I’ve been doing a major marathon re-watch of the cult classic “Daria”. Mtv aired the realistic, sarcasm-based cartoon about the fictional town of Lawndale from 1997 to 2002. It’s been great to reconnect with characters I loved as a kid (I was in 7th grade when it premiered. I desperately wanted to be as cool as Daria & Jane and date a slacker like Trent Lane, as an adult my tastes have changed I wanna be Jodie and date Tom); but what’s really been the best about this time-suck has been the music. I love 90’s music. I mean, granted, I love just about everything from 90’s pop culture, like most people my age (though fashion-wise I’m very much an 80’s fan), but I love the music from the 90’s.
I can re-watch movies like Empire Records on loop, and “Daria” has reminded me of some of my favorite music of the era. One hit wonders like Eagle Eye Cherry, Gerardo, and the New Radicals; nascent power-houses like Nirvana, Britney Spears, Eminem, and Fiona Apple. I can drop it at an 80’s dance party like the best of them, but there’s simply no giddy feeling like hearing Bell Biv DeVoe’s “Poison” pop up on the radio while driving down the road with my girlfriends. Think about it. Movies of the 90’s gave us music like “Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing” & “Iris”. Movies of the 90’s introduced me to Aimee Mann (thank you Magnolia) and Placebo (the Cruel Intentions soundtrack? One of the best ever. Hello, Counting Crows!). When I think of one – the music or the movies – they are inextricably linked, and I feel like they always will be.
The 90’s were my formative years, when what I liked and what I wanted were just fuzzy ideas finally taking shape after adolescence and into high school. I went through the hardcore rock phase (when Disturbed’s “The Sickness” was still just a song on a mixtape, not the hit it would become), I went through the jam band phase (come on, every teenager has a Grateful Dead or Dave Matthews Band love/hate relationship at some point), I went through my obscure phase (refusing to listen to anyone who had ‘gotten big’ and thus ‘sold out’ and discovering amazing music like Germany’s Ghanaian-born rapper Nana. Eventually I decided – oh hell, I love it all, and that’s alright – and that’s been my attitude since then. The fact that even today I can go from the Goo Goo Dolls to the Modern Lovers to Powerman 5000 within three songs of each other on any playlist I build is something to be proud of, I think. I still have my favorites: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Alanis, Dr. Dre, Darius Rucker (solo or with Hootie!), Annie Lennox. And I have artists I just don’t enjoy and probably never will: Celine Dion, Ice Cube, Madonna, U2. My tastes in the 90’s still affect my taste in men (Johnny Rzenik was god’s gift, and I’m still a sucker for cool hair and hipster attitudes), my fashion sense (I was never a Britney, but Dido & Natalie Imbruglia? Definitely), my sense of pop culture (I still look up a soundtrack the second I get out of a new movie and do all of my writing to those songs). The music of the 90’s shaped me. Shaped my love of garage bands and DIY marketing, my obsession with big crowds and well-attended parties, my ending up in theater and politics professionally, because what are we professionally if not the sum of all the different people we’ve ever been?
I’ve got some Daria to watch (we’re nearly finished with all five seasons and the two mini-movies!) and some music to swoon over, but in the meantime check out this incredible sampling of the best the 90’s had to offer and let me know in the comments what your favorites were!