Tuesday Debate: 90s Music

By Jake and Glenn

There have been many great decades of music, but none more controversial than the output of the 1990s. The 90s gave us grunge, the rise of industrial, the downfall of Michael Jackson, the uprise of gangsta rap and the Cardigans. In this article we will be debating whether the 90s were the greatest or merely just another great decade for music.

Pro (Glenn) : Nothing was better than the 1990s. Before 9-11 and George Bush but after Ronald Reagan and the AIDS crisis, the decade had it all - including music. The music of the 1990s reflected the time. It was rich and diverse, yet at the same time respectful of the tragedies we experienced collectively as a species. For every OJ Simpson trial, there was a Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. For every World Trade Center bombing, there was a Downward Spiral. The 90s were a decade where I came of age, learning about love and loss. The music produced between the years 1990-1999 has set our planet on a course for destruction, and I for one couldn't be happier.

Con (Jake): I would have to disagree, of course. The 90s did have a wealth of great music, but most of it was not the popular music you heard on your local alternative rock station. Sure grunge was huge and had some merit, to a point. For every Pearl Jam and Nirvana there was a 4 Non Blondes and Alice in Chains. Now, one might think I'm out of line comparing AIC to 4NB, but trust me, they are on the same level. The 90s was great for hip hop, starting in 93 with some classic albums from the Wu-Tang Clan and Nas, but until the end of 99 there were merely a handful of albums worth listening to even from my beloved genre. Indie music thrived in the 90s, but nobody fucking cares about that so why even bring up bands like Built to Spill, Pavement, Bell & Sebastian, Sleater-Kinney and Neutral Milk Hotel when they weren't played on your local alternative rock station to make room for the new UB40 single. I guess, my con is more against the listeners of music, and the record companies who push such drivel, rather than the music itself. Perhaps not!

Pro (Glenn): I understand your position. You know that I respect and hate you to disagree - especially when it comes to UB40's "Can't Help Falling in Love" - but the music of the 1990s was the best ever. I was but a young adolescent male when Nirvana's Nevermind and Pearl Jam's Ten were released on cassette in 1991, but that doesn't mean I couldn't understand angst, fatherly abandonment or any of the other topics covered in these groundbreaking records. If it's not fair to judge a decade by two albums, why do I still do it? Fast forward to 1996 and the Brit Pop invasion and you'll find even more music to justify my position. Oasis's (What's the Story) Morning Glory?, Pulp's Different Class and Radiohead's Ok Computer all came out within two years of each other. These may have been the two greatest years for music in English history, and they certainly were the best years of my life. When Noel Gallagher talked of not looking back in anger and when Jarvis Cocker opined on class differences, they weren't just singing. They were transforming how we looked at ourselves in junior high.

Con (Jake): Nobody is going to argue that Pulp was a great band and that Different Class a great album, but what about Blur? So far you have named seven albums which you feel to be great from the 90s, which is a startling low number. It's not low compared to the number of deadly sins-- it's the same. Yet, shouldn't there be more? Not deadly sins, great 90s albums. I spent my adolescence listening to music like Pennywise, NOFX and Less than Jake, but I don't romanticize these dreadful bands. I know they are awful now that I have grown up and listen to music that isn't anthemic pop punk. Why must you romanticize the albums of your youth like my dad does the albums of Journey and Styx? I didn't even go into my great disdain for Oasis, nor will I.

Pro (Glenn): I only think in sevens, but in my defense I was raised Lutheran. I think I can be honest in pushing aside bands whose only claim to fame is that they came of age during my adolescence. Candlebox, Puddle of Mudd and Collective Soul are awful and their mere existence was enough to push me out of my Christianity into atheism. But we can no more blame the 1990s for its worst output than we can blame Christianity for the crusades. A lot of people died so we could take back the Holy Land and even more died to help the Flaming Lips create the four CD album Zaireeka. If you sit there and tell us that the 90s were not the best decade for music, you are also implying that their deaths were in vain. Thank you for not mentioning Oasis.

Con (Jake): The 90s aren't even as good of a decade for music and the 2000-2009 decade. We've had thousands of great albums released in these 10 years, and more to come. The decade started off poorly with the release of the Fragile and countless albums by boy bands, but since the dissolution of N*SYNC and the Backstreet Boys (and the lesser boy bands LFO and 98 Degrees) the decade has really been shaping up to be better than drug addicts think the 1970s were.

Perhaps you can't understand the music of today because you're no longer a high school freshman, but there's been a huge rise in underground bands and their availability due to Napster (and the filesharing services now used by non-45 year olds). This coupled with the end of MTV's control on popular music has really helped out many bands who are serious about making music, rather than only in it for the money. There isn't necessarily anything wrong for being in it for the money, and as I said earlier, I do enjoy hip hop where most of the songs mention money or things bought with money (jewelry, grills, chains, cars, boats, etc.). In the 00s the Flaming Lips, as you used in an example, have created better albums than Zaireeka. Zaireeka was a good concept, but how many people can say that they actually ever listened to it? I have. I'd rather listen to Yoshimi vs. the Pink Robots. We could listen to Daft Punk's house album Homework, but why not listen to Discovery instead?

Pro (Glenn): I feel that, like the 90s, this debate may be coming to an end. I'm glad you pointed out Yoshimi vs. the Pink Robots as a counterpoint to Zaireeka, as the former is assuredly much better than the latter. But what about their best work of all: 1999's The Soft Bulletin? I know this isn't a Flaming Lips fanfiction site so I don't want to get caught in the weeds here. My only point is that for every good album of the non-1990s, that same artist has a BETTER album in the 1990s. [By the way, NIN's The Fragile was released in 1999. I'm sure you will take that as more proof that the 90s were inferior, but if that's the case why did a good friend send me the album in computer format just today?]

Con (Jake): I'm not saying the 90s were a bad decade for music, but rather the 00s are a better decade. Music has become easily available and the underground is so big that even John Wayne Gacy can't throw all of the bodies into his crawlspace. Glenn and I definitely have a differing taste in music that we have always been aware of, yet we do agree on some bands. I also agree that The Soft Bulletin is a superior album, but nobody bought it when it came out. Plus, Daft Punk didn't release a better album than Discovery in the 90s. I know that kind of music isn't Glenn's bag, though, so maybe that isn't fair, or is it? For instance, I don't enjoy Oasis or Nine Inch Nails (because I'm not 14 anymore), but I don't have a problem with others enjoying them. Kaleena, my fiance, is an Oasis fan. Do I put a gun in my mouth every night because of it? Sure, but we all have our own reasons for putting guns in our mouths, and surely if it wasn't that reason it'd be another.


  1. Wow! That was a toss and turn of my heart strings! I'm inclined to agree with Glenn but when Jake threw out Yoshimi Vs. The Pink Robots I thought it was over.

    I felt as though Jake should have done a little more 00's pushing towards the beginning and Glenn should have made more of a point about the crusade.

    All in all I give this debate to Jake for shutting down Glenn more effectively, but Glenn's right. I would hate to discover the next time that gun is in Jake's mouth it's because I didn't call the debate for him.

    Good Job!

  2. I kept too many cards in my deck for this debate, I feel. I could have dealt Glenn aces over eights by mentioning bands like Soul Asylum and Better than Ezra, but I held those two back. I also could have made more of an issue out of NIN, but that's another debate unto itself.

  3. Also, nobody listens to the 2000s music I listen to, especially not Glenn. He's too busy jamming out to the Fixed import he paid $40 for off of ebay.

  4. From the Street Fighter the movie Soundtrack
    M.C. Hammer featuring Deion Sanders:
    Case Closed