Using data to define the official canon of 90s music

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2020/07/31/using-data-to-define-the-offic.html

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Gen Xers would have been a better cohort to study as we were hard partying teenagers (and arriving to our early 20s) in the 90s.

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I just realised looking at the titles just how moving overseas in 1990 is like a cutoff point: before then, most of my music recognition is from the USA, but afterwards I hardly recognise acts that never made it to Germany. I don’t know a single song by the Barenaked Ladies, or a lot of popular soul acts, and so on. And am at the same time surprised when no one in the USA knows Bananafishbones, as I thought they were known outside of Germany (they aren’t, Other Fnordius, they aren’t).

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Same here, although I left the US a few years after you did.

Or Culture Beat or Mr. Presdient? These songs were monster hits in Europe in the 90s. I wonder if any Americans recognize them…



(not saying they are great songs, just that they were ubiquitous back in the day…)
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90s charting songs and there’s no Goo Goo Dolls? Wallflowers? Beck?

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I certainly recognize Culture Beat, but I like a lot of 90’s dance stuff.

Example, Vengaboys:

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oof, I remember that one too. A lot of music in that style that is successful in Europe has simple refrains that are easy for people with even limited English to repeat - this is a good example of that.

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I think there needs to be levels to this.
-Do you recognize it?
-Do you know the words?
-Do you own it?

I mean as a gen-X’er, I would expect like 90% of people around 40 would have heard “No Digity”.
You can also thrown in Ginuwine, “My Pony”. But that’s like top 3 strip club music at this point.

I’m really surprised by the lack of 90’s music that gets played on the local radio. I hear the more -A and B tracks from the late 90’s early 2000’s like Harvey Danger. I mean it’s a good song and I like it, but pretty close to a one hit wonder. But unless it’s a 90’s throw back weekend I never hear Garbage and they were huge in the late 90’s.

Also, I know most of the words to “The Sign”, my wife owns that CD. I also own several of the Spice Girls albums and singles. I’m pretty sure I don’t represent the “average” American music listener.
(Thrown in a lot of late 90’s EDM Big Beat as well.)

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The music that I listen to is special for reasons. It makes me a special person - again for reasons. You probably don’t understand.

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I’m looking forward to the day when my kids are old enough I blast Lords of Acid in the car once again.

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The study includes Gen Z, Millenials, Gen X, and Boomers. They’re still collecting responses, you can take the survey right now.

However, the whole point is to construct a canon based on whether 90’s songs have longevity beyond the 90’s, which they define as whether the songs are recognized by people who were not yet hard partying teenagers (or not even born yet) in the 90’s.

So the responses by Gen Xers and Boomers create a baseline of recognition for a song when it was popular, by people who were around (and partying, etc.) then. Millennials’ responses demonstrate how well the song is known by people who were around but very young when it was popular. Yet it’s Gen Z’s responses that really indicate whether the song has stood the test of time, because they didn’t exist yet when the song was popular.


I think it’s an interesting exercise, but I question whether canons should be defined by continuing recognition alone. Shouldn’t it also take into account, for example, the influence the song has had on later music?

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Admittedly I was pretty out of the pop music loop for a 90s kid (and extra out of the R&B loop), but I’d never heard of “All My Life” before reading this, and am realizing only just now that “K Ci & JoJo” is not the same thing as 70s pop group “KC and the Sunshine Band.”

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When their mum was out my girls and I would have Ramones dance parties. Yeah, not 90’s but the point is to raise your kids on good music. I don’t know Lords of Acid, but the little I heard sounds like and opportunity to talk about Drugs, Sex, and Rock n Roll.

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It’s interesting to hear you say that, because I was just recognizing the other day about how music really peaked during the time I was around 15-20. It’s some of the best music ever made, when you think about it. Especially when compared to the superficial garbage that counts as popular music now.

I feel bad for other people born at other times, to be honest, that didn’t get the benefit I did and can’t understand it the way I can.

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I’m curious if Pudding has data on retention longevity when the song has been covered by Weird Al.

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Yeah, when it comes to the canonization of pop music, Weird Al is the Vatican.

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There used to be endless “oldies” radio stations ppl listened to, and the songs they kept in rotation were the “oldies” that we learned about. Nowadays, it’s whether a song has A) gone viral for weird reasons like “Never Gonna Give You Up” which would be totally unknown to Gen Z otherwise; or B) the song has been used in a movie or TV show, prompting millions of YouTube comments “who else is here because of the Star Falcon Seven episode?”

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Valid points, but I personally refuse to let other generations define my decade for me. Certainly not the sneering boomers, or the barely sentient rugrats.

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It’s not from the 90s (2003), but the US just not getting “The Ketchup Song” cracks me up.

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