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The Pomegranate

The Student News Site of Granada High School

The Pomegranate

The Student News Site of Granada High School

The Pomegranate

Grabbing Life by the Horns

Top 10 Albums of the 1990s

The 1990s were a great time for music as we experienced a boom in alt-rock and hip-hop. For the first time, a rap song was #1, artists such as Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, and Bjork went solo, boy bands and girl bands took over pop, and there was an explosion of new, grungier rock bands. Choosing the best music of the 90s is a difficult task, but there are still albums that stand out above all the others. These are the top 10 albums of the 1990s.

Before this article begins, let’s acknowledge some of the great 90s albums that didn’t cut the top 10. Honorable mentions go to Tidal by Fiona Apple, Live Through This by Hole, I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got by Sinead O’Connor, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) by Wu-Tang Clan, and Ten by Pearl Jam.

 

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10- The Downward Spiral by Nine Inch Nails (1994)

Trent Reznor, the man behind Nine Inch Nails, has always expressed so much pain, depression, and anger through his music. But, he takes it to another level on The Downward Spiral.

If you need any reason for the success of NIN then The Downward Spiral is it. Through every track, you can feel the deep, personal exploration that Reznor goes through as he battles his addictions, his anger, and his self-loathing. The fast-paced, loud instrumentation does not overshadow the meaning of any song and instead elevates every track. Stand-out tracks include “Closer”, “Hurt”, and “I Do Not Want This”.

9- Illmatic by Nas (1994)

The debut album by rapper Nas, Illmatic is an album that makes use of great instrumentation, production, messaging, and features to create a fantastic rap record. It’s clear why Illmatic made Nas well-known as his flow, rhythm, and emotion are perfect during every song. His skill as a songwriter is also clear with every song imbedded with personal experiences and deeper meanings.

This album is perfectly cohesive with every song still feeling unique. Illmatic is not only essential to 90s rap but it is essential to the rap genre overall. Stand-out tracks include “N.Y. State of Mind”, “Life’s a B****”, and “The World Is Yours”.

8- Innuendo by Queen (1991)

The last album Queen would make with Freddie Mercury, it’s no wonder that Innuendo stands out amongst the band’s large discography. Innuendo is everything that Queen is good at; fantastic instrumentation, unique lyrics, and a level of energy and emotion that Freddie Mercury carries through every song.

Innuendo shows that Queen is a band that can transcend multiple decades to be one of the best rock bands of all time. Stand-out tracks include “Innuendo”, “I’m Going Slightly Mad”, and “The Show Must Go On”.

7- Ray of Light by Madonna (1998)

Madonna is known for reinventing herself with every album, and this habit is most remembered with her 1998 record Ray of Light. Exploring new sounds while still being purely Madonna, Ray of Light is a collection of dynamic sounds that come together to tell a trippy, synth-filled story.

Madonna dove into psychedelic pop and techno to craft an album unlike any she’s made before or since. Ray of Light is a fun, joyous exploration of music that is also well-made. Stand-out tracks include “Ray of Light”, “Nothing Really Matters”, and “Sky Fits Heaven”.

6- Goo by Sonic Youth (1990)

Goo by Sonic Youth is perfect college rock; every song rests on fun instrumentation and interesting lyrics that pull you in with their simplicity and intricacy. Sonic Youth was never as well known as other 80s/90s bands, but that’s for all the better. Throughout Goo, you can still feel Sonic Youth exploring their own sound and diving into new ideas that a more popular band wouldn’t have thought of doing.

Goo is unlike the angry, grungy rock that the 90s are known for, and it is one of Sonic Youth’s best albums. Stand-out tracks include “Tunic (Song for Karen)”, “Kool Thing”, and “Cinderella’s Big Score”.

5- Violator by Depeche Mode (1990)

Depeche Mode is a master of new wave music, and they prove that with Violator. This album, carried over from the electronic 80s, is incredibly well-made while still having a lot of mass appeal. The instrumentation and production are fantastic and each song is masterfully crafted.

Even amongst the many electronic artists that were prominent in the 90s, Depeche Mode stands out above the rest and Violator shows why. Stand-out tracks include “Personal Jesus”, “Enjoy the Silence”, and “Policy of Truth”.

4- The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill by Lauryn Hill (1998)

The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is an incredible record that explores not only what it’s like to be an African American but also what it’s like to be an African American woman. Lauryn Hill embeds her experiences into every song, whether about heartbreak or coming to terms with racial discrimination.

Miseducation is a wonderful album that, with a flawless mix of hip-hop and R&B, crafts a beautiful, intimate portrait of the Black American life. Stand-out tracks include “Ex-Factor”, “Every Ghetto, Every City”, and “Doo Wop (That Thing”.

3- AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted by Ice Cube (1990)

N.W.A.-alum Ice Cube showed that he was more than just a group act with 1990’s AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted. Not holding back anything, Ice Cube unleashes his anger, resentment, and joy across 16 tracks. On this album, Ice Cube does what he does best; challenging America’s prevalent racism through cutting lyrics and pure musical talent.

AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted is a great work of 1990s rap and showed how the genre was changing. Stand-out tracks include “Better Off Dead”, “AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted”, and “Rollin’ Wit the Lench Mob”.

2- Nevermind by Nirvana (1991)

Nirvana cemented themselves in rock history with Nevermind. If you need any representation of what people were feeling during the 90s then Nevermind is it. The mix of grungy instrumentation and Kurt Cobain’s depressing lyrics create an excellent rock album.

Nevermind is fantastic not only as a rock record but as an influence on 1990s society and the musicians of today. Stand-out tracks include “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, “Come As You Are”, and “Something In the Way”.

1- Ready to Die by The Notorious B.I.G. (1994)

No other rapper has come onto the music scene like The Notorious B.I.G. did with Ready to Die. While his career was unfortunately short-lived, his impact is still clear. Ready to Die is peak 1990s rap and one of the best rap albums of all time. The Notorious B.I.G. sounds great on every track, the instrumentation is catchy while still being unique, and the lyrics are attention-grabbing.

The Notorious B.I.G. explored topics that were too prevalent in the 1990s; Ready to Die explores topics of race, class, and mental health that are just as relevant today as they were in 1994. And that’s not mentioning the clear talents of The Notorious B.I.G. who proved himself to be a remarkable rapper. Stand-out tracks include “Gimme the Loot”, “Juicy”, “Big Poppa”, and “Suicidal Thoughts”.

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About the Contributor
Tyler Hayley, Reporter and Editor
Tyler Hayley is part of the Granada High School class of 2025 and has been writing for The Pomegranate since 2021. He is a member of Model United Nations and the Workers' Rights Club at Granada. He enjoys writing short stories and reading in his spare time.

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