Significant impacts of 90's music

The guys at work are challenging each other to come up with significant bands, albums, or movements/impacts of 90’s music.

Here are some ideas put forward that have been rejected:

Seattle Grunge (Nirvana/Nevermind, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden)
California 90’s punk (Offspring and Greenday)
Modern California Ska (eg Smash mouth)
Increase worldbeat influences … Celtic pop (Cranberries), Latin Rhythms, Middle eastern/African tribal rhythms
Britpop (Oasis and Blur)
Nostalgia (lots of covers in the 90’s like G’n’R’s spaghetti Incident, Ugly Kid Joe’s Cats in the Cradle, Lemonhead’s Mrs. Robinson)
Popularization of Country (Shania Twain, Garth Brooks).

So I’m appealing to the teeming masses. What do you think is the legacy of 90’s music? Is there one? What bands and albums will be remember and continue to influence pop/rock. Or were the 90’s just a Black Hole or musical void?

Grunge is the only one of those I think has had any kind of lasting influence. The ska and pop-punk revivals are variations on an existing genre. Apologies if anyone feels that’s an unfair slight; this is just my opinion. Britpop was fun, but horribly parochial and irrelevant outside the UK: even within the UK, it was just a rehash of the 1960s. I’m not sure that there has been a noticeable “worldbeat” movement, and country has certainly not been popularised outside the US - Shania Twain is arguably producing mainstream pop/rock at the moment.

I’m sure you could argue about how “original” the grunge genre was, but it seems to have had the largest social and musical impact of all of those you listed.

In terms of other trends, you could make a case for big beat electronica (i.e. your Fatboy Slim-style tunes), DJ-led remixes as chart hits and also mass-produced R&B/soul. I don’t think any of those have proven a lasting legacy, mind.

I’d like to think Dave Matthews has made a major impact. I love him.

While not the birth decade of gangsta rap, the nineties certainly saw its ascendancy.

I think that electronica, while never a force by itself on the charts, had and is continuing to have a very large and lasting influence on popular music.

Although not positive in the least, Britney, N’Sync, Backstreet Boys, etc certainly had a massive presence in the nineties.

As far as important albums of the nineties:

Nevermind - Although I don’t love the album, Nirvana caused a sweeping change in music and this album will go down in history as one of the top 10 most important albums of the last half of the century.

OK Computer - The best album out of Britain during the nineties. Perfect melding of technology and lyrical thoughtfullness.

That’s all I can think of off the top of my head. I don’t know much rap, but there must be a couple of really important albums released in the nineties.

When I think of the 90s I immediately think of Collective Soul. They single handedly defined the Modern Rock genre and carried it through the decade. Extremely well crafted and original songs. One glorious hook after another. Excellent musicians. Fantastic live band. Almost singularly among rock bands, they have remained relevant and commercially viable despite the resurgence of teen pop and the rise of hip-hop.

Most #1 Modern Rock singles of the decade.

Best album of the decade: Dosage.

Best song of the decade: December.
Ed Roland is a freakin’ genius!


One of my colleagues already ruled out Gangsta rap as he wasn’t sure of its lasting impact.

I’ve been thinking about some of my favourite albums from the 90’s and remembered Collective Soul and Fat Boy Slim (as well as Cake, Sarah McLaughlin, and Tori Amos)

It’s been popular all decade long. That seems like influence enough to me.

The alternative metal genre is another big one, IMO.

As far as anything else goes, I think that the most important direction music took in the 90’s was that computer-generated music (electronica et al.) became popular. That’s what’s going to be the lasting influence.

Or maybe not. Talk to me in five years.

99.9999999999999999999% of pop music has no lasting influence. Grunge basically died with Kurt Cobain. Gangster rap has steadily been losing chart presence since the mid 90s. Britpop as said earlier, was just a rehash of earlier music as was the neuvo punk revival, grindcore, and deathmetal.

The one “instrument” that will continue to have a presence in new and innovative ways is the turntable. It has already begun in “New Metal.” While it is not a significant genre really it has begun utilizing the instrument that rap innovated. As it is, heavy metal and rap have been fusing significantly in the past 5 years or so. If one traces it back, it probably started with the Red Hot Chili Peppers (even though they aren’t exactly heavy metal) with the singer crossing bits of rap and singing within a given line.

Dave Matthews sounds, looks, and makes videos almost exactly like Peter Gabriel. If I didn’t know that he was a thousand years younger I would have thought they were the same person. It doesn’t say anything about the music but it isn’t particularly innovative.

Pop country is currently rock music with a singer who sings with an accent. It will remain popular but that is because it typically sounds exactly like all the other rock songs out there. If you can imagine the singer not singing with a strong accent it would be virtually indestinguishable from rock music with a similar line up. Also, it is dying out as well. I believe that NYC doesn’t have a country music station anymore.

When I think of the 90’s I think of the plethora of new age bands and singers like Yanni and Enya. They aren’t particularly good or interesting but they had a huge surge in popularity in the 90s. Alas, listening to the music now makes it seem very old and dated other than a few songs.

For pop music to survive past a few decades it will have to transcend the commercialism and start being viewed as art. We all know that Brittney, N’Sync, and all of those bands are simply in it for the money so there is no way to sell out. But what most people don’t realize that is also where 99.99999999% of the bands out there are in the music business for. There are smatterings of true art here and there and fortunately that is what will survive.

Bands like the Beatles (while not technically great) and Simon and Garfunkel produced songs that have made it into the folk consciousness that speak to large audiences while remaining individual. They have transcended the commercial aspects and became art and thus will survive. People will study their music, personal lives, successes and failures for a while.

The only bands that I can think of that will have an impact anywhere near those initial two are The Rolling Stones (I am not a fan but know talent when I see it) and U2 (I am not sure if their later music will make the cut). There are many other bands I like but they don’t sound fresh when listening to a decade later. For what it is worth, if you listen to music and it sounds extremely dated it won’t likely make the cut at all and will not have much of a lasting impact. Individual musical styles will live on but the bands that created it will likely die a quick, merciful death.

What about industrial? It predates the decade, of course, but it was in the early 90’s when bands like Nine Inch Nails, Ministry, and Marilyn Manson broke wide open.

And how about “alt-country?” I know it didn’t start in the 90’s (I guess it started in the lates 60’s with Gram Parsons), but I think you could make a good case that it came into its own as a genre in the 90’s. See Uncle Tupelo, etc.

I am not familiar with alt-country but specific artists are unlikely to have a lasting impact of any kind because they don’t pervade the overall folk conscious. Industrial bands sound very dated when listening back to them now, especially Ministry. Not that it is a bad thing. But to me most Industrial music was a heavy metal/dance or noise/dance crossover. It is interesting on its own but it lacks substance.

For a good set of reasoning on what songs/bands will hold up, ask random strangers to sing some songs by them. I don’t know anyone who can’t sing at least a few lines from a Beatles song even if they don’t like them. Same goes for Simon and Garfunkel. U2 and the Rolling Stones are up there too but not quite as pervasive as the first two bands. I have a feeling The Rolling Stones won’t ever be but U2 has potential. It isn’t that they are a great band, they just don’t seem to be selling out their artistic integrity while being massively popular. I know many people in their 60’s/70’s who can sing along with Sunday Bloody Sunday and Where the Streets Have No Name as well as people in their teens who can do the same. That is a good indicator that their songs have entered the folk consciousness.

Really, though, that was only one of the many different sounds of industrial music, and one that was not really embraced by the “industrial scene”. That was more just metal with synths laid on top of it. There are definitely more cebebral acts out there that play industrial music (in its many genres), although there really aren’t as many today as there used to be.

Interesting take, interface2x. That is true, but those were the only styles I could think of, Noise (aka Skinny Puppy) and Metal (Front 242, Ministry, etc). I still think it is dying out and either being replaced completely with techno or some other more encompassing genre. I really liked the psychedlia associated with the industrial bands in addition to the music, but I still couldn’t see it lasting even when I was into them.

I disagree. I don’t think that individual artists need to “pervade the overall folk conscious” to have a lasting impact - they simply need to reach future musicians. To use Labdad’s example, I would bet that Gram Parsons’ influence in today’s music far exceeds whatever popularity he had at the time of his death.

The fact that society at large isn’t familiar with the songs written by a particular artist doesn’t mean that the artist wasn’t influential. Take Woodie Guthrie as an example: during his life, he wasn’t particularly popular, and few Americans were familiar with his work. Yet he influenced countless numbers of musicians whose songs in turn did reach the level of popularity that dorkusmalorkusmafia refers to - Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, for example. I don’t think popularity can be viewed as an accurate gauge of influence.

I think you are partially misunderstanding me.

If music doesn’t survive a given frame of reference, Morbid Angel’s music for example, it is a dead art form. People could have taken great influence from Morbid Angle but in essence most people will think, who?

It is easier to use paintings for a larger frame of reference. Leonardo da Vinci did fantastic paintings, influenced countless other painters, but we know little of his artistic influences. The analogy works with music.

With the examples that you gave of Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, they both have written many, many songs that pervade the overall folk consciousness. Born in the Usa, Blowin’ in the Wind… etc Sure they have influence from somewhere else, but that path doesn’t really make a difference. If it did, we would hear their influences singing and performing rather than them.

I don’t know how you can altogether slight hiphop like that. It’s now arguably one of the most popular genres (check out the Billboard Top 25, at least 20% of the entries are hiphop or rap). Gangsta rap has admittedly vanished for the most part, but its legacy is in the pre-eminence of hiphop on the music scene of today. Just look at Eminem, Nelly, Jay-Z, etc, etc.

And just to add, 1990s rap led to the popularity of rock/rap fusion groups like Limp Bizkit and their ilk. The influence is enormous across the board.

I think that the 90’s has spawned some horrible mutations in music.

I hate to say it, but I think bands like Nsync, Backstreet Boys, and other such monstrosities has made a significant impact on the music business. The popularity of “American Idol” is testament to that fact. The popularity of this evil has not declined as much as I had hoped, and it’s just a matter of time before another “boy band” rears its ugly (yet perfectly coifed) head.

Another irritating developent in the world of music in the 90’s is the common usage of music and musicians in commercial advertising. Such activity was stricty taboo for the longest time, and the use of an artists song in a TV ad would have labeled them a sellout, “outcast, unclean!” It’s all over the place now.

I can’t stand hearing Led Zeppelin’s Rock and Roll in Cadillac ads. Turns my stomach.

Well, I think the most significant and legitmate impact of the 90’s on pop music is the indoctrination of the record scratch pad thing as a legitimate instrument. That has started a trend in virtually every musical style. I always thought of it as a glorified rhythmic device and am still not quite sure why keyboards/synthesizers or even a good drummer can’t take its place. But stylistically and aesthetically it has its own unique sound and is likely to be here for quite some time. I think the 90’s will be later viewed as a decade of bands that influenced other largely popular bands but most of the music itself will have died out except for the turntable as a legitimate instrument.

dorkusmalorkusmafia - I think we’re approaching the question differently. When I read “significant impacts” of an artist, I think of impacts on his or her chosen field, in this case music. I think that an artist can be wildly influential on the field itself without being exposed to the public at all.

If I understand what you’re saying (and I’m not entirely sure I do), you’re talking about direct impacts of the artist on society rather than impacts on the artist’s field. Is that a fair distinction?

I’d second peepthis’ suggestion of rock-rap fusion and crossovers, but I’d also say it started in 1986 with Aerosmith and Run DMC doing Walk This Way.