As 2014 draws to a close, one thing that stands out the most about this year is the huge wave of artists who broke international barriers and crossed over into our pop music consciousness. And we’re not just talking about the UK, where Disclosure, Sam Smith, Charli XCX, Ella Henderson and Clean Bandit hail from — you also had Australia (Iggy Azalea), Ireland (Hozier), Canada (MAGIC! and Kiesza) Norway (Nico & Vinz), Sweden (Tove Lo) and Amsterdam (Mr. Probz) waving their flags high. It got us thinking that we hadn’t seen a foreign invasion of the American charts like this in 20 years.
So what else is it about 1994 that made it such an utterly memorable year, musically? Before we get to that, let’s first paint a quick picture of what life was like during this particular 12-month period when iTunes and YouTube and Twitter didn’t exist, nor did texting or Snapchatting — when being “social” meant driving (sans GPS or the Maps app) to meet up with friends in person, or, at the very least, putting a pen to paper and mailing a letter.
First off, when 1994 rolled around, Bill Clinton was entering his second year of the first term of his presidency. Cell phones were the size of bricks and e-mail and the Internet were sporadically-used luxuries. It was the days of Tonya Harding, Nancy Kerrigan and the 1994 Winter Olympics. And CD-ROMs. We watched O.J. Simpson go on the run on live TV and also tuned into the first seasons of Friends, ER and Party Of Five. Tom Hanks was America’s favorite movie star. At the box office, The Lion King roared loudest, while Speed, Forrest Gump and Pulp Fiction also packed movie-goers in. And when Kurt Cobain was found dead at his home on April 8th, it was, as they say, the end of an era…
…which brings us back to music. It would have been the easy way out for us here at Idolator to assemble a simple list of, say, the 20 best singles from 20 years ago, and dash out a a sentence or two on each one. But it turns out, when we really dug deep into what pop had to offer in 1994, there were just far too many good songs to leave out. From sultry slow jams to trip hop to synth-pop to Eurodance to Swedepop to alt-rock, it truly was an eclectic year when popular music produced something for everyone.
So instead, we gathered up the 50 best pop singles that made an impact in the year 1994 below, and reviewed and ranked them by their overall awesomeness. Most of these songs sprung up that year, but you’ll find that some first appeared on albums released in 1993 and didn’t get a single release until ’94, or perhaps were released as a single in late ’93 but their chart run carried into the next year. Whatever the case may be, they’re the tracks we felt left an unforgettable impression.
To add a bit of flavor, we reached out to some of the artists featured — Ace Of Base, TLC, Lisa Loeb, Real McCoy and Haddaway — and asked them to share their memories of what it was like contributing to the year 1994 in pop. Ready to hop into our time machine and step back 20 years?
On your mark, set… head to Idolator