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Top 100 Songs From the 90s

The Best Pop Music of the 1990s

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10. Santana featuring Rob Thomas - "Smooth"

Santana featuring Rob Thomas - Smooth
Courtesy Arista Records

"Smooth" genuinely appeared out of left field. Who would have thought legendary Latin guitarist Carlos Santana would record one of the biggest pop hit singles of all time? Add to that - who would have thought the vocalist would be the lead singer for post-grunge band Matchbox 20? It did happen and "Smooth" deserved the sales and acclaim. In 2005 Rob Thomas, the lead vocalist with Matchbox 20, proved his performance on "Smooth" was no fluke with a stellar solo album ...Something To Be.

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9. R.E.M. - "Losing My Religion"

R.E.M. - Losing My Religion
Courtesy Warner Bros.

With the grunge revolution lurking just over the horizon, R.E.M., pioneers of alt rock, burst into the mainstream. Sparking dozens of conversations about its meaning, "Losing My Religion" is, in its most basic sense, a gorgeous folk-influenced pop tune about the feeling of going crazy. It is understated and unforgettable.

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8. Sinead O'Connor - "Nothing Compares to You"

Sinead O'Connor - Nothing Compares 2 U
Courtesy Chrysalis

It's difficult to remember now the image of Sinead O'Connor prior to the controversial television appearances that nearly brought down her career, but few pop performers have put together more powerful heart-stopping performances than this. The song itself, written by Prince, is outstanding, but Sinead's emotional, gutsy performance made it a classic. Painful loss meets stunning vocal beauty with a perfectly understated instrumental arrangement.

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7. Jay-Z - "Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)"

Jay-Z - Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)
Courtesy Roc-a-Fella

Jay-Z consolidated his status as the best of East Coast rappers with this brilliant single that weaves a showstopping number from the Broadway musical Annie into a stunning hip hop opus. Pop audiences were made aware that the range of experimentation in hip hop were limitless.

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6. Alanis Morissette - "You Oughta Know"

Alanis Morissette - You Oughta Know
Courtesy Maverick Records

Alanis Morissette's debut sent shock waves through the music industry. No pop singer had ever laid bare the anger and pain of a relationship gone bad quite so explicitly. "You Oughta Know" clearly touched a nerve and led audiences into the complex, intricate songcraft of the phenomenally successful Jagged Little Pill album.

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5. Madonna - "Ray of Light"

Madonna - Ray of Light
Courtesy Maverick Records

With her first completely new studio album in 4 years, Madonna brought electronica to the top of the pop charts. Working with collaborator William Orbit, the music sounded fresh, new, and invigorating.

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4. Smash Mouth - "Walkin' On the Sun"

Smash Mouth - Fush Yu Mang
Courtesy Interscope

The ska-punk bound Smash Mouth burst into the spotlight with this catchy slab of 60s-ish psychedelic soul. Unfortunately, the band never quite returned to the glory of this single, but it is one of the greatest tracks of the decade.

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3. Everything But the Girl - "Missing"

Everything But the Girl - Misssing
Courtesy Atlantic

"Like the deserts miss the rain..." Remixed in countless ways over the years, there has never been a more powerful expression of emotional and sexual longing in pop music than that at the core of "Missing." In a year marked by wistfulness and longing in pop songs, this is the peak.

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2. Nirvana - "Smells Like Teen Spirit"

Nirvana - Smells Like Teen Spirit
Courtesy DGC Records

The emergence of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" as a top 10 pop hit remains one of the most dramatic events in pop music of the 1990s. Kurt Cobain's sardonic view of teenagers set amongst a pop melody pounded out by drums and guitars bathed in fuzzed up distortion rattled the pop music establishment. It was all accompanied by a music video that presented a memorable and unrelentingly dark view of the classic school pep rally. Grunge had arrived.

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1. Britney Spears - "...Baby One More Time"

Britney Spears - ...Baby One More Time
Courtesy Jive Records

She first gained national notice as a member of The New Mickey Mouse Club on Disney's cable network, but it was as a pop singer that Britney Spears became the most watched celebrity in the world. Her first single "...Baby One More Time" is a brilliant piece of pop music. It's catchy, sexy, and it sports a mildly controversial video certain to keep people talking.

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