’90s Love Songs That Shaped Our Adolescence

At 13, I stood roughly five feet and six inches tall, wore JNCOs, and listened to Jewel’s ‘Pieces of You’ on repeat in my bedroom, where my walls were covered with Anne Geddes posters and pictures of Macaulay Culkin. Despite never having been in a relationship or experiencing anything close to “love,” I still obsessively listened to the love songs of the mid to late ‘90s while daydreaming about what my first boyfriend would look like.

I can honestly say I am still weary of the “dream boy” and have continued, throughout my life, to seek out the intense bonding that takes place when you fall in love. Fifteen years later, I LOL at some of these songs, but somewhere deep down I still have a tiny spot of nostalgia for all of them that swarms over my heart like a beehive. Here, I present you with the songs that shaped so many of my awkward tween ideas about love and longing (and probably yours, too).

1. Hootie and the Blowfish – “Let Her Cry

The wails of a man who has lost a woman he could barely hold close in the first place. He wants to love her, but knows they don’t speak the same love language and must simply accept the ache of love that no longer exists.

2. Natalie Imbruglia – “Torn

When this song first became popular, I had just failed Algebra for the second time. I would walk home listening to this on my Walkman and feel the angst. I hadn’t met my first boyfriend yet, but I knew he’d break my heart and never “get” me, like Natalie. Also, she was and remains absolutely gorgeous, and I am seriously considering cutting all my hair off to look exactly like hers in this video.

3. The Cardigans – “Lovefool

In my mind, I desperately wanted to be a totally cool and coy twenty-something in a Swedish rock band. Again, I haven’t changed much. The sunflowers throughout the video are a staple of the ’90s.

4. Savage Garden – “Truly Madly Deeply

There are no words.

5. Mariah Carey – “Fantasy

Everything about this video felt powerful and bossy. Mariah is the epitome of confident and cool. Shortly after this video was released, I took on rollerblading and promptly tore a ligament in my ankle. What can I say? Mariah on rollerblades was compelling, and I vied to be anything like her.

6. TLC – “Waterfalls

I honestly didn’t understand what this song was about when I was 13, but I knew it was deep, and I knew whatever it was T-Boz was singing about was dark and complicated. Now I understand how powerful and political this song is, and I love TLC genuinely, without any irony. They were a powerful female hip hop and R&B group composed of women of color in a Britney-Spears-dominated MTV world.

7. Aaliyah – “Are You That Somebody

Her deep, low vocals, the beat, her choker, the green eyeshadow: e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g about this video. Also when Dr. Castellano, danced to this song for Mindy on The Mindy Project, my heart melted and my expectations for surprise romantic gestures reached their peak.

8. Jewel – “Foolish Games

Whoever Jewel had fallen in love with, I was certain I wanted to fall in love with too, even if it would only tear me apart.

It’s weird to think these songs were so popular over a decade ago, but re-listening to all of them, I see their intrinsic value and lovely influence on my heart, if only for going down memory lane during my lunch break.

Images via, via, via, via, via, via, via, via, via.

Filed Under