The mid to late 1990’s were an exciting time for many of us. Our President was hooking up with a chubby chick, Michael Jordan retired twice, The Big Lebowski came out, and people actually gradually stopped dressing like they were auditioning to be an extra for Saved by the Bell.
Seriously, early 1990’s, what made you think this was a good idea.
The 90’s also brought us an almost absurd popularity of Alternative Rock & Roll. Acts like Alanis Morissette and Matchbox 20 were everywhere to let you know what they were feeling, like an acquaintance from High School who got your phone number through a third party and called you to complain every time they got dumped. With this trend in popular music came an onslaught of angst ridden verses pelting our airwaves.
In the 00’s (or, as they shall henceforth be called, the aughties), we’ve had 9/11, two wars, and a recession so bad I keep my money in a shoe box under my bed and charge rent for a small group of immigrants to live in my closet.
I mean, it’s a walk-in closet at least…I’m no monster…
Alternative bands in the sunny 90’s were depressed as hell, and wouldn’t shut up about it. Emo even started getting popular. It was a mess. Instead of channeling their angst into something productive, like making fun of rich musicians on a website while softly sobbing into a pillow, they just got lazy and made some sad songs. Some top 40 sad songs that made them (or their record labels) millions upon millions of dollars. Lame.
Granted, a fair amount of the songs are pretty good…but that doesn’t make their lyrics less ridiculous. Here we have 8 of the most unnecessarily angsty songs from an unnecessarily angsty decade.
8. Blink-182: Adam’s Song, 1999
I never conquered, rarely came
16 just held such better days
Days when I still felt alive
We couldn’t wait to get outside
The world was wide, too late to try
The tour was over we’d survived
I couldn’t wait till I got home
To pass the time in my room alone
Now, a first-person account of a teenage suicide is actually pretty serious shit. In fact, as an actual topic for a song, this is probably the one that I can’t really go out of my way to make fun of it. The song itself is a little heavy handed, sure, but I’m not gonna touch it with a 10 foot pole.
However, if this song was written by, say, Elliott Smith…well, it’d be better, but it also wouldn’t make this list. This song is ridiculously angsty because of every other song on that album. Every. Damn. One.
This song is from Enema of the State, which of course was immediately followed by their equally brilliantly titled Take Off Your Pants and Jacket (it’s a masturbation joke. Get it? GET IT!? ROAR!)
Enema sees devastating break ups described with the line “Don’t let my door hit your ass,” while later on the poignantly muses, “Fuck this place, I lost the war/ I hate you all, your mom’s a whore,” and in their hit song “What’s My Age Again,” describes a 23 year old male who interrupts a sexual situation because he wants to turn on a TV while a woman is taking off his pants. Which means that, to Blink-182, the typical 23 year old male is either gay, or castrated. Or both (GAYstrated!)
So, to just plop a song like Adam’s Song comes off, at best, as exploitive, and at worst, as offensive. Either way, it’s ridiculous.
“Now, for our next number, we’re gonna take things down a notch”
7. Bush: Glycerine, 1994
I’m never alone
I’m alone all the time
are you at one
or do you lie
we live in a wheel
where everyone steals but when we rise it’s like strawberry fields
If I treated you bad
you bruise my face
couldn’t love you more
you got a beautiful taste
don’t let the days go by
Spoiler alert: If you’re a famous rock star, women want to sleep with you. It’s science. You know, where all the H’s and Os are connected by dots in your chemistry books. I’ve just not been able to figure out the formula and bottle it to make my millions yet (well, it turns out, it works, just not on women. But hot damn if Puerto Rican pre-op transvestite midgets aren’t ALL up on my grill, 24/7). So this mostly-bitter bittersweet Alternative song seems to use big science words to try to refute the whole “Being a rock star is AWESOME” thing. Yes, I’ll admit, I enjoy the song. Yes, it’s not the bad kind of moody song. But come on. Gavin Rossdale has HIGHLIGHTS in that picture. And yet he knocked up Gwen Stefani.
Granted, Stefani wasn’t always the “Hollaback Girl” hit-producing terror she is now, she was actually pretty hot shit in the alternative rock scene at the time. There was actually a point where everyone largely considered Stefani totally out of his league (back when she didn’t need to teach us the correct way to spell “bananas”).
Gwen Stefani in 1997 was like Jessica Alba now. Think about that shit for a second.
So, while most of you reading this will say, “Fuck you, Jeff. You’re insulting a good song.” Sure, I am. But you know what’s ridiculous? Gavin Rossdale sang this song. And likely had to metaphorically ask the question to Gwen Stefani, “are you the one, or did you lie?” And in the end, this song just ended up being a somber description of the angst ridden search for the woman of your dreams. And it ends up being Gwen Stefani.
Don’t let the days go by…
6. Fastball: Out Of My Head, 1998
Was I out of my head? Was I out of my mind?
How could I have ever been so blind?
I was waiting for an indication
It was hard to find
Don’t matter what I say only what I do
I never mean to do bad things to you
So quiet but I finally woke up
If you’re sad then its time you spoke up to
Fastball’s first real breakthrough hit was a song about a husband and wife ditching their kids and all the responsibilities of their lives to just drive and leave everything behind. It’s kind of an upbeat song with a positive message. The chorus says that, though they’ll never go home, they really don’t care. It insists how happy the couple is. Don’t dwell on the fact that their kids wake up to find their parents gone. How self sufficient ARE they, really? I’m guessing they kids are maybe, 12 at the oldest. When I was 12, I had a hard enough time making a peanut butter jelly sandwich to take to school. And if we were out of capri sun? I’d have been FUCKED. So, here are these kids, who probably don’t have any food or blankets left in the house (since the couple on the run will “never get hungry, they never get cold,” meaning that those fuckers took all the food and clothing with them too, probably), and Fastball writes a song about how great things are for these two lovebirds. Then they write a song bitching about a non-communicative relationship, and only bother to write one verse for it.
“Oh, what’s that? Relationships are hard, and can wreak havoc on your emotions if you’re not open and honest? Is that so? Well, I’M FUCKING STARVING because my parents left to find themselves, so fuck you.”
5. Eagle Eye Cherry: Save Tonight, 1996
There’s a log on the fire
and it burns like me for you
Tomorrow comes with one desire
to take me away it’s true
It ain’t easy to say goodbye
darling please don’t start to cry
Cause girl you know I’ve got to go, oh
Lord I wish it wasn’t so
and fight the break of dawn
tomorrow I’ll be gone
Songs describing the last night of two lovers before inevitable, and likely permanent, separation are nothing new. From “Leaving on a Jet Plane” to “Take On Me,” there’s a steady string of songs that have a simple, heartfelt message. I love you. I’m leaving. Let’s bang. Non-90’s songs are just a little less obvious about it. Hell, A-Ha just hid the whole thing behind upbeat 80’s synth and fucked up music videos with pencil sketches.
Seriously, what were these guys on when they made this? Oh right. Cocaine.
Forced separation is a pretty complicated emotion. Before Wilco essentially became the musical spokespeople for the AARP (I’m trying to say they make mediocre music for old people), they wrote, “Distance has no way of making love understandable.” It’s serious, but thoughtful. On the other hand, Eagle Eye Cherry (who kind of looks like Prince with less coiffed hair and a better mustache) writes a song about melancholy sex, where they have to get drunk first to “delay our misery.” So, in addressing an emotionally trying situation, their first impulse was to write a song about one last drunken lay. But since it’s all written in the second person, I can only guess who his traveling lover could be…
“What a twist!”
4. Eve 6: Showerhead, 1998
“Look into my eyes” you say, “you’ll see nothing but sincerity”
Almost as if you’ve got some hope that you’ll enlighten me
You’re a headcase story
I loved you while he was in you in the shower
Did (in joy and ecstasy) your eyes begin to water?
Now, this song almost doesn’t belong on this list, since it was not a radio song- it appeared on Eve 6’s self-titled debut album, just a few tracks of their equally list-worthy track, “Inside Out.” But the lyrics of this song are just so in your face with angst that it just had to make the list. And if you think I’m going to pass up the chance to point out the ridiculously unsubtle sexual innuendo inherent with the title, “Showerhead,” well, then you clearly don’t know me very well.
…Surprisingly enough, this is the first result you get if you google image search “shower head”
This song suffers from a case of angst TMI. I think most musicians have the restraint to avoid the term “while he was in you” when describing betrayal. We get it, we’ve all been cheated on, (…Why is no one backing me up on this? Really? Just me then?) it sucks, but if you’re going to write a song about it (which is usually a bad idea), you can’t even try to metaphor it up a little bit? Like, okay, just off the top of my head, “Your taco cart was stolen by my favorite hot dog stand.” Okay, that’s not very good, and it kind of makes me sound like I’m gay, but at least I’m trying, Eve 6. Goddamn.
3. The Offspring: Self Esteem, 1994
When she’s saying, oh that she wants only me
Then I wonder why she sleeps with my friends
When she saying, oh that I’m like a disease
Then I wonder how much more I can stand
Well I guess, I should stick up for myself
But I really think it’s better this way
The more you suffer
The more it shows you really care
Now I’ll relay this little bit
It happens more than I’d like to admit
Late at night, she knocks on my door
She’s drunk again and, looking to score
Now I know, I should say no, but
It’s kind of hard when she’s ready to go
I may be dumb, but I’m not a dweeb
I’m just a sucker with no self esteem
The Offspring is no stranger when it comes to writing a mix of absurd songs (“Pretty Fly for a White Guy”, “Why Don’t You Get a Job?”) and angsty songs about serious issues (“The Kids Aren’t Alright”), but you’ve got to think it’s a bad sign when your song about an abusive relationship rings so true to 13 year olds who have never really had a relationship. Maybe it’s that they use the word “dweeb.” Maybe its because they say “fuck” so much in the album that your parents won’t let you play the CD in the car while you’re going on road trips (Fuck the establishment! WOO!). But really, once you hit a certain age, and/or have had a woman actually talk to you without you having to give your credit card number, this song sort of just sounds like the angsty musings of a whiny little bitch.
If he was wearing sunglasses, I’d assume he was in the band too
This song doesn’t even try to sound angsty, which is part of the problem. It starts off with a carefree series of “la la la”s, and goes into some heavy pop-punk friendly guitars. It probably passed for “edgy”, as far as mainstream radio goes. But really, it’s just about a guy complaining about the fact that he’s getting consistently laid, just so long as he settles for a crazy woman. Men have been known to do more desperate things for ass without complaining about it.
…I’m not gonna even try to make a joke for this
2. No Doubt: Don’t Speak, 1995
Well, they can be inviting
But some are altogether
As we die, both you and I
With my head in my hands
I sit and cry
I know just what you’re saying
So please stop explaining
Don’t tell me cause it hurts
Gwen Stefani (what, you thought I was done ripping on her?) used to offer more to the world of music than having the ability to make millions of white people go to urban dictionary to learn about the terms she uses (“I heard it’s about cheerleaders, but my friend says it’s about dirty dirty sex”). With No Doubt, she literally was a rock & roll hit making machine, among them was this ode to being horribly depressed in the 90s. Apart from subtly implying that the best relationship partners are deaf mutes (have you ever been dumped by sign language? It takes so long you really don’t care at the end of it), the song really acts as a great song to listen to while playing “angsty 90’s song words bingo”. Let’s see, we got “hurt,” we got “cry,” “memories,” BINGO!
“Let’s see, we got ‘Darling’ and ‘no no no’…YES! BINGO!”
1. Vertical Horizon: Everything You Want, 1999
But under skinned knees and the skid marks
Past the places where you used to learn
You howl and listen
Listen and wait for the
Echoes of angels who won’t return
He’s everything you want
He’s everything you need
He’s everything inside of you
That you wish you could be
He says all the right things
At exactly the right time
But he means nothing to you
And you don’t know why
The ending of the 90’s, not surprisingly, led to a lot of angst about the end of the 90’s. People were so depressed about the decade coming to an end, they naturally assumed the year 2000 could only mean mass Armageddon. But before all the planes could come crashing from the sky by the evil computers that apparently weren’t programmed to understand what having “00” as a year means, we were able to get this little gem by the slightly-more-than-one-hit-wonders, Vertical Horizon.
“Y2K: Based on a True Story. Directed by Michael Bay”
By the way, Vertical Horizon, this is Jeff from the future. 10 years from now, if you’re going to write an angsty song, it’s kind of hard to be taken seriously if you use the term “skid marks” in it. Trust me. My song “You are my everything I am not” would have totally shot up in the charts if it wasn’t for my line “I can see myself in the wart on your eye/ And when your finger fell off I started to cry.” What? I have a thing for lepers. It’s not gross. Shut up. Don’t judge me.
Goddamn it, google image search, I said leper, not leopard!
I guess people were just so busy complaining in the 90’s that they didn’t even learn what tolerance was. Shit, man, I was just trying to help you. Whatever, Vertical Horizon, you can keep writing transparent angsty songs about how your ex-girlfriend doesn’t love you as much as she should have, then. Just a warning, that shit doesn’t fly in years that doesn’t fly in the aughties.