I'm Stuck in the 1990's

When I was growing up, I couldn’t figure out why my parents only listened to music that was produced short of the disco era. I thought they had pretty good taste in music up until then, but then, they stuck with what they knew. So, I grew up with a lot of Doors, Cream, Carly Simon, Paul Simon, and James Taylor.

The past few weeks, I’ve realized the same thing has happened to me. I’m stuck in the 1990’s. There are a few artists I like post-1999, but my favorites don’t come out with much new stuff anymore. I mourn the disappearance of Lilith Fair and many of the women who performed on those tours. I would walk 500 miles to the Proclaimers on the radio again (who I found under 90’s one-hit wonders).

Did they just get old like me?

I’d like to blame it on my kids. I listen to Primary music, Veggie Tales, and Elmo in the car now. If I’m lucky and know all the words to a song, they’ll let me sing along to a pop song.

But, I can’t blame the kids entirely; I didn’t know what was cool once I hit graduate school; five years before my first was born. Since about 2000, I’ve relied on the Young Women I’ve taught to introduce to new music. Now, I enjoy Beyonce and OutKast. I also rely on my brothers who are about a decade younger than I am to introduce me to new stuff, a little Death Cab for Cutie and the Shins. But, they’re getting older, too and probably won’t know cool music much longer. And, sometimes, I get annoyed with their music. It can all sound the same (they get upset with the genre name I’ve given it: Rich-White-Boy-Angst-Music).

Even with the Young Women and my brothers’ help, I’m left unsatisfied. Usher and Ben Folds aren’t really me. They’re no Tori Amos or 10,000 Maniacs.

My husband finds happiness with the White Stripes and Lily Allen. I don’t hear friends my age complaining. Yet, I find myself searching iTunes for stuff from the 1990’s. Even Hanson’s MmmBop brings a smile to my fact now.


EmilyCC works for a national non-profit and lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her spouse and three children. She is a former editor of Exponent II and a founding blogger at The Exponent.

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  1. Proud Daughter of Eve says:

    Yeah, me too! It’s like after a certain point you just don’t want to or can’t be bothered to keep up with the new stuff. The radio station I listen to plays a mix of old and new but in general I either don’t like the new or find it stupid. Many times when they do their “Mix it or nix it?” contest I want to call in and tell them to scrap both contenders.

    There’s one song that sends me straight back to high school (in a good way). I haven’t heard it in years; I wish I had any idea what it was.

  2. Deborah says:

    I still have The Rachel haircut.

  3. amelia says:

    there is some great music being made. a lot of it, actually. but you’re not going to find it (at least not easily) through the radio. not unless you have a good public radio station or indepdent station to listen to. and you’re not likely to find it through the young women, either.

    here’s a few suggestions:

    for some interesting female singers:

    a girl called eddy
    alison kraus
    diana krall (the last two have been around a while, but they’re still making good music)
    amy winehouse (she’s new to me; i don’t know how solid she is yet)
    haley bonar
    regina spektor
    rilo kiley
    the ditty bops
    erin mckeown
    jenny lewis
    lucinda williams
    patty griffin
    neko case
    nina nastasia
    martha wainwright

    and a few others:

    the arcade fire
    m. ward
    clap your hands say yeah!
    ryan adams
    band of bees
    andrew bird
    architecture in helsinki
    bishop allen
    camera obscura
    pink martini
    iron & wine
    the decemberists
    the evens
    the innocence mission
    josh ritter
    the new pornographers
    peter bjorn & john
    rufus wainwright

    so that might be a bit overwhelming, but they’re all worth a gander.

    as to finding music, i don’t even know how to tell you to do that. i’m just lucky–i have friends who find it and then tell me about it.

    there are music websites that can help you find stuff that’s similar to what you like. http://www.last.fm for instance. you join for free. you install a little music tracker that tracks what you listen to through itunes (which you can download for free) and it gives you neighbors–people who listen to similar music. it can be a good way to find new artists that are something like what you already know and like.

    or there’s emusic.com. it’s a subscription service. something like $15/month for 30 songs. when you download your music, it pops up other artists that are similar. it also shows you other members who like similar stuff.

    and then there are some great music magazines. i particularly like paste, which includes a sampler cd so you can hear songs form the artists they review.

    just a few thoughts.

  4. Dora says:

    Before Perky moved to the Pacific Northwest, she was my indie-music-guru. Now that she’s gone, I fumble around on my own.

    I like stuff from KCRW.

    I like soundtracks … Garden State, The Last Kiss, Once.

    I like songs that I hear out dancing … lots of jazz for blues dancing, contemporary music for West Coast swing or Nightclub two step.

    I like songs that friends write and/or perform. This always blows me away.

    And, I like a lot of the songs that are used in So You Think You Can Dance!

  5. amelia says:

    one more thought: NPR reviews a lot of new music. i think you can access these reviews on their website (www.npr.org). and they offer a few different music review podcasts, if you do podcasts.

    the KCRW dora refers to is a fantastic SoCal public radio station. their morning show ‘morning becomes eclectic’ is dj’ed by nic harcourt, who is something of a king-maker in the indie music scene. you can check out their website (www.kcrw.com) for podcasts and playlists. i think they also broadcast through the internet (at least right now; there’s new royalties rules about internet broadcasting that could interfere with this).

  6. Thomas Parkin says:

    I like what Kate Bush said – who vanished from public view for quite a time after giving birth to her son – when she was asked which album* she had most recently purchased. She respnds “That Bob the Builder one, the Mamba one, not the other one.”

    Really – Rhapsody has saved me. ANyone who cares a smidge for music and doesn’t subscribe to Rhapsody … ya gotta do that. There is SO much great music being made now – and it is so inexpensive and easy to get to it. More than ever before – there has actually never been a time like this. For a good essay on why it isn’t broadly heard, go to aldaily.com and find the article on pop music.

    amelia – great stuff. 🙂


  7. tracy m says:

    You mean the Rachel cut isn’t cool anymore??!

  8. Tatiana says:

    It’s always made me sad that almost all people just listen to the same music they liked in high school and college for the rest of their lives. I do reach way back into history sometimes and play The Cure, They Might Be Giants, Nirvana, or The Smashing Pumpkins, and sometimes I play classical stuff like Bach or Stravinsky, but mostly I like to listen to fairly new music.

    Some of the bands I love now:
    Nine Inch Nails
    A Perfect Circle
    The Postal Service
    System of a Down
    Carlos Vives
    The Mars Volta
    The Red Hot Chili Peppers

    I think I will always want to hear new bands, and keep up with the best music being made right now. It would be too sad to stand still, musically. The old stuff was good in its day, but time moves on. I don’t ever want to be a person who looks back more than forward. Life is too cool and interesting to be left in the past. =)

  9. dangermom says:

    Yeah, I’m stuck in the late’ 80’s and early 90’s. I like a few things that I hear on the radio (which plays a mix of the last 30 years), but mostly I don’t.

    I’ve branched out in other directions now, though; I’m just not that into pop any more. My new music tends to be more folk, international, or classical. I like soothing music–even some of the loud stuff I once liked grates on my ears now, and I have enough noise in my life already.

  10. tracy m says:

    Dandermom- for me, too, I think that’s what it is- I have so much chaos and noise with three kids under five; I don’t want to invite more it!

    Same goes for music I really used to love; unless it’s mellow, I can’t take much. Give me some folk, some classical, maybe some old-school country or pop, and I’m good. I want to be able to listen to stuff and not worry about what my kids might hear, and not have to edit. That leaves out a lot of the stuff I used to like.

  11. Deborah says:


    Just a hunch, but I think you’d really like a singing duo called “The Weepies.” Try previewing “Painting by Chagall” on iTunes . . .

  12. amelia says:

    the weepies are a fantastic suggestion.

    the innocence mission is another one you’d like if you’re looking for something mellow that’s totally okay around kids.

    and if you want something that’s upbeat without being loud and in your face, you should definitely listen to pink martini, which does a fabulous blend of international and 50s dance style music. here’s their website:


    you can preview all of their songs there. love love love. if you can’t tell, i love them.

    the buena vista social club cd is another great one that’s upbeat without being grating in anyway and without anything that’s offensive for kids.

    you might also check out some jazz vocalists. i love sarah vaughan. gorgeous mellow voice.

    just a few suggestions.

  13. Eve says:

    The nineties are over? Shoot, I’m so behind the times. It seems like we were just having our first little adventure in Iraq not that long ago. Then there was a year I was in Italy, then a year I got married. Then the next year I remember was 2001. Which seems like last year.

  14. Eve says:

    Deborah, I never got cool enough to get the Rachel haircut, and I’m too out of the loop to know if it’s cool or passe. Now that I’m going gray and far too old even to dream of being cool, maybe I’ll just shave my head. Oh, the time it would save.

  15. Kristine N says:

    an undergrad working in my lab got me hooked on pandora.com, and I’ve been quite happy with it. You put in a group you like (I started with Indigo girls and Coldplay, I think) and they play musical selections from those groups and similar groups. You get to rate the ones you like with a thumbs up, indicating you want music similar to that song, or a thumbs down, indicating you don’t want to hear that song again. I’d like it if they had a rating system (more gold stars/thumbs up for songs I could hear over and over again without getting tired of them) but overall I’ve been pleased.

  16. LCM says:

    AH! The angst music, when my husband was listening to it almost exclusively, I called it whiny boy music.
    I also love Regina Spektor. Gwen Stefani is pretty fun. My kids are past the Veggie Tales, we bop to Hannah Montana!

  17. askmama says:

    I try to listen to current music when my kids are not in the car with me (otherwise the classical station is on) like going to the grocery store in the evening or on my way to my book group or RS activity. That’s how I found The White Stripes, The Killers, KT Tunstall. But honestly, since college the only new CD’s I’ve bought have been new ones put out by bands I’ve loved since middle school/high school/college – U2, Sheryl Crow, Green Day, Tom Petty, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Weezer, etc.

    Emily, you’re lucky your parents still listened to the music from their youth – my mom only listened to classical and my dad always listened to AM talk radio.

    Anyway, I figure if I try to keep up with modern music a little bit, I won’t be so annoyed with it when my kids are old enough to blast it from their rooms.

  18. Michael says:

    I’ll second Pandora, I like it much better than lastfm

    As for being stuck with music you liked in high school or college- I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that and it’s pretty common. There was a great story on NPR a while ago about development of tastes and when we experiment and then solidify being biological and not just psychological.

    There’s a post about the story along with a link to the story here:

  19. Michael says:

    Oh, it looks like the link got cut off, hopefully this will work

    The audio of the original NPR story is here.

  20. wren says:

    All three Grey’s Anatomy soundtracks are fantastical for discovering lesser known acts. I thank them for introducing me to the diddy bops, psapp, gomez, tegan and sara, and more. If you like Death Cab you’d probably like a lot of the stuff on all 3 soundtracks.

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