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Racing into the recordbooks

Charli Mclntuff '23

Feb 3, 2023

Music in the 1990s featured CDs and cassette tapes, double tape decks, the Sony walkman, MTV, and the notorious, illegal use of Napster. Personal playlisting consisted of making “mix tapes” by hitting the record and play buttons on your stereo simultaneously and a tedious amount of rewinding and fast-forwarding to get the song you want to play at an exact moment. But it was worth it. The result - something to bring to parties to take them over. 

A big part of the 1990s music scene was the intensive home-recording projects, all because the 90s was the last golden age of music. The 90s welcomed and fostered numerous creative genres, from contemporary R&B, pop, girl-power, technotronic, and hip-hop. The era nurtured those genres to mature forms still recognizable today. But indisputably, the most influential moment of the 90s was the rise of alternative rock. 

The MTV ‘90s youth culture said f*** you to mainstream, ’80s rock n’ roll and welcomed the alternative. Previously, the term alternative rock was reserved for niche college radio channels that featured bands who were unfit for mainstream audiences and relied on independent record labels for representation. Thus the birth of a new genre: Alternative Rock - the voice of a generation. 

It was everything, a whole cacophony of preexisting genres. The music featured the ethos of punk rock, the apathy of new wave, and revolutionary lyrics reminiscent of 60s protest songs. The sound was eclectic, energetic, and expressive, representing a new, independent spirit, a teen spirit. Pawn shop guitar-driven music matched by lyrics about current social concerns, all led to a raw FINISH. Three-piece outfits that fans could see in a garage began playing on MTV. Alt-rock rejected the commercialization that past mainstream music had fallen into, and bands took pride in not selling out. Though its “underground” status was an attractive aspect of alt-rock, it quickly emerged from obscurity to become the most influential genre of the 90s. 

It’s a big task to rank the best 90s alternative albums of all time. These are my personal favorites, ordered by their uniqueness within the alt genre. I see these albums to be a full embodiment of the independent factor of alt-rock. Agree or disagree, it doesn't really matter. Just go listen to some new music.

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