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20 Biggest Songs of the Summer: The 1990s

Teen pop and R&B balladry dominate the Hot 100 in the Clinton years

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If you only looked at the album charts, the Nineties were defined by the mainstream breakthroughs of alternative rock and gangsta rap: angry men selling millions of records to each other. But the Hot 100 retained a youthful glow, particularly in the summer, with smash singles by teenage R&B heroes like Monica and Destiny’s Child, as well as pop prodigies like Hanson and Christina Aguilera. From New Jack Swing to New Kids on the Block, here are the biggest Nineties hits that dominated the charts between June and September, dictated by peak chart positions and total length of run on the Hot 100. We’ve also ignored all the unseasonal ballads – so our apologies to Elton John, Bryan Adams and more.

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4. Sir Mix-A-Lot, “Baby Got Back”

When Rick Rubin encouraged one of his American Records artists, Sir Mix-A-Lot, to release his uptempo ode to backsides as a single, he also handpicked the video’s director, Adam Bernstein, who had helmed quirky clips for They Might Be Giants and the B-52’s. “[Mix-A-Lot] really wanted a giant ass in the video, and he wanted to be coming out of it,” Bernstein recalled in Vulture‘s recent oral history of the song. “I suggested that maybe wasn’t a great idea.”

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3. Los Del Rio, “Macarena (Bayside Boys Mix)”

The Spanish pop duo Los Del Rio had been together for three decades by the time they wrote their biggest hit, “Macarena,” in 1992. But it took four years and several different versions before a remix with English language verses became the worldwide dance phenomenon with the longest climb to Number One in Hot 100 history, peaking after 46 weeks(!) on the chart.

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2. TLC, “Waterfalls”

TLC’s signature song, a socially conscious ballad touching on drug addiction and the HIV epidemic, was produced by Organized Noize, then best known for their work with Atlanta rap groups Outkast and Goodie Mob. Cee-Lo Green of Goodie Mob sang backup on the track, a decade before he’d make blockbuster pop hits of his own.

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1. Brandy and Monica, “The Boy Is Mine”

Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney launched Thriller‘s singles campaign with “The Girl Is Mine,” playfully quarreling over a love triangle. Fifteen years later, two rising R&B stars created a more dramatic answer song, bigger than its inspiration, topping the charts for a whopping 15 weeks in the summer of 1998.

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