What Happened To Them?: Your Favorite Female Rock Stars From The '90s

When you jam a scratched CD into your 10-year-old car’s disc player, there’s a good chance it’ll get stuck in there forever. Sure, I probably should have examined the disc beforehand. But it happened at the end of a work day, and I was a bit frazzled as is.

However, something good did come of this unfortunate incident. Since there aren’t many good radio stations around me, I typically settle for “Soft Rock” to help guide me home. This station, in general, is fond of playing Natalie Imbruglia’s hit Torn, which is great, since I’m a huge fan of screeching that song out of my vocal chords during solo drives. But during the instrumental part, I thought “Natalie Imbruglia – what ever happened to her?”

Thus, this week’s column idea was born. Today I’m going to go over some of the best female rockers from the ’90s, and help you piece together the most awesome throwback mix CD ever (that you hopefully won’t be as careless with if you play it in your car.)

Natalie Imbruglia

We’ll start with Natalie. This Aussie actually started her career as an actress, playing Beth on the Australian soap opera Neighbours. Shortly after she left the show, she started her music career by releasing her debut album Left Of The Middle in 1997. It sold over 6 million copies. Did you realize that Torn was actually a cover song? The original version was created by LA-based band Ednaswap.

Her second release, White Lilies Island, debuted in 2001. She took pride in the fact that she co-wrote all of her songs, which is partially why it was released so late. Her third album was ready in 2004, but her record label refused to release it based on the fact that it just wasn’t as radio friendly as they grew to expect. She parted ways with the label, and joined another to release 2005’s Counting Down The Days. This album brought her second biggest hit, Shiver.

Things got kind of messy with Natalie’s next few releases, and once again, she found herself parting with her record label. After a long hiatus, Natalie signed with New York based Primary Wave Music in 2013 with intentions on reviving her music career again.

Between albums, you might have seen her as a host for the Australian version of The X-Factor during its second season. She also acted in two films last year.

Shawn Colvin

My sincere apologies to those who’ll still have Sunny Came Home in their heads for the remainder of the day. Shawn actually released a bunch of other recordings prior to the song going mainstream, including a live album from 1988 and a collection of cover songs.

The album that featured Sunny Came Home, called A Few Small Repairs, won the 1998 Grammy Awards for both Song and Record of the Year and also went platinum.

Shawn released her eighth studio album in 2012, and is constantly collaborating with other musical artists, including James Taylor, Edwin McCain, and Bela Fleck. Like Natalie, she’s not afraid to make a few television appearances – In 2011, she appeared on the HBO series Treme.

She’s currently on tour through April, playing a few cities with singer-songwriter Steve Earle. She’s also a big fan of taking selfies with some of her fellow musicians. (That’s her below, with Mary Chapin Carpenter.)


Natalie Merchant

You might recognize Natalie from her super successful band 10,000 Maniacs. Natalie left in 1993 to do her own work, and released Tigerlily in 1995 which she funded all by herself. The summer during her second solo release, Ophelia, was the summer in which Sarah McLachlan asked Natalie to co-headline the Lilith Fair with her.

Despite Natalie claiming that she’d never sign with a major label again in 2003, she joined forces with Nonesuch Records in 2010. Just this month, she announced that she’ll be releasing a self-titled album under the label that’s set to be released this May.

She also had a hand in directing the documentary SHELTER: A Concert Film to Benefit Victims of Domestic Violence, which features women from New York and their experiences with domestic violence in their communities.

Sarah McLachlan

Speaking of Sarah, isn’t Surfacing the best album ever? Surfacing could honestly be a Greatest Hits compilation. The world agreed at some point, since it gained her two Grammys and four Juno awards.

You might recognize Sarah from her sad dog advertisements, but she’s done a lot more than that recently. (All jokes aside, she’s helped the ASPCA gain a ton of attention!)

Following the end of the Lillith Fair, she had two children with then-husband Ashwin Sood. In 2003, she released the album Afterglow, and used the money that was budgeted towards her first video to support numerous charities. In 2006, she released a Christmas album called Wintersong, which included numerous covers of some holiday classics.

And of course, she’s still being charitable. Sarah funds an outreach program in Vancouver that provides music education for inner city children, and three years ago, she started the Sarah McLachlan School of Music which offers free musical education for underprivileged children.

Jewel

When we were first introduced to Jewel, we heard stories about how she lived in a car and wrote not-so-great poetry. Her teeth were a bit crooked, which made her pretty relatable – after all, she was a bit more like us. She created the songs that made us think our 7th grade boyfriend was our true, one and only love. And for those reasons, I absolutely adore Jewel.

If you owned Pieces Of You, here are two fun facts about it: First, Jewel was only 21 when she recorded the album (which was recorded live), and second, the album was on the Billboard 200 for two full years.

Jewel’s music became a bit more “dance party” in 2001, after her hit song Serve The Ego was released. In 2006, she moved back towards adult contemporary music with her album Goodbye Alice in Wonderland – yet unfortunately, it was one of her worst selling releases.

She tried a new genre in 2007 by attempting to go country with a new label. The change-up was pretty successful, though probably confusing for her earlier fans.

You might have caught her on a few reality TV shows, including a guest appearance on American Idol as a mentor, a co-host and judge on the songwriting competition Platinum Hit, and a judge on The Sing-Off.

Joan Osborne

Joan had one hit, and then decided to retract from the limelight. But that’s doesn’t mean she’s given up as a musician.

While her follow-up album, Righteous Love, didn’t succeed the way that Relish had, it turned Joan into an artist that was more soul than pop. Joan later appeared in Standing in the Shadows of Motown, a documentary film about the legendary label’s backing band, The Funk Brothers, whom she later toured with.

She recently announced the release her eighth studio recording, Love and Hate, which will hit stores on April 8th of this year. While you wait, you can catch Joan on tour.

Fiona Apple

Our girl Fiona has been through it all. Between fights with her record label, delayed releases, and personal struggles, she’s still staying strong.

In 2012, she released her latest album called The Idler Wheel (actually, similar to When The Pawn, the full title is much longer) which lent one of its songs to the soundtrack of the film This Is 40. In 2013, Fiona’s voice was heard singing an absolutely beautiful version of Pure Imagination for a commercial put out by Chipotle.

And of course, that whole 2012 drug arrest thing that happened in Texas. Hey – nothing she can’t handle.

Paula Cole

What would Dawson’s Creek be without Paula Cole? Not the same, I tell you! Just not the same!

The album This Fire, which contains a lot of the ’90s hits you love, was her second album on Warner Bros. Records, and was entirely self-produced. After her success, she took a three year hiatus to raise her daughter, and released an album called Amen under the name Paula Cole Band.

As she progressed, her albums were less commercial and more personal. In fact, one of the most personal moments was when she funded an album (her sixth) using funds from Kickstarter.

“I’ve been making albums since 1993 and I can honestly say this is an important one, a brilliant one,” she said on her campaign page. “I’m now flying solo, off major labels and embracing the reality of going direct to my folks.”

While the project was successfully funded, unfortunately nobody pledged $10,000, which would have granted them lunch with Paula and a chance to talk about life.

Meredith Brooks

Meredith Brooks is a ballsy lady. After all, she turned the “B-word” into a song that most radio stations happily played during daylight hours, and made the term something to be sort of proud of.

Not like we should all start calling each other that, but…

Meredith is currently 55 years old, and started her career back in the ’70s, when she started up an all-girl rock band called Sapphire. She was signed to Capitol Records as a solo artist in 1995, and celebrated the success of ‘Bitch’ three years later.

Meredith kind of stepped away from the spotlight after an upsetting show in Argentina, where she was opening for the Rolling Stones. The crowd was overly excited (and possibly drunk) for the Stones that they couldn’t wait for Meredith to get off stage – and even threw rocks at her, which caused a lot of physical and emotional damage. “I don’t want to be a pop-star,” she said after the incident. “I made an album that speaks about hope, resurrection, waking up, an album that has a very deep message. What is Rock and Roll? It’s just an illusion, a moment. My life is worth more than a show.”

After she was dropped from Capitol Records, she released an album on a new label that folded immediately after its release. Re-releasing it with SLG Records under a new name, her song ‘Shine’ got the attention of Dr. Oz, who used the song as the theme music for his show.

Lisa Loeb

Out of all the women mentioned above, my absolute favorite was probably Lisa Loeb. She was one of the first women who made glasses pretty darn cool, had a #1 hit without having a contract, and the fact that her song was featured in one of my favorite movies – Reality Bites – just sealed the deal.

I have her second album completely memorized.

In 2002, Lisa released the album Cake And Pie, which was later relaunched to be called Hello Lisa – which, of course referenced Hello Kitty. When she was dating fellow musician Dweezil Zappa, the two of them had a cooking show called Dweezil & Lisa, which lasted a season.

Lisa released three more albums not including a Greatest Hits – most recently No Fairy Tale, which she helped co-produce. She’s also done a lot of work with children’s music, which is a perfect match for her voice (which is undeniably sweet).

She also has her own eyewear brand, and her own coffee. And two children, with husband Roey Hershkovitz.

Who is your favorite female musician from the ’90s? I most definitely missed a bunch. It’s so hard to try and profile so much talent in one article. I mean, let’s face it. Women dominated music this decade.

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