Best Of: 90s Female Singer-Songwriters

While I’m a little ashamed to admit that I never got into Dawson’s Creek, one thing is for sure: “I Don’t Want to Wait” is one of the most easily identifiable theme songs in the history of theme songs. I mean, is there anything better than the brooding & braless babes who made my childhood 800% angstier than it needed to be? Honestly, why did I know all the words to “Bitch” by Meredith Brooks by the age of seven? Honestly.

Whatever. Here is my carefully-curated list of the most glorious, grittiest, gloomiest music videos from my favorite 90s songstresses. Viva la crop top!    

1. “Building a Mystery” – Sarah McLachlan (1997): This video has everything – gothic imagery, the use of color changes as the predominant video effect, tank-tops on top of long sleeved shirts, and a creepy dude walking around doing mysterious things. Plus, you can’t deny that mama McLachlan will forever be the reigning Queen of Alternative Chicks. She founded the Lilith Fair, okay. Leave her alone.

2. “Foolish Games” – Jewel (1997): Jewel, why did you have to go country on me? Remember when you just danced with geishas in a really blue forest to a lovesick piano ballad? Did that mean NOTHING to you???

3. “Man-Size” – PJ Harvey (1994): IS THERE ANYBODY COOLER THAN PJ HARVEY? RHETORICAL QUESTION THE ANSWER IS NO. LOOK AT HER SMIRKING. SHE’S JUST SITTING IN A CHAIR IN HER UNDERWEAR AND THAT’S THE ENTIRE VIDEO. AND IT’S F$%&ING GREAT.

4. “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?” – Paula Cole (1997): More like, where have all the 90s female singer-songwriters gone, amiright? Though Paula Cole is best remembered for singing the DC theme song, it was this song that landed her near the top of the charts. And it was this video that made me question society’s decision to rid itself of the crop-top once and for all. I don’t know where you are, Paula Cole, but I miss u bb girl. You rock that midriff.

5. “Sleep to Dream” – Fiona Apple (1997): Fiona is second only to PJ Harvey on my list of the baddest bitches who ever bitched. I used to sing this song in my room when nobody else was home, and it made me feel like I had power. The video, though, is where shit really gets interesting. Fiona takes ~heroin chic~ to a WHOLE new level, and she also reminds us that it’s ok to wear pajamas at creepy house parties, maybe?

6. “Sunny Came Home” – Shawn Colvin (1997): I have nothing to say here. Just watch.

7. “Closer to Fine” – Indigo Girls (1989): Okay, okay. I get it. This song technically was released in the 80s. BUT COME ON. It was still hugely popular on the radio throughout the mid-to-late 90s, and if this music video doesn’t do it for you, just go home. I don’t want to be friends with you anymore.

8. “Cannonball” – The Breeders (1993): Though the Breeders had less of the commercial pop success that some of these other chicks had, they also had Kim Deal, and I defy you to find me someone born between 1989 and 1997 who can’t identify that opening riff. If you take nothing else away from this video, let it be that the Breeders are totally bad-ass. How do you even deal with the the weird purple drowning effect? The stop-motion, super-imposed DIY post card thing near the middle? The lipstick, the rolling cannonball, the costume change?….I just really want to be Kim Deal okay. KIM DEAL.

9. “Stay (I Missed You)” – Lisa Loeb (1994): “You saaay…I only hear what I want to…” I used to get this song mixed up in my head with “Fast Car,” which is dumb. Lisa Loeb sings her little heart out, and she looks exactly like what I would imagine the girl behind the counter in my favorite hole-in-the-wall Seattle coffee shop circa 1996 would look. You know, before we started using the word “barista” all the time. She’s just kind of sweet and quietly determined to nail the lead singer of Pearl Jam. Maybe.

10. “I Love You Always Forever” – Donna Lewis (1996): This song will be stuck in your head for a long time. Or at least until the next time you hear “Tom’s Diner.” While the song itself is overly saccharine, the video is still full of bellybuttons, mood-lighting, and a lot of standing next to walls. Also, Donna Lewis is way weirder than I was expecting her to be. What is she doing with that piano?

11. “Cornflake Girl” – Tori Amos (1994): YOU THOUGHT THIS WAS GOING TO BE A TOP 10 LIST. Hah! It’s not! I mean, it was supposed to be, but how am I supposed to narrow down an entire decade of angry alternative chicks to just 10 music videos? Here we have Tori Amos driving a truck while girls hit each other in the back, and then she spins around on a playground ferris wheel in overalls. So I’d say this one is pretty essential.

Taylor Brogan, Contributing Editor

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About Taylor Brogan

Managing Editor - inconnu magazine. Tweets @thbrogan.

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