Remember that dancing bee girl from Blind Melon’s “No Rain” video? She’s 30. That won’t mean much to incoming college freshmen, who weren’t even alive during Kurt Cobain‘s lifetime. But for those who wore flannel shirts and watched that new show Late Night with Conan O’Brien in 1993, it might seem like someone hit life’s skip-forward button.
As Gen X-ers wonder how they became middle-aged so soon, here are 20 tunes they can’t fathom are 20 years old.
“Loser” by Beck
When Beck burst onto the scene in 1993, the dude was hip. The boyish looks, the stylish clothes, those funky beats – seems like all you ever heard on MTV was Beck this and Beck that. It didn’t hurt that the “Loser” chorus was the perfect slacker anthem for college grads who found themselves working in shoe stores and coffee shops during the early Nineties recession. Today, the 42-year-old artist continues to make music, exploring a variety of genres. But fellow fortysomethings with retirement plans and kids in middle school still jam to the soundtrack of their early failures.
“It Was a Good Day” by Ice Cube
Bangin’ in the hood can be pretty stress-inducing (as if we’d know). But when Ice Cube released this glass-half-full song, it was good to know that even the most hardcore gangsta rappers could look on the bright side of life. Sure, there was a strong dark undercurrent (“Today I didn’t even have to use my A.K.”). But in light of South Central’s violent milieu, even optimism swathed in irony offered a glimmer of hope, especially when put to a sample of the Isley Brothers’ laid-back groove “Footsteps in the Dark.”
“All Apologies” by Nirvana
Kurt Cobain dedicated this song to wife Courtney Love and their daughter, Frances Bean Cobain. Four months after its release, Cobain was gone, a victim of his inner struggles. A preface to Cobain’s hand-written suicide note, “All Apologies” – backed by “Rape Me” – was the band’s last single. The toddler Cobain left behind will be 21 in August.
“Who Am I (What’s My Name?)” by Snoop Doggy Dogg
Those who hadn’t heard the name from Dr. Dre’s 1992 album The Chronic heard it plenty in this funky solo debut, featuring 22-year-old Calvin Broadus rapping about the gangsta life but in a laid-back, not-so-threatening kinda way. Mellowed even more by the years – and a steady weed regimen – he’s changed his name to Snoop Lion, and his latest work is far more Rasta than gangsta.
“Runaway Train” by Soul Asylum
Two years after running away to California, 16-year-old Elizabeth Wiles saw herself on the “Runaway Train” video and decided to return to her family in Lamar, Arkansas. While the song was more about lost love than lost kids, video director Tony Kaye decided to make the video a gut-wrenching piece about runaways. Three different U.S. videos, plus tailored videos in other countries, featured photos of numerous missing children. Several kids did return home after seeing themselves in the videos. But not all the kids pictured had happy endings. Some are still missing today; others were found dead. Still, the video remains a testament to the power of media – and rock & roll – even if some horrific things can’t be undone.
“No Rain” by Blind Melon
At age 10, Heather DeLoach put on a bee costume and became a defining image of the Nineties. The Dancing Bee Girl didn’t have the greatest moves, but she was memorable. The video for “No Rain” quickly created a huge, ahem, buzz, and DeLoach found herself meeting Madonna, sharing a dressing room with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and joking with Jay Leno. While Melon singer Shannon Hoon would become a drug casualty in 1995, DeLoach later appeared in a Weird Al video, graduated from college, and even had acting gigs on shows like ER and Reno 911. She now runs a business called Sweet Bee Candy Stations and Event Planning in Lake Forest, CA.
“Creep” by Radiohead
If Beck’s “Loser” was a slacker anthem, “Creep” – as in “I’m a creep, I’m a weirdo, I don’t belong here” – called out to the self-loathers and outcasts. At the time, Radiohead might have seemed like one-hit wonders, but they quickly turned out to be quite the opposite, establishing themselves as the most acclaimed and innovative band of their generation. Even so, they still play “Creep” once in a while.
“I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston
Houston’s death last year is still shocking. And now her melisma masterpiece – her “I-eeeeee-I” cover of Dolly Parton‘s song – is 20. Recorded for The Bodyguard soundtrack, the song was released in 1992 but was so successful it was also one of the giant hits of 1993. Kevin Costner, Houston’s co-star in the film, handpicked the song to be in the movie, and it became a perfect fit for two lovers who go their own way.
“I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” by the Proclaimers
Let’s set the record straight: this is not a song by the guys who did “Birdhouse in Your Soul.” That was They Might Be Giants. While this bouncy song – originally released in 1988, but made an American hit in 1993 with the Benny and Joon soundtrack – added nicely to the dork-rock canon, the Proclaimers haven’t hung up their protractors. They recently released a greatest hits album, which includes this tune and 29 other songs. They released their ninth album in April, and, yes, they still wear nerdy glasses when they perform.
“Whoomp (There It Is)” by Tag Team
Try this: Go to a crowded bar and shout real loud, “WHOOMP!” If no one shouts back, “THERE IT IS!” then somehow you’ve found your way onto a distant planet. Because even 20 years after Tag Team started this hip-hop call and response, every man, woman and Martian knows that WHOOMP! is followed by THERE IT IS!
The duo whoomped for the last time in 1995, but they made headlines again in 2012 when rumors circulated that a young Barack Obama was in the Whoomp video. (He wasn’t.)
“What’s Up?” by 4 Non Blondes
It doesn’t seem that long since Linda Perry wailed “Hey yeah yeah eh-eh,” but it might as well be another lifetime. Because that Linda Perry, with her big hat, steampunk goggles, floppy dreads and half-crazed expression, was bound to be a one-hit wonder. Her song was even relegated to Worst Songs Ever lists. But in the 2000s, she resurfaced (sans hat, unfortunately) as an in-demand, chart-topping songwriter for Pink, Christina Aguilera and Gwen Stefani, among others.
“I Would Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)” by Meat Loaf
So, what exactly was that? The consensus seemed to be – and this is not just us talking – that that had to be a sex act. Meat probably didn’t mind the speculation, which helped draw attention to his first hit in 15 years. He enjoyed his comeback for a while, but dipped into obscurity for several years until we saw him screaming at Gary Busey on Celebrity Apprentice. He later apologized, saying it was his most embarrassing moment – a comment that could be challenged by 2012, when he butchered “America the Beautiful” at a Mitt Romney rally.
“Insane in the Brain” by Cypress Hill
Here’s a short dialogue overheard in 1993:
Dude No. 1: That guy’s crazy, man.
Dude No. 2: Yeah, he’s insane.
Dude No. 1: Insane in the membrane?
Dudes No. 1 and No. 2, in unison: INSANE IN THE BRAIN!
The whistling cousin to House of Pain’s “Jump Around,” this pro-weed hip-hop tune still provides the battle cry for those who are more than a little loco.
“Soul to Squeeze” by Red Hot Chili Peppers
Though the band has been around for 30 years – and were recently inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – it still feels like the Chili Peppers are a relatively new group. But three of the guys are now in their 50s, which is ten years older than the Stones were around the time people started calling them geezers. “Soul to Squeeze,” originally recorded in 1991, but released two years later for the movie The Coneheads, referred to singer Anthony Kiedis’s drug addiction, which would only get worse as the band became music giants of the Nineties.
“Whatta Man” by Salt-n-Pepa With En Vogue
While gangsta rap was in the throes of misogyny (Dr. Dre’s “Bitches Ain’t Shit” comes to mind), Salt-n-Pepa shook their heads, held out a collective hand and declared, “No way.” These ladies commanded respect. But as the song says, good things await the man who does right by them.
“Are You Gonna Go My Way?” by Lenny Kravitz
Yes, this song was a radio staple, but what we really remember is the music video featuring that lady drummer with the great Afro. Cindy Blackman was a former street-busking jazz performer, trained at the prestigious Berklee College of Music, before she became Kravitz’s hip drummer in 1993, a gig that lasted 11 years. In 2010, she became a touring drummer with Carlos Santana, who proposed to her onstage later that year.
“Plush” by Stone Temple Pilots
So what if Scott Weiland’s vocals channeled Eddie Vedder, or that this song’s grimy chords capitalized on the already popular grunge movement? When STP debuted this number, we couldn’t help but imitate Weiland’s high baritone as we belted out (in the car, with the windows rolled up), “And I feeeeeeel so much depends on the weather”, while air-drumming the steering wheel.
For Weiland, subsequent years would bring addictions, band separations and – on the bright side – a not-so-grungy Christmas album.
“Mr. Jones” by Counting Crows
After this wordy tune became a pop smash, people who encountered the band’s singer would often shout, “Hey, Mr. Jones!” While the song wistfully waxed about the prospect of one day becoming famous, that kind of recognition wasn’t exactly what Adam Duritz had in mind. While future songs would touch on the burdens of newfound stardom, the occasionally tortured Duritz – instantly recognizable with his Sideshow Bob dreads – also embraced it, moving to the Hollywood Hills and becoming a Viper Room regular.
“Jeremy” by Pearl Jam
The song was released in 1991, and this intense clip – which won four MTV VMAs and played roughly 40 times an hour in 1993 – would be the last video Pearl Jam made for years. And that’s a shame: As the quintessentially Nineties “Jeremy” video reveals, Eddie Vedder is an insanely charismatic onscreen presence. But since the band is still playing arenas and baseball stadiums, it’s pretty clear that their decision to dial back commercially paid off in the long run.
“Cryin'” by Aerosmith
If it’s hard to fathom this song being 20, it’s even more difficult to imagine that Aerosmith had released its first album 20 years before that. The video for this power ballad introduced us to Alicia Silverstone – “The Aerosmith Chick” – who appeared in three of the band’s videos around the time. Silverstone, now 36, went on to star in five videos overall (one each for Rob Thomas and the Beastie Boys), portrayed Batgirl in Batman & Robin and gave birth to a child named Bear Blu. Meanwhile, Aerosmith is still a band, 43 years after forming.