Ah the Nostalgic 90’s. 30-soemthings today are so obsessed with the decade of their teenage years that it defies logic. What was so great about the 90’s, or any other decade for that matter?
I know, we are all nostalgic for the years when we are teenagers. I mean even the “millennials” are nostalgic over things that happened less than 10years ago. As for me, I’m on the other end of the Nostalgic 90’s gang. My teenage years were spent in the 80’s. Truth be told, there wasn’t much special about that decade either unless you are really into big hair.
This is a big one for most 90’s fans. A generation is typically thought of as 20 years, but each decade produces it’s own unique musical generation, and each tends to believe their music was the best. Fans of 90’s music are no different.
When you think of 90’s music, your first thought has got to be of the angst ridden alternative rock movement known as “Grunge”. The fans of this sub-genre are almost rabid in their defense of it. The only people more vocal about their specific musical preference are metal heads, but we’ll get to them another time.
So, grunge changed music forever, right? The appeal was a highly cerebral lyrical movement. The information age was just coming into its own, thanks to the internet really becoming popular with the masses, and this new found knowledge made everyone feel more intelligent. And, for the most part, they were right. So, in turn, their music should reflect this, and it did. Never mind that much of the actual music was lacking in creativity during this era, the lyrics were the focal point. 80’s music was best known by a particular guitar riff, while the 90’s saw songs known more for their chorus.
The musician in me repels this phenomenon, while the want-to-be intellectual in me embraces it. Since I graduated from high school in 1990, before Nirvana, Pearl Jam or even the next level of metal acts like Pantera came to be, I missed out on much of this when it was new. As a matter of fact, I wasn’t even familiar with Nirvana until after their front man died. I find this is not uncommon though as most people, in the first decade after they graduate from high school, tend to stick with what they listened to in their teens. It usually isn’t until much later when they “discover” newer stuff.
Grunge fans were the worst about discounting what came after. I still hear bands talk about “The post grunge era” as if anything that came after is a waste of time. In actuality, most decades have seen some significant changes in music. Even the disco craze of the 70’s helped to inspire funk, which has influenced the playing styles of artists from many genres today.
Ah yes, TV in the 90’s was quite a treat. From family shows like Full House to iconic teenage shows such as Fresh Prince of Bellaire, and dramas such as Quantum Leap, the 90’s actually made quantum leaps forward in the TV experience.
While cable really became common in the 80’s, the advent of digital satellite transmission in the 90’s really stepped things up a notch. Digital signals where easier to send and receive, and more could be sent in the same amount of bandwidth. In English terms, you could get more channels in the same space.
It only makes sense that, when you offer that much more choice, competition would increase. When competition increases that much, quality has to go up as well. As a TV network, when there were only 3 channels, you could pretty well count on at least about a 25% market share on your worst night. Now, with hundreds of channels, you are lucky to capture over 5% on a good night. Competition often brings out the best in what people can produce.
I’ve already ranted about the removal of competition from the lives of our children, so I won’t go into that again here, but know that it’s a driving force behind this rant.
Now, with on demand services both from your cable provider and other services like Netflix and Hulu, we have seen a shift toward what is known now as “Time shifted media”, meaning we consume it on our schedule, not when the network dictates. This has opened yet another window of opportunity, and it was all made possible by those advances from the 90’s Thank you guys for that.
One might say that the 90’s was the last time we saw real creativity come from Hollywood. From the ’91 classic Silence of the Lambs to the 1999 hit The Matrix, the 90’s saw their fair share of movies that are destined to become icons for the ages.
I could spend days listing off the other huge hits from that decade. Unlike with music, I was familiar with these too. When I was stationed in Orlando while going to school in the navy, there was a time when I had seen ever single movie that was out in theaters, and waited for the new releases to come out on Friday. Goodfellas, Boyz N the Hood, and Point Break were some of the highlights from that snapshot in time.
The big difference between those films, and what has come since, are that they were all original. Few and far between were remakes of classic films. I’m not exactly sure where the shift took place, but I would say that, if I listed them, at least 3/4 of my top 100 favorite movies would come from this decade.
When I think of sports in the 90’s, two things come to mind. .
- God’s team, The Dallas Cowboys dominated with 3 Super Bowl wins.
- The best basketball player to ever live, Michael Jordan, ruled the courts.
Sure, there were other highlights. Mike Tyson resorting to cannibalism in an attempt to not get his face caved in for a second time, and Hank Arron’s home run record being broken twice in the same season were huge moments. But, Jordan is THE story of sports in the 90’s. And, other than maybe Grant Hill, MJ is one of the nicest guys in the NBA.
other stories captured the public attention. Tonya Harding apying someone to smash Nancy Kerrigan’s knee in an attempt to win a gold medal got some serious attention. Dale Earnhardt finally won the Daytona 500 and Joe Montana set a record for most post season touchdown passes.
90’s Pop Culture
All the categories above help to shape the course of pop culture for any decade.
Grunge music, coupled with movies like Pulp Fiction, helped to create the overall “feel” of the decade. The 90’s had a dark, sinister, almost depressing quality when it came to the common mentality of the day. My guess is the gloomy weather from Seattle that tinted the soul of the music from that era, but I could be wrong.
Flannel sales were at an all time high while the Levi’s 501 almost fell completely off the map. A level of awareness was achieved in the 90’s that may very well go down in history as a time when humanity was forever changed. A lot of this has to do with the internet.
Enter, AOL. Remember getting those Cd’s in the mail? I can still recall when internet was billed by the minute, like phone calls, and you were allotted a certain amount of free minutes every month with your plan. If you didn’t have an AOL CD handy, that’s okay. Most retailers had them sitting on the counter next to the cash register. So, you could easily get that squealing tone from your modem letting you know that the words, “You’ve got Mail” were mere moments away.
SNL saw it’s last great group of comics, Mad TV came and then fizzled (is it even still on?). Some of the greatest comics of all time died. The 90’s was not a good time to be an overweight comic. Louie Anderson got lucky!
And no conversation on pop culture in the 90’s would be complete without mention of a white bronco or a glove that didn’t fit. Yes, I’m talking about The Juice, O. J. Simpson.
So, What Was so Great About the 90’s?
Apparently quite a lot. Again, this post took a drastic turn from teh original intent. I had gotten so tired of Facebook posts with people drooling all over memories of the 90’s, and really wanted to rant about how ridiculous it was to hold a set of 10 years in such high regard. But, in doing my research, it turns out that the 90’s really did produce a lot of great stuff.
I still don’t’ care to read your posts about your favorite 90’s TV shows. Oh, and enough about how music was so much better back then. While considerably better than the 70’s, and somewhat superior to the decade that followed it, Grunge was not all it was cracked up to be. Lyrically maybe, but you could teach a blind orangutang how to play the guitar parts to most of those songs.
Actually, this was such a learning experience for me that I’m seriously considering doing it for other decades too, so keep watching for those in the near future.
Ah, the Nostalgic 90’s
Remember these from VH1?