What comes to mind when you hear the term "'90s music"? "C'mon Ride the Train," perhaps, or "Mambo No. 5"? Yes, the decade certainly saw its share of one-hit wonders and novelty tunes. But is it fair to slap these labels on all '90s music? This edition of The Cutout Bin further explores the decade's best, following my previous column. These two columns respond to fellow Blogcritic SeanRamblings' article "Talkin' 'Bout My Generation('s Music)," in which he argues that "the average music from this era is worse than the average music from any five-to-six-year portion of the '60s, '70s, '80s, and even the 2000s." Following his guidelines, I look at noteworthy artists that first emerged in the 1990s (not including artists he already mentioned, such as Green Day, Sheryl Crow, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and Alanis Morisette); many still enjoy success today, or have at least greatly influenced today's music.
Massive Attack: Pioneers of the genre "trip hop," Massive Attack combine hip hop, psychedelic elements, dance, chillout, and other forms to produce their unique sound. Debuting in 1991 with the classic Blue Lines, the group created the now well-known songs "Unfinished Sympathy," "Daydreaming," and "Safe from Harm," among many others. The group also launched the careers of Tricky and Neneh Cherry, paved the way for bands such as Portishead, and worked with such luminaries as Madonna and David Bowie. Audiences may know them best for their 1998 tune "Teardrop," currently used as the theme song for TV's House.
Timbaland: This artist/producer first emerged in the public's consciousness through his innovative work with Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott (another influential '90s artist) and the late Aaliyah. 1997's "The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)" still sounds hypnotic, with its offbeat tempo, Elliott's distinctive rapping style, and her singing a sample from Ann Peeble's "I Can't Stand the Rain." Timbaland also contributed greatly to Aaliyah's career, using the sound of a cooing baby in "Are You That Somebody?" and chirping crickets in "One in a Million." Ginuwine's "Pony" remains a hip-hop classic since its 1996 debut, with its vocoder-enhanced bass lines and stuttering beat. Timbaland continued his success as a producer into the 2000s, reinvigorating Nelly Furtado's career as well as producing singles for Madonna and Justin Timberlake (most notably on Timberlake's second album). He has recorded his own albums, such as 2007's Shock Value, but his contributions as a producer will probably be his greatest legacy.