Posted by: John Adams | January 29, 2009

25 Songs to Remember the 90’s By: Part 1

You know how it goes. It’s summer vacation, you’re at the pool and you hear it on the radio. Or it’s playing in the car on the way to the grocery store, and your mom starts humming it. Maybe it was on MTV the night your friends were over, or maybe you got a mixtape in the mail with that song at the number one spot.

However music finds you, it has a way of becoming part of you. Songs get embedded into memories, eventually becoming indistinguishable from the memories themselves, and some songs can eventually come to represent an entire period of time in your life.

These are the songs that did that for me for the grade-school period of my life (roughly 1994-1999), from the time I was old enough to have my own taste in music to the time I started high school and threw everything from childhood out the window, only to be pleasantly surprised by the rediscovery a few years later.

25. “Jesus Freak” – dc Talk

“What will people think when they hear that I’m a Jesus Freak / What will people do when they find that it’s true?”

I wasn’t aware of “grunge” in 1995, and I had no idea that dc Talk was copying it when a friend handed me a mixtape with this CCM hit on it. I knew only two things: 1) it was louder than anything I’d listened to before, 2) it drove my mom crazy. Needless to say, it quickly found its way into constant rotation at the Adams household.

24. “All I Want” – Toad the Wet Sprocket

“Nothing’s so loud / As hearing when we lie / The truth is not kind / And you’ve said neither am I.”

While the video is a bit dated, the song itself hasn’t lost a step. Tight harmonies, excellent chord progressions, and a nice guitar solo make for a pop gem that could have been plucked from today’s playlist at your local alternative radio station. “Toad the Wet Sprocket” deserves its own entry on the list of dumbest band names of the 90’s, though…

23. “Don’t Look Back in Anger” – Oasis

“Slip inside the eye of your mind / Don’t you know you might find / A better place to play?”

Liam Gallagher once bragged that his fractious Brit-pop outfit was better than the Beatles. At the time of this song’s release, that boast wasn’t far from the truth. While the band would go on to have bigger hits (including “Wonderwall,” perennial staple of college-group gatherings everywhere), I wouldn’t discover them until much later. It was this melancholy anthem that captured my imagination when I heard it on the radio in 1995.

22. “As I Lay Me Down” – Sophie B. Hawkins

“It felt like springtime on this February morning / In the courtyard, birds were singing your praise.”

This one was all over the radio in Haiti around the middle of the decade. It plays with the wording of a popular children’s bedtime prayer, reconstructing it into a silly, but pretty love song. I like watching the video and imagining that it is an advertisement for medication for some sort of obsessive/compulsive disorder.

21. “Run Away” – Real McCoy

“Run away, run away, run away, run away, run away, etc…”

I don’t know why anyone would like this song–it’s a piece of mindless, self-parodying German techno. My neighbor loved it, though, and would play it at high decibels every day until it was embedded in my skull. Therefore, it’s one of the songs I identify most closely with the 90’s. The video is almost too corny to parody.

Back tomorrow with numbers 20-16. And no more German techno, I promise.



  1. You really are older than me! Haha..
    The only one I even recognize is Jesus Freak
    “I saw a man with a tat on his big fat belly
    It wiggled around like marmalade jelly
    It took me a while to catch what it said
    Cause I had to match the rhythm
    Of his belly with my head”
    A CCM hit? Really?! 🙂

  2. Hmmm…I didn’t realize a couple years made that big of a difference. Do you recognize any songs from the next 5?

    Also, I don’t think I’ve ever met a single Christian kid who can’t quote the first verse of “Jesus Freak” verbatim.

  3. I love the “Jesus Freak” paragraph, cause I remember thinking the same thing, and My mother did not appreciate the song as much as I did… 🙂

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