you must vacate the premises, Courtney. I nominate “Possum Kingdom” by Toadies.
Okay. Top 10 time. Ready? Let’s go!
10. TLC, “No Scrubs”. I realize most of my picks are of the alternative genre, and I’m generally okay with that, but I will give credit to pop songs when credit is due. However, I will remove TLC from the list and replace them with Mariah Carey. Literally any Mariah Carey song from the ’90s, too. The woman has incredible range to her voice and is truly talented in that regard. She’s a little cuckooburra these days, but who among us isn’t?
9. Liz Phair, “Fuck and Run”. Not so fast, Rob. Tori Amos and “Crucify.”
8. Pulp, “Common People”. How about no. How about “Enjoy the Silence” by Depeche Mode. Much better.
7. Miss Misdemeanor Elliott, “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)”. I ranked this song much lower so that I could present “Come Undone” by Duran Duran. A band so nice, they named themselves twice. Also, they put on one hell of a live show and Simon Le Bon makes me feel funny things in my swimsuit area now he’s matured to a silver fox, but that’s a moot point. Ahem.
6. Pavement, “Gold Soundz”. I don’t wanna. “Big Me” by the Foo Fighters. Any parody of a Mentos commercial as a music video wins in my book.
TOP FIVE! TOP FIVE! TOP FIVE!
5. Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, “Nuthin’ but a G Thang”. Sigh. I’m torn, really I am…but not torn enough to remove their #5 crown and bestow it upon someone else’s head. “More Than Words” by Extreme. This song is still one of my all-time favorites, and the album which is came is one of the best ever. Sorry, Dre and Snoop. I hope you understand.
4. Bikini Kill, “Rebel Girl”. I’m going to be honest here. Ever since I hit 20 on the list, I’ve just wanted to name all Pearl Jam and Radiohead songs and fuck trying to include a wide variety, but I didn’t. So my #4 pick is Alanis Morissette and I’m having trouble picking a song. Jagged Little Pill is filthy with good picks, but my heart has decided to go with “Uninvited.” Goddamn, that song, I swear. Alanis has chops, for sure.
3. Notorious BIG with Mase and Puff Daddy, “Mo Money Mo Problems”. You’re killing me, Smalls. I’m also growing increasingly oddly fascinated by Rob Sheffield’s love of rap/hip hop. It’s just so wild to me. Anyway, how about “One” by U2? So glad you agree! Man, seriously, to not include one of the biggest bands ever in a list like this? I don’t care how obscure you try to be, you have to have U2 on the list, even if their songs don’t relate to the genre. Top 50 classical pieces? Beethoven, Back, Wagner, Tchaikovsky, and U2. That’s just the way these things work, I’m sorry.
2. Blackstreet, “No Diggity”. I want to know what was going on in Rob’s head when he decided that this song should be #2. I want to know his though process and why he feels so strongly about this song needing to be #2. I honest to goodness laughed out loud when I read this on his post. It’s so…I don’t know what. I’m convinced he got paid some sort of kickback for including this band from the band themselves. “hey, yo, Rob. Put us on your list and we’ll compensate you handsomely.” I don’t get it. I haven’t understood many of his picks, but this one truly baffles me. I am baffled. But, I’m baffled by my own choice here; not because I don’t think it’s good, because it sure is, but because I can’t decide if it should be no. 1 or no. 2. When it comes down to it, it’s my list, so here we go: “Karma Police” by Radiohead. See, I had to put Radiohead on here. I had to. It isn’t a nineties list without them, and if you notice, Rob “I’m an Idiot” Sheffield glaringly omitted them from the list, as well as the band claiming number one from me.
1. Nirvana, “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. Why, god, why. Why. Nirvana? Here’s what Rob had to say: “The song that blew up the world. The song that defied all rules about how music worked and how much raw emotion you can cram into four chords and a crummy guitar solo. The song that kicked the future in the teeth. The song that shattered all your complacency about settling for the politics of the inevitable. ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ was Kurt Cobain’s challenge to the audience–and after all these years, the challenge still stands.” Okay, here’s another long story that no one but me cares about, but again, my list, my rules. I hate Nirvana. I, again, was a fan in my youth. I recall vividly being 10 years old and sitting in the passenger seat, my mom in the backseat, and my older brother driving. This was A Big Deal. My brother, at the age of 17, had given me permission to sit next to him in the front. I took this gift very seriously and paid attention to everything he did and what music he chose to listen to. The radio was playing this song that night, and I knew they had to be something special if my brother listened. I get it. Nirvana helped pave the way for grunge music, have unwashed hair, and raid your dad’s closet for flannel shirts. I get it. But here’s my beef with this: Kurt Cobain killed himself over 20 goddamn years ago, and we still treat that day like a fucking holiday. We glorify his mental illness. Sure he was talented, even I admit his tunes and riffs were catchy, but come on, man. And he hated the other bands who dared also consider themselves grunge. During a tumultuous time in the world (Desert Storm), we didn’t need this punk being a jackass, you know? I have no love for Kurt Cobain, nor do I wish to keep perpetuating everyone’s sick obsession with him. And riddle me this: why isn’t Layne Staley of Alice In Chains treated the same way? Staley killed himself, too, about 8 years after Kurt, on the same day. Where’s his being harolded as a pioneer and visionary? It’s fucked up. Fuck Kurt Cobain.
Well, after that little rant, here’s my pick and it’s fitting because this band is one that Cobain trash talked, so it gives me a sense of pleasure picking Pearl Jam with the number one song in the ’90s, and that is “Alive” from their first album, Ten. Suck on that, Sheffield.
I would like to acknowledge my hatred for Kurt Cobain is weird, because it is. But I also hate Ernest Hemingway for no discernable reason other than I read a book of his once and didn’t like it, so now I have a personal vendetta against him. I’m special like that.
And there it is, folks. My list. I know I missed some bands (Stone Temple Pilots, Soundgarden…so many bands I skipped…), and I’m sorry, but seriously, if I were to make my own top 50 list, it’d be predominantly alternative music, so I thought I’d spice it up a bit.
This was fun to write and to blast Sheffield in his dumb face.
As always, thanks for reading.