This is partially a note on methodology, but mainly a way to have one place where this whole quixotic, time-consuming project can live. Also, I have made a playlist of it, for listening.
I’ve called these “Pop Songs” using a fairly expansive definition of “Pop” which with a few exceptions just means “songs by bands”. For no reasons that would hold up under scrutiny other than to refine the scope of the thing and to play to my actual knowledge and interest this does not include individual pop stars like Madonna or Britney, hip hop, anything instrumental or jazzy, or any songs by Green Jello. Remember those guys? I have no idea why they just popped into my head, but that’s the kind of thing we’re dealing with here.
Also, I’ve tried (and occasionally failed) to limit this to one song per band, per album, because nobody wants to hear me do a track-by-track exegesis of June of 44′s Four Great Points.
I won’t go too much into the dark, nerdy magic behind the spreadsheets I made to get this list together before I started writing it up, but as a loose guideline, I used four scales to determine the rank of each song: 1. Objective musical value (oops, yikes), 2. Value to me (did I love it then?, do I love it now?), 3. ’90s-ness, and 4. Influence (on, like, future, non-’90s bands). As an example of how this worked in practice, “Hey Jealousy”, clearly the greatest song ever written, got extremely high marks in categories 2. and 3. and extremely low marks in categories 1. and 4. (because let’s be honest), which is why it is where it is on the list and (spoilers) not at #1.
This list is designed to be skimmed through and strongly disagreed with and occasionally nodded sagely at, and I hope you enjoy it. It’s been really fun to make.
Here’s the list, in 10 parts:
And if you want to listen along, here’s a playlist of all the songs that exist on Spotify, which is most of them. Have fun!