I put together a playlist of all my 90's favorites this weekend... In retrospect, it's kind of depressing.
The obvious reason being that "The Nineties" (undeniably a time when I was a kid) have officially gelled in my mind as a decade that is over. Listening to its music in all its blunt disparity from today's music can probably claim some of that gelling...
The less obvious reason is much simpler, though; the music itself is really pretty depressing. Blind Melon's "No Rain" is a sort of detached celebration of boredom and mediocrity. The Goo Goo Dolls' "Name" is a deceptively hopeful sounding exploration of lost opportunities, as is Oasis's "Champagne Supernova."
Jewel's "Foolish Games" is a sappy but effective reminder of just how much poor relationships can make you want to slit your wrists (especially if you listen to Jewel after a breakup). Alanis Morissette's "Ironic" is a cutesy listing of dubious ironies, but delivered well enough to put you in a "well... sh*t" mood. Barenaked Ladies' "Old Apartment" is a good rendering of images that accompany a lost, better time. "Breakfast at Tiffany's" from Deep Blue Something is right up the same alley, whereas Ben Folds Five's "Brick" shows how a relationship can be wracked by loss and depression before it even ends.
Soundgarden's "Fell on Black Days" is a pretty simple "my life's gone to crap" song. And just about every hit Live had summons images so oppressive they make pre-industrial England look like halcyon days of enlightened bliss.
Of course, then there's Smashing Pumpkins, who had many hits, all of which are dourly similar. Themes changed a bit, but Billy Corgin's voice alone is enough to make for a bleak mood. REM: Music for suicide via sleeping pills. Nine Inch Nails? Anger and depression. And finally, the kicker: Nirvana. 'Nuff said.
Now, granted, I've picked these examples because they make my point. There are certainly "happy" songs too. Del Amitri's "Roll to Me"'s your life sucks, I'll make it better attitude certainly matches its bright sound. Eagle Eye Cherry's "Save Tonight" merrily begs appreciation of the moment, as it'll be over all too soon, and Fastball's "The Way" actually makes abandoning your life (and even your children) sound mysterious and exciting in a positively heavenly way.
Wow. Even the ones I try to use as examples of cheery alternatives sound kind of low, huh? Well, at least Green Day's geek punk is pretty much unadulterated boppy fun. And Ace of Base popped out a few dizzies in the spirit of utter mindlessness -- if you're not thinking, you're not depressed, right? Right? ;)
And, of course, Aerosmith has rocked out without bothering to get moody for an entire decade.
But overall, I've gotta say, this mix makes me really nostalgic, and for some reason, nostalgic is like a shot of Eeyore in the a$$ to me these days. Probably just S.A.D.
Oh, before you claim that the mix is depressing because I made it and I am thus, I'll offer in my defense the fact that I collected these songs by perusing iTunes "90's" mixes and adding any and every song I recognized, regardless of whether I particularly like it or not. So, either the Nineties were a depressing decade for music, or I've been chronically depressed for over fifteen years.
And I'm just not willing (ready) to accept that. ;)