My love affair with music started with a little band called Nirvana. Since then, my tastes have expanded to include basically everything. I’m not going to say today’s music sucks because it doesn’t. There is some great stuff out there. With that said, coming up with this list of the thirty of the greatest music videos from the 90s definitely left me feeling nostalgic. Not all of the songs on this list are on my favorites list, but they all stood out and helped define my favorite decade in music.
I present these videos to you in alphabetic order and by year because putting them in order from worst to best was difficult and I gave up. Besides, it’s hard to argue that any one of these video are better than the others. That’s really a matter of personal taste. Okay, explanation over. Let’s get to the videos.
1990: Sinead O’Conner – Nothing Compares 2 U from I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got
Simple and moving, this video might be one of my all time favorites from any decade. It’s a beautiful song and by giving it such a simple video it really allows you to pay attention to those lyrics. The tears at the end? So perfect and so fitting for the mood of the song. This video is pretty near perfection.
1991: Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit from Nevermind
This video changed my life. Well, maybe it didn’t but the spirit of the video and the angst ridden, aggressive nature of the song certainly did. This was something new. It was something different and it introduced grunge to the masses. Inexpensive and effective, this video was what the grunge scene was all about.
1991: Red Hot Chili Peppers – Give it Away from Blood Sugar Sex Magik
This is one of my least favorite RHCP songs, but I have to give credit where credit is due. It’s weird. It’s over the top. It’s borderline offensive – it’s represents everything that makes the Red Hot Chili Peppers who they are.
1992: Blind Melon – No Rain from Blind Melon
It pains me in the worst way to put No Rain on this list when Toes Across the Floor is an infinitely better video but yet when people think of music videos in the 90s, it’s almost guaranteed that someone will mention the ‘Bee Girl’. Sadly for the band, they never quite got out of the shadow of that Bee Girl costume which is a shame as they are a terrific band.
1992: Guns ‘N’ Roses – November Rain from Use Your Illusion I
Once referred to as ‘the pee break’ video by on-air personalities, this video is epic in ever sense of the word. For any other band, an opus like this may seen excessive, but it somehow worked for Guns ‘N’ Roses. I don’t care how many people hate on me for it – November Rain is still one of my favorite videos.
1992: Pearl Jam – Jeremy from Ten
Throughout the 90s, Pearl Jam released five albums; Ten, VS, Vitalogy, No Code and Yield. They released scores of singles. They made seven videos; two of which were live. All the same they earn a place on this list for Jeremy; one of the best videos produced in the decade and possibly ever. The video fit the song’s message perfectly. It was shot beautifully. Incredibly well done on all fronts.
1992: R.E.M. – Everybody Hurts from Automatic for the People
When coming up with this list, I tried my hardest to come up with just one video for each band mentioned. For R.E.M. that was difficult. This is a band that released some of the best, most visually stunning videos of the 90s but I had to go with Everybody Hurts. It’s an incredible video, an incredible song and not only one of my favorite videos of the decade but one of my favorite videos of all time.
1993: Aerosmith – Crazy from Get a Grip
Liv Tyler and Alicia Silverstone steamed up the screen in this incredibly memorable video. Although Alicia starred in several Aerosmith videos, this was my favorite. Watching this video is almost like watching a movie – which in my ever so humble opinion, is really the mark of a great video. I also loved seeing Liv mimicking her famous father, Aerosmith’s front-man Steven Tyler.
1993: Alice In Chains – Rooster from Dirt
There are a lot of videos with a war theme, but there’s something so powerful about this one knowing the meaning behind the song. Since I only have so much room, I won’t get into that story but will instead add a link to the Wiki page for the track. Check it out and enjoy the video.
1993: Dennis Leary – A**hole from No Cure for Cancer
I was but a youngster the first time I heard this song. It’s offensive, it’s rude, and it would likely never be released in today’s politically correct and overly sensitive entertainment environment. If it was, you’d certainly never see it on a mainstream music station. Thankfully, people weren’t quite as touchy in the 90s and we were treated to this awesome song and the equally awesome video.
1993: Smashing Pumpkins – Today from Siamese Dream
I had a hard time choosing a video for the Pumpkins because they have released some awesome ones. I chose Today because when I really think about who Smashing Pumpkins were in the 90s I think of this song. The whole thing is just so brilliantly messed up. The people dry humping everywhere, the truck painting, poor Billy Corgan getting the boot at the end. It really illustrates the lyrics of the song… kind of.
1993: Snoop (Doggy) Dogg – Who I Am (What’s My Name?) from Doggystyle
What can I even say about this one? It’s so incredibly over the top. It’s just flat out brilliant. Watch Snoop Dogg and friends morph into big tough dogs, run amok and just generally wreak havoc on everything. This was officially the first rap song I fell in love with and I love it just as much now as I did back in the early nineties.
1993: Soul Asylum – Runaway Train from Grave Dancers Union
This video helped reunite many families with their missing children or loved ones. Sadly, the stories were not always happy ones. Check out the Wiki Page for the story behind the video. I absolutely love this video because it fits brilliantly with the story the song tells. It’s the perfect marriage of music and video.
1993: Tool – Sober from Undertow
Tool always releases dark, disturbing and engrossing videos that make you question exactly what kind of twisted mind came up with the concept but that’s what makes their videos so incredible. I couldn’t really choose on the merits of individual video because they’re all phenomenal so I just went with the first video I saw.
1994: The Cranberries – Zombie from No Need to Argue
This is an incredible video to go with an incredible song. In all honesty, I wanted to like The Cranberries as a band a lot more than I actually do, but I found them pretty hit or miss overall. With that said, this is possibly one of my favorite songs from the 90s. With a powerful message and a powerful video to match, it’s very nearly perfect.
1994: Garth Brooks – Standing Outside the Fire from In Pieces
I know some of you are going to jump all over me for this one, but I actually don’t really like this video. It has a great message, but I’ve never been big on the beat-’em-over-the-head-with-emotion videos. I like a more subtle approach, but all the same, when I think about country music videos in the 90s, this one is one of the first that comes to mind. I love the song, but the video was a little much for me.
1994: Nine Inch Nails – March of the Pigs from The Downward Spiral
Taking simple and low-key to a whole new level, this video was recorded in one take and features the band doing nothing more than playing the song in front of a while background. Trent Reznor (front man ) mainly just runs around like a maniac pushing people, throwing his mic, and toppling over instruments while stage hands enter and clean up as the band plays on. While I’ve never seen a Nine Inch Nails video I don’t like, this is probably my favorite to date.
1994: Shania Twain – Who’s Bed Have Your Boots Been Under? From The Woman in Me
Man, do I ever remember when this video came out. People were so up in arms! She’s walking around with her belly exposed. How dare she? This is country music. That controversy only served to cement this videos place in pop culture history and it marks the moment where it became alright to be sexy and a country singer.
1994: Soundgarden – Black Hole Sun from Superunknown
This video – with all its nightmarish, cartoonish imagery – is one of the standouts of the nineties for me because it was so very different from everything else the rest of the bands were putting out. Striking visuals painting a suburban life gone horribly awry that absolutely brings the song to life.
1994: Weezer – Buddy Holly from Weezer (or The Blue Album)
And so nerd rock was born. I guess that’s not true entirely, but it was definitely when it was brought back to prominence. With a fun, entertaining and retro music video, Weezer set themselves apart from the pack and for that reason, this video really stands out for me.
1995: 2Pac feat. Dr. Dre and Roger Troutman – California Love from All Eyez on Me
This video set the standard in terms of rap videos. It’s extravagant, over the top and more importantly, it ages well. It’s been well over ten years since this one hit the airways but it still feels just as current and modern as ever. I absolutely love this video.
1995: Madonna – Human Nature from Bedtime Stories
Madonna has never been one to hold back and she certainly didn’t with this video. Written as a response to the controversy over her swear-tastic appearance on Letterman, the video for Human Nature is every bit as unapologetic and in your face as the song is.
1995: Marilyn Manson – Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) from Smells Like Children
What better way to tell the world what Marilyn Manson is all about than to get half naked, throw on a cowboy hat, cover yourself in mud and ride a pig around for a while. Disturbing in a beautiful way, this is the first time the world at large really got the chance to see what Manson was all about and the love/hate relationship between Manson and the general public began.
1995: Radiohead – Just from The Bends
What in the hell does he say? No one knows. To this day the band remains mum on the subject but what makes this video an absolute necessity on this list is the fact that people are still asking the question. Sixteen years later and people still want to know why the guy is on the ground. That is the mark of a great video. It sticks with people. Great video, great song and great band.
1995: T.L.C. – Waterfalls from CrazySexyCool
Remember when music videos had a message? Waterfalls is a great example of a music video that got everything right. The stories in the video fit the song perfectly. The video’s sleek and stylish without losing the message of the song. Perfection! Absolute perfection. It’s all I can say.
1996: Bone Thugs-N-Harmony – Tha Crossroads from E 1999 Eternal
A memorial video for dead friend Easy-E, Tha Crossroads nearly brings tears to my eyes each time I watch it. Meaningful, thoughtful and dramatic, the video shows the reality of life, death and how quickly and unexpectedly the two can meet. Brilliantly done and a lovely memorial for a fallen friend.
1996: Foo Fighters – Big Me from Foo Fighters
When Foo Fighters came on the scene, many people wondered what they would produce. With former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl getting out from behind the kit, strapping on a guitar and stepping in front of the mic, many people were skeptical. What they produced, however, was a masterful debut. Big Me showed off the band’s quirky sense of humor and their near pop tendencies. It was the perfect follow up to the much heavier, harder hitting singles that came before it.
1996: No Doubt – Don’t Speak from Tragic Kingdom
Telling the story of a band at odds over the focus on the attention paid to the front person, in this case, Gwen Stefani, this video tells the story without getting too heavy handed with it. While the story of the song is about a break up, the video proves non-romantic breakups can be just as hard to deal with.
1996: Spice Girls – Wannabe from Spice
With their debut single, the Spice Girls came screaming onto the scene, making sure no one could ignore them. While this video is clearly lower budget than many of their later videos, it really tells you everything you need to know about who the Spice Girls are – fun, in your face and perhaps a little naughty. I loathe the song, but I can’t deny its impact on the music scene.
1998: Britney Spears – Baby One More Time from Baby One More Time
At the end of my last little blurb I mentioned not being able to deny a song’s impact on the music scene. This is another example of that. This song signaled the rise of the pop princess. It’s been so often parodied it’s hard to keep track of at this point. Sure it was empty-headed but so was the song. It was pure pop drivel, but it was perfectly marketed and served its purpose well. A new music diva had arrived. Looking back, though, it’s a little hard to believe the Britney Spears in that video is the same Britney Spears we’ve come to know in recent years. My, how they do grow up fast.
It’s your turn now. What videos did I miss? What were your favorites? What did you hate? Sound off in the comments section below and let your opinion be heard! Thanks for reading and, as always, if you appreciated the article, make sure to share it with your friends on Facebook and Twitter.