The nineties was an eclectic period of music history, with the emergence of grunge and Britpop, and the continued growth of urban music and hip-hop. But one genre undoubtedly dominated the UK charts from 1990-1999, where nine out of ten artists who spent the most weeks at number one were pop groups or pop acts, and 12 out of 14 of artists with the most number ones in that decade hailed from the same category. Pop music, not to be confused with the sixties-punk sound inherited by Britpop, was a force to be reckoned with.
With the turn of the millennium, the surge of pop groups developed in the nineties withdrew from the limelight, seemingly going on hiatus and leaving only the long-reputed stars like Elton John and Madonna, who began their careers noticeably earlier, to take on the flourishing alternative-indie scene. But for those who came of age in that timeframe, it feels as though enough time has passed that the melodies of ‘Baby One More Time’, ‘Tragedy’ and ‘Love is All Around’ have evolved into ‘classics’ or ‘old school records’. Having become outdated in the early 2000s, the era-defining soundtracks of our childhoods are now back in fashion.
Tapping into this surfacing pop nostalgia, many of our favourite pop acts we never thought would play again have suddenly made huge tour announcements. And the list only appears to be growing, as Take That, Backstreet Boys, Steps, Boyzone, Westlife, 5ive, S Club have all announced reunion tours over the last years – some just in the last month. Arguably the most sensationalised reunion that sent the media into a frenzy and lead to instantly sold-out shows was the Spice Girls – even without Victoria Beckham aka ‘Posh’. Albeit not all reunions have achieved this degree of attention, but the very belief that you might be able to catch those singers you grew up listening to on cassettes and CDs has created excitement among 30 and 40-something-year-olds, wondering who will be touring next.
But what is it about nineties pop that makes is so appealing in 2018?
Perhaps we shouldn’t be so surprised; the nineties made a huge comeback in fashion post 2010, where shops once again stocked denim dungarees and grunge-like flannel shirts. Claire Danes’ character in ‘My So Called Life’ could have a ball in our high streets thanks to such reawakening in apparel. As in fashion, trends are often cyclic, brought back as ‘vintage’ by a new generation of admirers. Whether it’s interior design, makeup, games, TV shows or movies, many ‘trends’ or popular memoirs of nineties culture have been brought back – either redesigned for a new era or in their original forms as good ol’ classics. So it makes sense that nineties pop music is being reclaimed.
Today’s charts are governed by a string of moderately new artists that touch on all genres – including pop. Think Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, who have all gained impressive reputations as today’s pop A-listers. But while not to undermine their talents and ability to carry forth the beloved musical genre with a refreshed and updated approach, there’s something incomparable to the pop of the nineties. It calls into question whether those childhood anthems were actually good, or is it the familiarity and affiliation with our youth that tugs on our emotions?
Nineties pop was an exciting time for the genre and to be a child or adolescent witnessing it unfold. Looking back, it seems that there were countless girl groups, boy bands and solo acts spinning out hits, but each one brought their own identity. The Spice Girls screamed out girl power, All Saints made combat-gear stylish, Christina Aguilera gave us operatic, fierce falsettos, and Britney burst on the scene with unforgettable costumes (the sexed-up school girl in ‘Baby One More Time’ and red PVC catsuit in ‘Oops I Did it Again’, for example). And that’s just the girls…the Backstreet Boys were perhaps the softer version of *NSYNC, pouring out their broken hearts in wet, open shirts on the basketball pitch, while *NSYNC brought puppet mastery in ‘Bye Bye Bye’ and arguably snappier dance moves from frontman Justin Timberlake. And then there were the solo stars; Mariah, Whitney and Celine belted out ballads from their souls as Michael Jackson bared his with heart-wrenching tracks that touched on political issues (‘Earth Song’, ‘Black and White’ and ‘They Don’t Care About Us’). Once considered cheesy, we now realise that these artists were well worth the hype.
Lyrically, some of nineties pop was not overly-complex, often compiled of predictable, rhyming verses, but they each pulled us in and delivered highly on hysteria. So while today’s popstars may be incredulous dancers, song-writers and vocalists, they don’t have the same first-mover advantage that makes nineties pop acts impossible to compete with. In other words, they may be talented and extremely successful, but they aren’t necessarily ‘iconic’.
So whether it’s the emotional attachment of songs that recount times gone by, or the sensation of listening to pioneers and icons of the pop world, there’s many reasons why pop music of the 1990’s has been summoned. Now in 2018, music from the 1990’s is 18-28 years old, meaning it’s a great time for those reunions and revivals. To quote Sporty Spice’s reaction to the Spice Girls reunion tour, now is ‘the right time to do it all again’. Who’s with us?
Written by Aminah Barnes on behalf of TickX, a simple, hassle-free way to discover new events and search for the best tickets.