Yesterday UPROXX briefly set the internet on fire when they posted this, a NCAA style tournament to determine the Most 90’s music:
This isn’t a terrible effort! It definitely captures the music that comes to mind when you think of the 90s, with one key exception:
WHERE IN THE HELL IS GARTH FREAKING BROOKS?
Or Alan Jackson or Reba McEntire or Dwight Yoakam or Confederate Railroad?
Where is the 90’s COUNTRY?
I grew on country music because, frankly, it’s the stuff my folks listened to and I didn’t have much of a choice. Keith Whitley, George, Patty, Vince, Garth. I remember saving up chore money so I could buy my mom CDs by The Judds on mother’s day. Every summer before my teenage years we’d make our way to Eau Claire, Wisconsin for Country Jam and Cadot, Wisconsin for Country Fest. One year I met Hal Ketchum as I was leaving our hotel; my mom and I lost our collective minds when he spotted us in the crowd later that evening, tipping his hat to us during a song. I remember having dinner with Nicki Nelson of Highway 101 because my mom won a radio call in contest. My sister became something of a sensation in the family because she could identify songs on the radio only a note or two into a song. I can still remember her blurting out, “JOE DIFFIE PROP ME UP BESIDE THE JUKEBOX!” from the backseat of the car.
She was, like, three years old at the time.
When I hit my teenage years I stopped seeking out country music to listen to. Out was Little Texas, in was 2pac and Naughty by Nature and Westside Connection and DMX. Later came punk and Fat Wreck and Nitro, a phase that lasted a solid decade.
But despite not owning any country albums or keeping the radio dialed to country stations for a solid seven years, I still know all the hits because of my folks. I still generally liked it.
But it wasn’t until I hit my 30s when I really was able to appreciate the country music from my youth. Why? Two reasons.
The first was the rise of patriotism in main-stream media. After 9/11, letting everyone know just how much you love Jesus and the good ol’ U.S. of A. and your pickup became normal. Singing about how the Middle East was going to get their collective asses blown back to the stone age was officially a thing.
I blame Toby Keith.
And my commie pinko liberal tree hugging ass hated it. Patriotism…cool, whatever. It’s when you make it your brand I have a problem, and it seemed like every country artist I grew up loving couldn’t wait to make a song about how much they loved this country and Jesus, i.e. The Dude Who Created It.
So I tuned out.
But there was another reason why I could suddenly appreciate the old Garth Brooks or Vince Gill or Trishia Yearwood or Tanya Tucker songs of my youth:
Bro-country is a term for a style of mainstream country music originating in the second decade of the 21st century. It is a general term for styles of country music taking influence from 21st-century hip hop, rock, and pop. Many “bro-country” songs are about partying, attractive young women, consumption of alcohol, and pickup trucks.
Look, the country music I grew up on was depressing as hell. You wouldn’t even have a difficult time convincing me that it had a negative effect on my emotional growth. The overwhelming majority of the songs I listened to were about the loss of love. How can you not be completely messed up listening to hundreds of sad songs in your formative years?
What I didn’t hear was rapping about who in the hell knows what and singing about red solo cups. I definitely didn’t get a distinctly rapey vibe in these tunes.
I mean, just look at these two awful motherfuckers.
But this is what the genre seems to be these days. Last summer I went to Country Jam for the first time in 20 years, and stuff like this was all I heard when I arrived. Then a drunk girl puked on my shoes and threw a wedding ring at her equally drunk as hell husband.
Yes, I’m old and out of touch and get off my damn lawn, but you can have all of it.
But enough about frat boys and their date-rape soundtracks, let’s celebrate a time when the music was about something great:
Being completely miserable!
First, your playlist. This may be my greatest contribution to mankind:
*this playlist was 300 songs. then i realized it only took 200 when you embed it. cutting 100 songs was not easy
Now, not all songs here are from the 90s. I included a band I loved quite a bit that didn’t arrive until 2006, The Wreckers. That they only made one album is a tragedy.
I also included 80s hits from The Judds and Keith Whitley.
A notable omission is Garth Brooks, because he won’t let his catalog appear on Spotify or Youtube. This is a terrible move. THERE ARE MILLENNIALS WHO HAVE NEVER HEARD “WHAT SHE’S DOING NOW”, GARTH.
Holy Shit Did These Folks Crank Out The Hits
Like, you knew back then that Vince Gill and George Straight and Reba McEntire were monstrously successful. But then you look at their lists of songs and holy hell Reba had 93 singles. She had 24 that reached #1.
MJ is the GOAT and he only had 11.
But it isn’t even powerhouse artists like Reba that could say they were massively successful. A guy like Clay Walker (really good!) but never someone you’d consider a massive star cranked out enough singles that you could legitimately fill in a greatest hits album and leave a couple off because of time restraints.
It’s totally dumbfounding. You know who Joe Diffie is, but it isn’t until you fire up Spotify that you realize HOLY CRAP I KNOW EVERY WORD OF LIKE A DOZEN OF HIS SONGS AND I NEVER OWNED A SINGLE ALBUM OMGGGG
Toby Keith Wasn’t Always Terrible
I still remember when Toby Keith came out in ’93. I was 12 years old at the time. He was immediately huge with Should’ve Been a Cowboy, and followed it up with about seven years of really good ballads. Dude had an awesome voice and came out with killer sensitive tunes that were, like everything at the time, totally depressing. I LOVED THEM ALL.
To this day when I’m listening to country music he’s the guy I’m likely to sing along with in the car or in my apartment doing laundry or cleaning the dishes. I know my neighbor can hear my belting out Wish I Didn’t Know Now from time to time and I REGRET NOTHING.
Top Five Toby Keith Songs When You’re Terribly Depressed Because Your Love Life Is A Dumpster Fire:
5 – You Shouldn’t Kiss Me Like This
4 – He Ain’t Worth Missing
3 – Does That Blue Moon Ever Shine On You
2 – Who’s That Man
1 – Wish I Didn’t Know Now
Then the 2000s happened and he turned to shit.
Music Was Hella Punny
That may be my biggest takeaway, putting together this playlist. It wasn’t something I realized at the time (because I was 12) but oh man if you had a pun you could make it into a country song.
Patty Loveless: Timber I’m Falling in Love:
Travis Tritt – Here’s a Quarter (call someone who cares):
Joe Diffie – Prop Me Up Beside The Jukebox If I Die
Joe Diffie made one or two of the decade’s most incredible songs, but he also made the punniest songs in music history.
Best Music Video To Feature Luke Perry As a Bull Rider
Underrated Artist That Still Holds Up Surprisingly Well
Mark Chestnut. Of everyone on this list, he’s the guy I’m least likely to hit skip on when he plays. Every damn thing he released is solid and still worth listening to today.
Top 5 Mark Chestnut Songs I’m Probably Going To Listen to Tonight:
5 – Goin’ Through the Big D
4 – Too Cold At Home
3 – I’ll Think of Something
2 – Ol’ Country
1 – Almost Goodbye
Song Tragically Ruined By An Ex-girlfriend
Clint Black – Like the Rain
NOT COOL, LEAH.
Artist Worth Being Super Happy For
Ty Herndon, who came out last year. Good for you, dude!
The Criminally Underrated
Hal Ketchum, no question.
You would think a guy who had 5 albums and 16 singles in the 90s could qualify, but this is someone with a legendary voice. I’d put it up against anyone other than the next person on this list. He was amazing.
The Voice You Would Kill Numerous People To Have
It’s Vince. Of course it is.
He didn’t have the volume of George Straight or the peak that Garth Brooks had (though still pretty dope with 14 albums, 49 singles) but absolutely no one will ever match his voice.
He’s the guy that I’m singing in the shower but only because the sound of the water masks how obviously inferior my sound is to his.
The Other Voice
…belongs to Alison Krauss.
Look, she’s almost got a voice that would make this heathen believe in angels. It’s perfection.
Speaking of that song, the original is responsible for the most depressing country music of all-time…
The Truly Sad
It’s Keith Whitley.
On the morning of May 9, 1989, after a weekend of drinking and partying, Whitley awoke and spoke with his mother briefly on the phone. He was then visited by his brother-in-law Lane Palmer, and the two had coffee and they were planning a day of golf and having lunch, after which Whitley had planned to start writing songs for Lorrie Morgan and himself to record when she returned from her concert tour. Palmer departed at approximately 8:30 a.m., informing Whitley to be ready to leave within an hour. Upon returning, Palmer found Whitley face down on his bed, fully clothed.
The official cause of death was determined to be acute ethanolism (alcohol poisoning),and Davidson CountyMedical Examiner Charles Harlan stated that his blood alcohol level was .47 (the equivalent of 20 1-ounce shots of 100-proof whiskey and almost five times the then Tennessee level of .10 legal intoxication limit, and nearly six times the current .08 legal limit to drive). Whitley was 34 years of age.
The Top 10 Favorite Country Songs That Are All Super Depressing (Non-Garth Division)
I know you’re super interested in finding out the songs that ruined me for a good decade. Here they are!
10 – Sawyer Brown – All These Years
9 – Keith Whitley – Don’t Close Your Eyes
8 – Dixie Chicks – You Were Mine
7 – Faith Hill – Let Me Let Go
6 – McBride & The Ride – Sacred Ground
5 – Travis Tritt – Tell Me I Was Dreaming
4 – Vince Gill – Pocket Full of Gold
3 – Joe Diffie – Ships That Don’t Come In
2 – George Straight – I Can Still Make Cheyenne
1 – Little Texas – What Might Have Been