Was music better in the ‘90s?

Before the sounds of auto-tune and pop songs dominated the radio, musicians of the ‘90s not only produced raw-sounding material but made music that was inspired by real-life obstacles. This ultimately created a sense of connection between artists and listeners.   

According to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the golden age of popular music was in the late 1980s to mid 1990s with more mega-selling albums, 15 million or more, released than the decade before. This suggests there was more interest than ever before in new music, but the latest numbers are not so good. They suggest that popular music is less relevant than ever before.

As reported by CNN, the music industry is worth half of what it was at the turn of the millennium. Total revenue from U.S. music sales plunged to $6.3 billion in 2009 from $14.6 billion in 1999 and has continued to decrease ever since.

That begs the question: was music better in the ‘90s?

Since the age of 8, my iPod has been packed with ‘90s songs such as Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way.” Both of these tracks came from records that eventually hit number one on the Billboard 200 album chart; in 1992 and the latter in 1999.

Today Nirvana has sold more than 110 million albums worldwide and the Backstreet Boys have turned more than 130 million, according to the RIAA.

Some researchers at CNN suggest it is unfair to compare the music sales of the 2000s to the 1990s since the latter enjoyed an unusual sales boost when consumers replaced their cassette tapes and vinyl records with CDs.  

But the RIAA argues the main culprit for the decline in physical CD sales was the growing popularity of digital music. However, online music stores such as iTunes and Amazon have joined CDs as a format in decline, dropping in sales by 14.9 percent or 120.9 million albums, in 2013. Of the records sold, 62.9 million were CDs which decreased 19.6 percent and 53.8 million were digital downloads down to 11.6 percent.  

Don’t get me wrong, hit songs such as Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda” and Iggy Azalea’s “Black Widow” are fun to listen to, but where’s the passion? What happened to songs that actually told a story?

Nirvana was a grunge rock band led by Kurt Cobain, who wrote lyrics about his inner struggle with himself, apparent in songs like “Dumb.” When Cobain sings, “I’m not like them but I can pretend…I think I’m dumb,” it sends a message to youth that it’s okay to be who you are, despite having committed suicide in 1994

Marshall Mathers, infamously known as Eminem, spat out tracks that tell the world of his struggle growing up poor and overcoming it. His YEAR song “Lose Yourself” sends a clear message to the public not to miss out on opportunities because of fear. He continues to do so to this day, releasing albums such as Recovery in 2010 that featured emotion content on his struggle with drug addiction.

This is what music should be. This is what moves people.

Music has the power to connect people from all walks of life. It has the ability to take you back to a special memory or, in some cases, a not-so-special memory. For people of the ‘90s, music led people to believe in their own ideas and dreams no matter who was against them.

As far as this generation of music goes, my anaconda don’t want none unless it’s ‘90s music.