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Readers Poll: The Worst Songs of the Nineties

‘I’m Too Sexy,’ ‘My Heart Will Go On’ and more

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Billy Ray Cyrus

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When people look back on a decade's music they tend to focus on the good stuff – but the people who lived through the time period know better. While the 1990s certainly had amazing music, not everything on the radio was Nirvana or Radiohead. Michael Bolton, Kenny G. and Vanilla Ice sold enough records to fill 500 landfills – which is where most of those records now reside. Last week, we asked our readers to vote for the worst song of the 1990s. Here are the results.

By Andy Greene

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10. 4 Non Blondes, ‘What’s Up?’

Long before Linda Perry was writing hits for Pink and Christina Aguilera, she was the dreadlocked frontwoman for the short-lived alt-rock band 4 Non Blondes. They had a monster hit in 1993 with "What's Up?" – and then broke up before even cutting a follow-up disc. Perry recently shared with Rolling Stone her true feelings about 4 Non Blondes. "I wasn't really a big fan of my band," she said. "I didn't like the record at all. 'Drifting' was the only song I loved. I did love 'What's Up?' but I hated the production. When I heard our record for the first time I cried. It didn't sound like me. It made me belligerent and a real asshole. I wanted to say, 'We're a fucking, bad-ass cool band. We're not that fluffy polished bullshit that you're listening to.' It was really difficult."

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9. Right Said Fred, ‘I’m Too Sexy’

Supermodels were so big in the 1990s that Cindy Crawford was allowed to star in a major Hollywood movie and Naomi Campbell, Elle Macpherson, Claudia Schiffer and Christy Turlington opened a chain of restaurants. Sure, Fair Game is a wretched movie and the Fashion Cafe imploded almost as fast as Britney Spears' restaurant Nyla – but these people were still getting awfully big egos. British pop duo Right Said Fred poked fun at the models' supreme sense of self-worth with their 1991 mega-hit "I'm Too Sexy." The song was funny the 10 ten times you heard it, but then it just wouldn't go away.

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8. Baha Men, ‘Who Let The Dogs Out?’

This didn't actually come out until the summer of 2000, but if Bill Clinton was president and no one had ever heard of a hanging chad, we're still counting it as the 1990s. "Who Let The Dogs Out?" was also originally recorded by Anslem Douglas in 1998. Two years later it was covered by Bahamiam band the Baha Men, and the song quickly became a worldwide hit. The Seattle Mariners began playing it in the summer of 2000, and countless stadiums across the world have continued to practice to it. In January of 2008, presidential candidate Mitt Romney broke into a spontaneous rendition of the song at a Martin Luther King Day parade in Florida. It remains one of the funniest things on YouTube. 

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7. Celine Dion, ‘My Heart Will Go On’

Not everyone will admit it now, but back in 1997 most everybody thought Titanic was a great movie. (It even won Best Picture!) The soundtrack also sold about 10 trillion copies, entirely based on the astounding success of the single "My Heart Will Go On." Celine Dion's song and the movie have aged very poorly, but if you were a 13-year-old girl in 1997 odds are very high this song made you cry your eyes out. Now it probably just makes you cringe. 

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6. Hanson, ‘MMMBop’

Hanson's 1997 hit "MMMBop" was the big bang of the late 1990s teen pop revival. It was all over radio long before anybody had ever heard of N'Sync, the Backstreet Boys or even (at least in America) the Spice Girls. The song was the debut single from Hanson, a trio of brothers from Oklahoma who had been performing together since they were very young children. Before they knew it, the boys were being mobbed at shopping malls and leaving groups of crying girls everywhere they went. Many see Hanson as a one-hit wonder band, but their fan base has remained incredibly loyal and they continue to play big shows. They even still play "MMMBop," though one imagines that isn't their favorite part of the show these days. 

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5. Chumbawamba, ‘Tubthumping’

"Tubthumping" may sound like it was written by a perpetually drunk British party band that loved nothing more than "pissing the night away." But Chumbawamba are actually a deeply political group that have been preaching anarchy for 30 years. This 1997 song briefly made them famous in America, and when they appeared on Politically Incorrect that year, they urged fans to steal their album. They remain somewhat popular in England, but here in America they are about as big as the Baha Men. 

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4. Vanilla Ice, ‘Ice Ice Baby’

Vanilla Ice was just asking for a backlash when he released "Ice Ice Baby" in the summer of 1990. Not only did he not give Queen any credit for the famous bassline, but he lied to reporters by telling them that he grew up in the ghetto. Also, he just really came off like a tool. Still, his album To The Extreme sold tons of copies and briefly turned Ice into a superstar. By 1992, Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre were on the scene and Vanilla Ice seemed pathetically passé. In the past few years, he's become a reality TV star and a budding real estate mogul.

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3. Billy Ray Cyrus, ‘Achy Breaky Heart’

Billy Ray Cyrus was just 20 years old when "Achy Breaky Heart" turned him into a country superstar. The song was a huge crossover hit that introduced line-dancing to people all across the globe. A hit like that should have forever destroyed Billy Ray's career, but he started acting in the early 2000s – and in 2005 his daughter Miley landed the role of Hannah Montana and Billy Ray was cast as her father. He's now a TV icon to teenagers all across the country, most of whom have probably never heard "Achy Breaky Heart."

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2. Los Del Rio, ‘Macarena’

If 1996 had to be defined by a single moment it might be Bob Dole cracking a lame joke that he was doing the Macarena when he fell off the stage in California. The dance hit by Latin dance group Los del Rio was inescapable that year, spending an astonishing 14 weeks at the Number One spot on the Billboard Hot 100. The song actually first surfaced in 1992 and was remixed many times over the next four years, but an English version by the Bayside Boys went nuclear in America in 1996. It also spawned a worldwide dance craze, but everybody heard that song 10,000 times that year and it's barely been played at a bar mitzvah since.

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1. Aqua, ‘Barbie Girl’

Barbie Girl – written by the Danish dance-pop group Aqua – is an incredibly polarizing song. Many people were offended by the portrayal of a woman as a man's plastic doll, begging him to "undress me everywhere." Others loved the over-the-top cartoonish video and bizarre sound of the song. Mattel (the makers of Barbie) were less than pleased that their product was being presented in such an overtly sexual way and filed a lawsuit. The courts ruled that the song was a parody and thus permissible, but Mattel took it all the way to the Supreme Court. The company had a change of heart in 2009, when they changed the lyrics and used the song in an ad campaign.  

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