back to top
Music

20 Completely Timeless Hit Songs You Won't Believe Are Turning 20 In 2016

None of which are "Macarena."

Posted on

1. "Un-Break My Heart" — Toni Braxton

ToniBraxtonVEVO / Via youtube.com

The saddest sad breakup song. You will die of sadness except that the song is so good you will be resurrected. The video, though, that's where the rubber meets the road, bummer-wise. Toni's boyfriend dies in her arms after getting hit by a car. On the upside: The boyfriend is Tyson Beckford, hottest hottie of the '90s/ever seen, here shirtless, in a sheer shirt, with an open shirt, in silk pajamas, in the shower, etc.

2. "Pony" — Ginuwine

Sorry, but Ginuwine's mastery of sexual innuendo and the double entrendre should make the rest of us want to give up flirting forever. This was his debut single and I think we can all agree that he's been cashing the musical and sensual checks since he starting writing back in 1996.

3. "1979" — Smashing Pumpkins

"1979" was the second single from The Smashing Pumpkins' big old third studio album (a double disc called Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness). Less angsty, more synth-y, and way more — GASP — sweet and poppy than was typical for Smashing Pumpkins, this single won the MTV Video Music Award for Best Alternative Video in 1996.

Advertisement

5. "Killing Me Softly" — Fugees

amazon.com

The Fugees covered this Roberta Flack classic and it's one of civilization's greatest accomplishments. It was the second single released from their second studio album The Score. Some '90s songs were only great in the '90s. "Killing Me Softly" is forever.

7. "Say You'll Be There" — Spice Girls

What are you going to do, not sing along this? "Wannabe" was probably the first Spice Girls song you ever heard and this one is the second. It's from their debut album, and in the video the Spice Girls are Charlie's Angels-esque action heroes. In a desert. Dancing.

8. "Woo Hah!! Got You All in Check" — Busta Rhymes

Busta Rhymes' mainstream breakout moment was probably his verse on A Tribe Called Quest's single "Scenario" and his appearance in the song's video. Four years later, Busta Rhymes' debut solo album came out with "Woo Hah!!" as the first single. The video is great, too, and was directed by, NBD, Hype Williams.

Advertisement

10. "Novocaine for the Soul" — Eels

The Eels' first album was called Beautiful Freak and this was its debut single. The lyrics are playful, yet full of existential dread*, the singer has a gravelly voice, there's a Beatles sample, and several times the song pauses and all you hear is the twinkling of what might be is a xylophone. So, in short, a perfectly eclectic and moody mid-'90s alternative rock song.

*"Life is hard

And so am I

You'd better give me something

So I don't die

Novocaine for the soul

Before I sputter out"

11. "Where It's At" — Beck

Odelay was Beck's fourth but highest-selling album and "Where It's At" was the first single released from it. It has plenty of noisey distortion sounds and voiceovers and also a repeated line — "Two turntables and a microphone" — that will haunt us all for life.

12. "Give Me One Reason" — Tracy Chapman

The bluesiest, rockingest ultimatum ever! Chapman's album New Beginning was released in 1995, but this song wasn't released as a single till 1996. It won the 1997 Grammy Award for Best Rock Song. As a bonus you can totally feel free to go ahead and read the lyrics from beginning to end to any significant other who's not holding up their end of the bargain.

Advertisement

13. "If I Ruled the World (Imagine That)" — Nas featuring Lauryn Hill

youtube.com

First came Nas' stunning debut Illmatic. Two years later he released It Was Written, his best-selling album to date, and with it, this track featuring Lauryn Hill. It was Nas' first top 20 hit, and he was nominated for a 1997 Grammy for best rap solo performance. It is timeless.

14. "No Diggity" — Blackstreet

"No Diggity" was a track on Blackstreet's second album. It featured guests verses by Dr. Dre and Queen Pen and spent 31 weeks on Billboard's Hot 100 and won a Grammy in 1998 for for Best R&B Performance. Sorry to anyone who didn't grow up with this song in extremely heavy rotation while you were growing up; your adolescence was meaningless, and your life, by definition, can never great.

16. "Lovefool" — The Cardigans

Even if you didn't come of age in the American suburbs in the '90s, you might still be able to imagine how your teenage world would've changed if Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes co-starred in a fast-paced modern-day adaptation of Romeo and Juliet right smack-dab in the middle of your puberty. The song "Lovefool" by the Swedish band The Cardigans was part of the movie's soundtrack and was the band's first international hit.

Advertisement

17. "Tha Crossroads" — Bone-Thugs-n-Harmony

NBD, just a hit song that meditates on not wanting to die, losing people you love, missing them, and hoping to see them again. The song was on their 1996 album E 1999 Eternal. It won a Grammy and was dedicated to Eazy-E, who had recently signed Bone Thugs to his label Ruthless Records. No, you're crying.

18. "Elevators (Me & You)" — OutKast

This is the first single from OutKast's legendary second album ATLiens, released when Big Boi and André 3000 were just 21 years old. Billboard chart-wise, this song was only out-perfomed by later hits "Ms. Jackson" from Stankonia and "Roses" and "Hey Ya," from Speakerboxxx/The Love Below.

19. "Champagne Supernova" — Oasis

The Gallagher brothers made some super-sweet and melancholy music for some two fairly aggro dudes. "Champagne Supernova" was on Oasis's 1995 album (What's the Story) Morning Glory? but was released as a single in 1996. What the hell is the song about? When a music writer asked singer and guitarist Noel Gallagher about the lyrics, calling them ridiculous, he said, "I don’t fucking know." Fair enough, Noel. Fair enough.

20. "Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)" by Backstreet Boys

I'd might personally dispute that this song deserves to be alongside "Un-break My Heart," "No Diggity," and "Criminal," but we can't ignore Backstreet Boys' Top 40 domination in the 1990s, and since this was their debut single in the U.S., well, why not? If Wikipedia is to be believed, the video was filmed at a middle school in Orlando and "The boys dance in the rain, some of them have their shirts unbuttoned in the later half of the music video." Whether or not it's the gayest music video of all time, that's for you to decide.

Music Week is a week of content that celebrates the awesome classic jams, artists, and music videos you grew up with — as well as future classics. Take a step back in time and check out more great music content here.