Monday, April 14, 2008

Livin' La Vida '90s

As will appear in Tuesday's issue of the New School Free Press

Nostalgia is just plain weird. It can make boring things seem interesting, and interesting things seem boring, and music benefits greatly from it because it's easy to romanticize. Maybe that’s why, for current and recent college students, there seems to be almost an obsession with music from the 1990s.

While bands like Sugar Ray, Will Smith and Marcy Playground might not make it onto anyone's Favorite Music list on Facebook, everyone between the ages of 18-25 knows "Fly," "Getting’ Jiggy Wit It" and "Sex and Candy," possibly the most popular songs for those three bands.

Why is that? It's because we lived through it. While we can only fantasize about the 1960s while listening to the Who, we can distinctly remember being on a school bus to middle school and hearing "My Heart Will Go On" on the radio.

Or maybe that's just me.

I've been to countless parties where "Losing My Religion" by R.E.M. got people singing. I can't count the number of times a discussion about Oasis' "Wonderwall" has come up. And don't even get me started on "Two Princes" by the Spin Doctors…

The romanticizing of music by decade is quite the phenomenon. While the 1960s had some of the greatest bands of all time (the Beatles, the Stones, etc.), people forget that the decade also produced some absolute dreck like the Archies and Donovan. The same goes for the '90s, for while there were some great, influential bands worth remembering like Sonic Youth, Pavement and Radiohead, let's not forget that the following bands and artists also had their glory then: C & C Music Factory, Sixpence None the Richer, Dee-Lite, S Club 7, Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch and, of course, blink-182.

It doesn't seem possible to idealize the group that wrote "Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)," but it's not so much about the song as it is remembering the song during elementary or middle school.

Vh1 recently came up with a list (surprise, surprise) of the greatest songs from 1990s, with "Smells like Teen Spirit" at the top, followed by "One" and "I Want It That Way" by the Backstreet Boys, "I Will Always Love You" by Whitney Houston, and Madonna's "Vogue" rounding out the top five. While I admit the occasional guilty pleasure for those BSB songs, none of those choices are particularly musically relevant (or good) outside of "Teen Spirit.” But they do showcase the two genres that the ‘90s will be remembered for: pop and grunge rock.

While not my favorite musical decade (on a Five Best list, it'd be fourth), I do have a strong emotional attachment to the ‘90s. It's partially due to the quality of some bands, but it's mostly because I can remember being there.

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