When we talk about movie soundtracks, let's talk about the '90s
Hands down, the ’90s were the best. It was a decade that had such creative expression in music, fashion, film, and more. During this time we witnessed Seattle’s grunge zenith, Frankie Knuckle’s dance scene spreading to new realms, the best pop hits on MTV, and country and hip-hop appearing on mainstream channels.
Not to mention the fashion. From floral baby doll dresses to grunge, the ’90s had it covered. Winona Ryder clad in a leather jacket became our ultimate It Girl, and offbeat characters like Clarissa from Clarissa Explains It All proved wearing oversized shirts paired with Doc Martens was a kool thing. It was a decade of colorful tracksuits and Zubaz pants à la The French Prince of Bel-Air.
But let’s talk about music. Specifically, the music in the movies during the ’90s. With the explosion of music, fashion and film, it clearly made sense to mix all of these elements to create a magical syncretism that is 1990’s movie soundtracks.
From Reality Bites to Boyz n the Hood, these movies had truly incredible soundtracks. So let’s take a look at some of our favorites, shall we?
’90s films were highly focused around teen drama, love and vengeance; Cruel Intentions is a perfect example of that formula. However, Cruel Intentions was not sugarcoated drama or bubblegum pop, and the movie is best explained by Roger Ebert’s words: “It’s smart and merciless.” Even better, it had one of the best and most versatile movie soundtracks. Who can forget that epic ending scene paired with The Verve’s “Bitter Sweet Symphony”? From Placebo to Aimee Mann, nothing screams ’90s like this soundtrack.
Must hear songs: “Coffee & TV” by Blur, “Praise You” by Fatboy Slim.
Grunge belongs to the ’90s. In 1992, Singles had major importance; grunge had travelled from the streets of Seattle to Main Street. Also, the film delivered one of the most iconic soundtracks with legends across the board, from Alice in Chains to Mudhoney. Grunge was on everyone’s radar. In fashion that same year, Marc Jacobs got fired from Perry Ellis for his grunge collection. His runway show would later be recognized as one of the most beloved and widely-remembered collections of the 90s. Singles is the perfect soundtrack for your defiant, grunge-loving soul.
Must hear songs: “State of Love and Trust” by Pearl Jam, “Nearly Lost You” by Screaming Trees
3BOYZ N THE HOOD
Grunge was arriving in mainstream channels of music, fashion and film in the ’90s. Meanwhile, hip-hop was serving a community facing the struggles of political and racial tensions. Hip-hop served as a resistance. Boyz n the Hood was also a teen drama, but rather than depicting life as a merry-go-round, it was an honest portrayal of being a teenager in the hood amid racism, poverty and negligence. Ice Cube delivers one of the most memorable quotes of cinema history, underscoring the lack of support in communities, he says: “Either they don’t know, don’t show, or don’t care about what’s going on in the hood.” Boyz n The Hood movie soundtrack is a perfect blueprint to the sound and life of being a teenager in South Central, Los Angeles during the ’90s.
Must hear songs: “Hanging out” by 2LIVE CREW, “Mama Don’t Take No Mess” by Yo Yo
Quentin Tarantino’s classic was a modern take on noir films. It was a perfect intersection of surreal plots inspired in gangster and Western movies, but bathed in music and palatable dialogues. From the legendary opening scene to Uma Thurman and Travolta dancing to Chuck Berry’s “You Never Can Tell,” Pulp Fiction proved to be an alternative creative vein in cinema.
Must hear songs: “Let’s stay together” by Al Green, “Son Of A Preacher Man” by Dusty Springfield
We can’t talk about the ’90s, without talking about Clueless. It’s a pop culture institution. It’s teen drama. And it’s probably a movie we can quote endlessly. Clueless is an example of cinema anchored in fashion and music; an elegant pairing that serves as historical evidence which chronicles teenage pop culture. “Kids in America” immediately plays in our heads when thinking of Clueless, however, interestingly, the movie soundtrack oscillates from Radiohead’s indie alt rock to funk classics like “Rollin’ With My Homies.”
Must hear tracks: “Rollin’ With My Homies” by Coolio, “Alright” by Supergrass, “Fake Plastic Trees” by Radiohead
From films to music, the ’90s truly gave us the best archaeological findings of pop culture.