While it’s true that every year is good for music, 1994 stands out as one of the all-time greatest years in the history of popular music, up there with 1967, 1971, 1987 and 2003. It wasn’t just that the year overflowed with excellent music that has stood the test of time, but that these 12 months established a new crop of stars across all genres who went on to become the foundation of rap, rock, indie, electronic and R&B music as we know it today. Here’s why.
3. A Victory Lap For Grunge!
Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Hole and Stone Temple Pilots released their best records, while Nirvana went out at the top of their game with MTV Unplugged in New York.
4. A Hip-Hop Renaissance!
The Notorious B.I.G., Snoop Dogg, Nas, Outkast, Gang Starr and Method Man broke the mold and set the bar impossibly high for rap fans.
5. Indie Rock Thrives!
Pavement, Guided by Voices, Liz Phair, Stereolab, Sonic Youth, Helium, Sebadoh, Archers of Loaf and Jon Spencer Blues Explosion were the toast of zines and college radio.
6. Britpop Emerges!
England produced a new crop of icons including Oasis, Blur, Pulp, Elastica and Suede.
7. R&B Is Reinvented!
Aaliyah made her debut, while TLC, R. Kelly, Mary J. Blige and Boyz II Men dominated the charts.
8. Alt-Rock Rules The Radio!
Veruca Salt, Weezer, Green Day, Nine Inch Nails, Tori Amos, R.E.M., Beastie Boys and Beck scored idiosyncratic hits.
9. Completely Weird Stuff Could Become Really Popular!
It was a time when a morbid, droning song about childhood trauma sung by a Canadian dude with an absurdly low voice could sell a lot of records.
10. The Best Cheesy Pop!
Ace of Base! Counting Crows! Mariah Carey’s Christmas song! The Lion King soundtrack! Even the super dorky stuff was awesome in 1994.
This 100-song playlist covers the highlights of 1994, with music from across all genres. Major hits are side by side with cult favorites, and stuff you might consider a “guilty pleasure” is slotted along with critical darlings. You can stream it all on Rdio…
1994 was clearly an amazing year for music. Did we miss anything?