Memeing in the 90s: Meme Songs of the 90s

One of the most popular posts on my blog is the one about classic rock meme songs from the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Since 1990 is 30 years ago and people are starting to consider Britpop classic rock, I guess it’s time for a fresh new post about meme songs of the 90s. Rather than add to the epic of a post that was (I think it was almost as long as my thesis – but way more fun to write, to be honest), let’s make a new one just for the 90s! Songs will be listed in alphabetical order with some memes sprinkled in and you’ll get some song/musician history, as with the OG post.

“All Star” – Smash Mouth (1999)

Shrek is a whole meme and every song in it became a meme by association. This song is easily the first song you think of when you think of Shrek. Since the infancy of YouTube, “All Star” has been parodied and memed. The first known parody is “Mario, You’re a Plumber”, uploaded in 2009.

“All Star” also gets mashed up with other songs. One mashup that went viral was “Mom’s All Star Spaghetti”, which mashed up “Lose Yourself” by Eminem and “All Star”.

YouTuber Jon Sudano got over 7 million views on his video where he sings “All Star” over an instrumental of Evanescence’s “Bring Me To Life”.

I could spend all day listing all the YouTube poops based on Shrek and this song, but you get the point. It’s a meme worthy song.

Song/musician history:

Smash Mouth were formed in San Jose, California in 1994. They have other popular songs like “Walkin’ on the Sun”, “Then The Morning Comes”, and their cover of The Monkees’ “I’m a Believer” – which was also featured in Shrek.

Guitarist Greg Camp wrote this meme anthem for weirdos after the record company asked for more songs that could be released as singles and it was released in 1999. It was one of the last songs written for Smash Mouth’s album Astro Lounge. Shrek wasn’t the first movie to use the song in a soundtrack. Actually, it was in the 1999 superhero movie Mystery Men. The song has a sound similar to Sugar Ray and Third Eye Blind.

It was nominated for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group at the Grammys in 2000. Music critics loved it.

As for what Smash Mouth thought of becoming a meme band with a meme song, here’s what bassist Paul Delisle said in an interview with Inverse titled Smash Mouth: We ‘fully embrace the meme’:

“It’s funny because a large percentage of our fans don’t even know what a meme is — heck, we didn’t really know either at first,” Delisle admitted. “But we have never taken ourselves that seriously. We like the attention, so even though it’s a bit of a goof, it usually centres around our song ‘All Star’ and it still sells weekly like mad. So we take the bad with the good and fully embrace the meme aspect.”

“Baby Got Back” – Sir Mix-A-Lot (1992)

Overall an iconic song that has stuck with us even almost 30 years later. It even influenced our slang from the “Oh my god Becky, look at her butt” and “My anaconda don’t want none”, which was used in Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda”, a raunchy music video that was a total meme back in 2014. The now commonly used word, simp, is even used in the song. Talking about how big someone’s butt is, is a meme. As a big RuPaul’s Drag Race fan, I suggest you watch the lip-sync for your legacy: Ben De La Creme vs Aja. Ben De La Creme’s campy lip-sync makes it even funnier.

Song/musician history:

“Baby Got Back” is one of the great one hit wonders of the 90s. Nowadays the song is blasted so liberally, but the 90s were a very different time and the song was controversial because of its objectifying lyrics. At one point, the music video was banned on MTV. Still, controversy sells music and it was the second best selling song in the US in 1992.

The song is pretty self explanatory, to honour curvaceous black and brown women. The beauty standards in the 90s were all about heroin chic, Kate Moss looking blonde girls. Having a big butt or big boobs in the 90s or the 2000s wasn’t fashionable. If you need any evidence of that, watch the Bubble Buddy episode of Spongebob where when Spongebob says “shake that bubble butt” everyone got offended and felt like he called them fat. Now, it’s all about the big butt. The butts in the “Baby Got Back” music video aren’t even big by our modern standards.

As for Sir Mix-A-Lot, we he was born in Seattle and was a big fan of hip hop and started writing his own raps and DJed in the 80s, but didn’t get famous until the one hit wonder.

“Barbie Girl” – Aqua (1997)

“Barbie Girl” is one of those goofy novelty songs, which makes it perfect meme material. Back when I was a pre-teen YouTube was starting to get popular and I remember this one viral video of these two guys with fake moustaches lip-syncing to “Barbie Girl” and 12 year old me thought it was hilarious. Since the video was posted in 2006, it has gotten 13.5 million views. Honestly, looking back, I don’t know why my parents didn’t yell at me for watching that.

Song/musician history:

Aqua are a dance-pop group from Denmark. “Barbie Girl” reached the top of the charts in many European countries and reached the top 10 in the US. It got a revival in popularity thanks to it being performed in the interval act of Eurovision in 2001. This song also had a controversy. Mattel sued Aqua’s record label in 2000 claiming that “Barbie Girl” violated the trademark and gave Barbie a bad image because it made her out to be a bimbo. The case almost made it to the Supreme Court, but the Court of Appeals ruled the song a parody and sided with Aqua over the corporate toy giant Mattel. Funny enough, years later Mattel used the song with modified lyrics to promote Barbie. How petty of them to sue, the song was free advertising!

“Blue” – Eiffel 65 (1998)

Another goofy Eurodance song that is memeable for many reasons. People made viral videos of Sonic with this song in the background. Get it? Because Sonic is blue! The most popular of these is an old school YouTube video called Sonic and Friends sing “Blue (Da Ba Dee)”, uploaded in 2007 and got over 2 million views. This video is so old that it can sign up for a YouTube account and I’ll shut up because I feel really old because that was half my lifetime ago. In other videos, people remix the song by shifting the pitch or playing it backwards or sped up or something.

Song/musician history:

Eiffel 65 were formed in Torino, Italy in 1998 and were known for the hits “Blue” and “Move Your Body”. The members of the group met at Bliss Corporation, an Italian Eurodance group and got their name thanks to a computer randomly choosing the name Eiffel and 65 being added to the name by accident because the producer wrote a phone number on a piece of paper and the two numbers ended up on the label.

The song tells the story of a sad man who lives in a blue world and he’s blue inside and out. Funny how you can dance to sadness.

“Butterfly – (1998)

You may know this song from Dance Dance Revolution (if you were a tween or teen in the noughties) or being played on the speaker of a cheap toy phone made in China. The latter is what made it a meme. Go on Twitter and you’ll see lots of people reminiscing about that song from their childhood. Also the music video is such a trip: two girls in braids and running around in some sort of Nintendo 64 graphics looking field.

Song/musician history: were made up of two women, Veronica Almqvist and Nona Boquist, from Sweden, not Denmark like the name would imply – they were just popular in Denmark. Their hit, “Butterfly” got big in Japan and led to it being licensed by Konami, the makers of Dance Dance Revolution. A couple other songs of theirs made it into DDR: “Boys”, “Mr Wonderful”, “Petit Love”, “Dancing All Alone”, “Golden Sky”, and others.

“Canned Heat” – Jamiroquai (1999)

This song is one that has been used in many YouTube Poops, but it became a meme thanks to the 2004 film, Napoleon Dynamite, in the famous scene where the titular character dances at a school assembly to the song in the iconic “Vote For Pedro” shirt. You can see a clip of that scene below:

Song/musician history:

Jamiroquai are a British funk and acid jazz band formed in 1992. Their biggest influences are funk and soul music from the 70s and they even took some inspiration from Native Americans, particularly with their logo and name, which is a portmanteau of sorts with Jam + Iroquois. They were more popular in Europe in the US.

“Canned Heat” is easily their best known song and has an Earth, Wind, & Fire and disco Bee Gees like feel to it. It reached #1 on the dance charts in the US and went top 10 in a lot of European countries. A really good disco song not from the 70s.

“Circle of Life” – Carmen Twillie and Lebo M (1994)

Cat parents probably all have lifted up their cats like Simba to this song and singing the “Nants ingonyama bagithi Baba” bit at the beginning by Lebo M. Cats hate it but we love it. The intro translates to “here comes a lion, father”.

The Lion King is a favourite of so many millennials and the opening scene and song is everything. When an opening scene of a movie is this iconic and beautiful, that means it’s going to be parodied in shows like the Animaniacs, Doctor Who, Chicken Little, A Bug’s Life, and South Park.

Song/musician history:

The song was composed by Elton John with lyrics by Tim Rice. Carmen Twillie sings most of the vocals with Lebo M doing the Zulu vocals in the intro. Three songs from The Lion King: “Circle of Life”, “Hakuna Matata”, and “Can You Feel The Love Tonight” were nominated for the Oscar for Best Original Song, but ultimately the winner was “Can You Feel The Love Tonight”.

Carmen Twillie has worked with Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, and Pink Floyd. Lebo M. was born in Soweto and didn’t have training in music. He dropped out of school at the age of 9 to perform music and released his first single when he was 13. As a teenager he left for Lesotho and was spotted singing at the Victoria Hotel and was spotted by the ambassador to the United States, who helped him apply to the Duke Ellington School of the Arts. After finishing his studies, he moved to LA to pursue a music career. He got his big break with The Lion King.

“Cotton Eye Joe” – Rednex (1994)

The 90s was very well known for its novelty dance one hit wonders. The lyrics are goofy and the band name is silly. Cowboys and “yeehaw” have become memes in 2010s internet culture and “Cotton Eye Joe” is something that fits right into it. All over the internet, you’ll see people quote this goofy song so much it’s basically a copypasta. Every school dance without fail, you’ll hear this song played.

Song/musician history:

This song is based on a 19th century American folk song of the same name, associated with the American Southeast and partner and line dancing. Movies like Urban Cowboy and musicians like The Moody Brothers, Chieftains, and Rednex popularised the song for modern audiences.

Rednex are a Europdance group from Sweden known for making novelty electronic country songs. They were formed in 1994.

“Hampster Dance” – Deidre LaCarte (1998)

This song was from one of the first ever internet memes. Canadian art student Deidre LaCarte built a GeoCities page with an animation of a dancing hamster gif with a sped up version of “Whistle-Stop” from Robin Hood playing in the background. For the Zoomers who have no memory of the early internet, it’s hard to explain what GeoCities was, basically something that people in the late 90s and early 2000s used to build websites about anything – lots of glitter and bright colours. In 2005, CNET named the Hamster Dance the number one web fad. Remember the days when memes were relevant for longer and not deemed uncool after two minutes?

Song/musician history:

In 1999, the website went viral and got 60,000 views in 4 days. EarthLink featured the website in an ad and bumper stickers were made based on the meme. Canadian dance musicians The Boomtang Boys made their own version of the song credited to Hampton the Hampster because Disney wouldn’t allow the use of their song in the clip – that was released in the new millennium. That song reached #1 in Canada, #5 in Australia, and #4 on the US dance charts. It remained popular in the early 2000s. Perhaps the “Baby Shark” of the day. Kids loved it, but parents thought it was obnoxious.

“I Will Always Love You” – Whitney Houston (1992)

Whitney Houston was an incredibly talented singer and that long high note that she held in her famous version of “I Will Always Love You” has been incorporated in so many YouTube poops and Vines. sound edits, and memes. One notable one was of this 11 year old girl sitting in front of her webcam trying to sing the song, but failing to hit the notes and getting angry that she can’t hit the notes. It’s gotten over 17 million views, but has been reposted and has gotten millions more. Warning for the high pitched screams. Her name is Alisha and she’s now 21. She still can’t hit that note, but she enjoyed the fame and still gets recognised on the street and takes it well.

Song/musician history:

This song was originally a Dolly Parton song. She wrote this song and “Jolene” all in the same day. That’s how much of a legend Dolly Parton is. Your fave could never. Of course, her style was country and was a farewell to her former partner and mentor, Porter Wagoner. It topped the country charts twice, in 1974 and 1982, when she re-recorded it for The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. She was the first musician to reach #1 twice with the same song since Chubby Checker did with “The Twist” in 1960 and 1962.

“I Will Always Love You” has been covered by so many artists, but the best known cover is Whitney Houston’s, which was recorded for the soundtrack of the film The Bodyguard. Her version set records, spending 14 weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was one of the best selling singles of all time and still is the best selling single by a woman in music history. After her death in 2012, it re-entered the charts.

The music press love to pit musicians against each other, but Dolly Parton and Whitney Houston didn’t have any of it and they praised each other in interviews.

“I’ll Make a Man Out of You” – Donny Osmond (1998)

This song is one of the best known ones in the Mulan soundtrack and it’s the song sung during the epic training montage that shows the growth and development of Mulan, probably one of the most epic training montages in all of cinema history, in my humble opinion. I remember seeing the lyrics of this song quoted constantly on viral posts on Tumblr. One of my favourites is one that says “LGBT actually stands for Let’s Get down to Business To defeat the Huns”.

People have made parody videos of this song and have made memes of the famous lyrics “Be a man, we must be swift as a coursing river. Be a man, with all of the force of a great typhoon. Be a man, with all the strength of a raging fire. Mysterious as the dark side of the moon.”

Song/musician history:

The song was written by Matthew Wilder and David Zippel and performed by Donny Osmond, as the singing voice of Captain Li Shang. People consider the song the highlight of the movie. Jackie Chan recorded versions in Cantonese and Mandarin. Disney hired Wilder and ZIppel because they wanted a songwriter who could give a different sound. Zippel previously worked on the film Hercules and Wilder had a hit, “Break My Stride”. Zippel was a last minute replacement for Stephen Schwartz who wrote a song “We’ll Make a Man Out of You”, but that was replaced with the classic we all know and love. Schwartz resigned because he was working on the score of Disney rival DreakWorks’ The Prince of Egypt. Donny Osmond auditioned previously for Hercules, but didn’t get the role because he was too old sounding. He was so embarrassed by the rejection that he considered retiring. Thankfully he didn’t because his performance in this song is amazing.

“I’m Too Sexy” – Right Said Fred (1991)

In any fandom, you’re sure to see edits of people’s favourite characters, actors, and musicians being their cute selves to this song. As a huge Beatles fan, I remember watching these videos. Plenty of anime fans make their own edits like this.

That’s a way to simp for your faves I guess. It’s a goofy novelty song making fun of body builders and models who are full of themselves flexing, posing, and body checking in front of the mirror. The lyrics and simple and easy to parody. I”m too sexy for insert anything here. Canadian sketch comedy show, 22 Minutes, made an “I’m too sexist” parody of Trump. But I don’t think it’s as funny as the above Beatles I’m Too Sexy video.

Song/musician history:

Right Said Fred were made up of two brothers, Fred and Richard Fairbrass. They had been playing music since the late 70s and toured with Suicide and even opened for Joy Division back in the day. They named themselves after the 60s novelty song “Right Said Fred” by Bernard Cribbins. The two brothers released “I’m Too Sexy” as their first single and got the idea from their days running a gym in London and seeing all the guys acting narcissistic and posing. Richard mocked them once by taking off his shirt and saying “I’m too sexy for my shirt” and that’s how the song was born. They tried pitching the song to a few record companies, who turned it down, but Guy Homes, a radio plugger, decided to give it a chance after passengers liked the hook of the song. The song peaked at 2 on the UK charts, but made it to #1 in the US. They are the first group to reach #1 in the US with a debut single since The Beatles and the song was sampled in Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do”.

“Ice Ice Baby” – Vanilla Ice (1990)

Ever hear the first few notes of the song and thinking ‘Awesome! “Under Pressure” by Queen!” but then you feel the disappointment when it’s actually “Ice Ice Baby”? Haven’t we all. It happens so often that it’s become a meme in the classic rock fandom and normies on the internet know what we’re talking about. People have made meme image macros which you can see below and some people even do remixes. It’s also one of those songs that is guaranteed to get white people turnt at parties.

If you want to be as frustrated as when Spongebob was stuck in Rock Bottom trying to get the bus back to Bikini Bottom, here’s a related video:

Song/musician history:

Vanilla Ice’s birth name is a pretty funny sounding one, his real last name is Van Winkle. He grew up in Dallas and Miami. He loves poetry and that’s how he got into hip hop. He got his nickname Vanilla from the fact that he was the only white guy in his friends group. Ice came from one of his breakdance moves. He wrote “Ice Ice Baby” when he was 16. Before he became a rapper, he did motocross and won a bunch of championships.

“Ice Ice Baby” was originally the b-side for a cover of “Play That Funky Music”. The original a-side wasn’t played at all, but a DJ decided to play the b-side and listeners loved it and it spread to other radio stations. Vanilla Ice’s album To The Extreme became the fastest selling hip hop album of all time.

Of course there’s always a controversy and that one is what the meme is based on, the fact that the song ripped off “Under Pressure”. There’s nothing wrong with sampling if you give credit to the original artist, but Vanilla Ice claimed that the song’s hook has an extra beat and therefore it doesn’t rip off John Deacon’s bassline. Queen and David Bowie (by this point Queen were sharing songwriting credit) took legal action and the matter was settled out of court and he had to give songwriting credit to Queen and David Bowie and pay the band.

One Rolling Stone journalist said that because of Queen and David Bowie being sampled in the song it kinda ruins their image because they’re linked in a collaboration they had no choice in joining. I disagree. We can just ignore “Ice Ice Baby”.

“Informer” – Snow (1992)

Do you ever have trouble understanding Sean Paul because of those rapid fire patois lyrics? Me too. Before Sean Paul, there was Snow, a Canadian reggae musician who made this one hit wonder “Informer”. So many memes have been made because people have no idea what “a licky boom boom down” means. Like Vanilla Ice, he’s a white guy who performs music mostly performed by black musicians and that means he’s going to stand out. Lots of internet memes have been made about “Informer”, including one that shows the difference between Snow and Edward Snowden.

Jim Carrey didn’t just stop at parodying Vanilla Ice, he also parodied Snow with a song called “Imposter” also on In Living Colour.

Song/musician history:

Snow was born Darrin O’Brien in Toronto. He grew up listening to rock music initially and thanks to his Jamaican friends, he got into reggae. Before the fame, he was a DJ and after Jamaican born DJ Marvin Prince saw him at a party, he started collaborating with him and Snow would do vocals while Marvin would play records. In New York he met rapper MC Shan and they got a record deal.

The song “Informer” was based on his real life experiences being charged with attempted murder (those charges were later reduced to aggravated assault and he was acquitted). Snow was a bit of a troublemaker and while “Informer” was getting airplay, he was in jail serving an 8 month sentence for assault. The song was a huge success and topped the charts in multiple European countries and America and went top 10 in many others.

“Istanbul (Not Constantinople)” – They Might Be Giants (1990)

Lots of image macros (memes) have been made based on this song. It’s a goofy song so why wouldn’t it be memed?

Song/musician history:

The song was written 500 years after the fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans and it’s a novelty song. It was originally performed by The Four Lads in 1953. The Four Lads were a singing quartet from Canada who were very successful, with a lot of gold singles and albums. Ever since then, the song has been mentioned in pop culture and joked about by history buffs. One of the best known covers was released in 1990 by a group called They Might Be Giants and it’s faster than the original.

“Ocean Man” – Ween (1997)

I don’t know if there’s a name for this rule, but basically if Spongebob touches your song it’s gonna become a meme, just like if your song is in Shrek, it will forever be a Shrek song. This song was used at the end of the Spongebob Squarepants movie when Spongebob becomes manager of the Krusty Krab 2. The song got a revival in popularity thanks to Spongebob and Vine and iFunny.

Song/musician history:

Ween formed in 1984 by childhood friends Aaron Freeman and Mickey Melchiondo, who go by Gene and Dean Ween. In middle school, they came up with the name Ween and decided to use the same name to be just like The Ramones. In the 80s they self released cassettes. The early 90s were their lo-fi period. “Ocean Man” was made during the late 90s when they had a bigger lineup and better production quality.

Not only was “Ocean Man” the end credits song for the Spongebob Squarepants Movie, it was also used in an advert for the Honda Civic.

“One Week” – Barenaked Ladies (1998)

One of those songs that got a revival in popularity years later thanks to the internet and people ironically enjoying old songs. The song was in a bunch of soundtracks: 10 Things I Hate About You, Digimon, and American Pie. Weird Al made a parody of the song in 1999 called “Jerry Springer” – content warning: un-pc lyrics.

Ten years later, College Humor parodied the song.

Then in 2015, Buzzfeed posted a fan theory that “One Week” is secretly about a man killing is wife.

In 2017, Neil Cicierega included the song in two songs on Mouth Moods – mashing it up with “Smooth Criminal” and “Stand By Me”.

Song/musician history:

The Barenaked Ladies are a Canadian rock band formed in Toronto in 1988. Their self-titled 1991 cassette debut was the first independent release to go gold in Canada. They rose in fame thanks to their hits “If I Had $1,000,000” and “Brian Wilson”, both released in 1992. But they were best known for the song “One Week”, which topped the charts in America. The song has a lot of pop culture references and the rap is really fast.

“Rhythm of the Night” – Corona (1994)

Well we all know what happened in 2020 and the artist name reminds us of that. Thanks to Coronavirus, this song had a revival in popularity and became a meme of sorts. The 90s are coming back and this is one of those memories that came back. It’s a classic and one of those songs that reminds me that the 90s weren’t that bad as far as music. Good decade for dance music.

Here’s a guy in PPE playing a saxophone cover of “Rhythm of the Night”

And a guy playing it on his balcony, which got over 2 million views:

If you look around on the internet, you’ll find plenty of people photoshopping coronavirus on top of the song or the singer.

Song/musician history:

Corona were an Italian Eurodance group formed in 1993 by Brazilian singer Olga de Souza and producer Francesco Bontempi. What’s interesting about this song is that Olga de Souza who appeared in the music video isn’t actually singing the vocals, but actually it was Giovanna Bersola. Olga de Souza is doing quite well for herself even being a one hit wonder, being worth €10 million. The song reached the top 10 in a bunch of countries in Europe and reached #11 in the US. A true 90s club anthem indeed. It’s even in the soundtrack of GTA V. If you’ve made it onto a GTA soundtrack, you’ve truly made it.

“Running in the 90s” – Max Coveri (1999)

If you’ve watched YouTube poops in the late noughties, then you know this electronic song. It went viral in the late 2000s and one upload of the song got over 40 million views. Memes/viral videos of Mario, Luigi, and Sonic have been made with this song playing in the background. It was also a popular song used in YTMND sites.

Song/musician history:

Very little can be found on the artist, but here’s what I found out. It’s by an Italian disco musician named Maurizio De Jorio who used the stage name Max Coveri. The song was written by Pamela Prandoni, Laurent Gelmetti, and Clara Moroni.

“Sandstorm” – Darude (1999)

Another extremely fast meme song and one that you hear and you know it straight away, especially if you’re a millennial familiar with memes, YouTube poops, and viral videos. Twitch streamers often use this song as background music and it’s an inside joke in the Twitch community that when people ask what song is playing the answer is always “Darude – Sandstorm”. YouTube took this joke further on April Fool’s Day 2015 and displayed the message “Did you mean: Darude – Sandstorem by Darude” every time someone searched for a song and added a link to the song. The music video has gotten almost 200 million views since it was uploaded in July 2009.

Song/musician history:

Darude is a Finnish DJ and record producer who started making music in 1995 and got a platinum selling hit with “Sandstorm”. The song reached #6 on the dance charts in the US. #3 in the UK, and topped the dance charts in his native Finland for 17 weeks. The song is popular at sporting events.

How has he reacted to his song becoming a meme? He said that at first, he was weirded out, but after playing gamer conferences, he started to understand it and he’s cool with it. I mean ultimately, it must make him a lot of money.

Scatman John as a whole (1994-1996)

Another song with a guy that sings so fast and you can’t keep up when you try to sing it. The 90s was well known for its dance music and mixing dance music with other genres. Scatman John stood out because of his mixing of jazz and dance music and he became successful, especially in Europe. His music has been used in YouTube Poops. Songs like “Scatman’s World”, “The Invisible Man” (Queen cover), and “Scatman”.

Song/musician history:

Scatman John was born John Larkin in California. He combined scat singing, a type of jazz singing, with dance music. He started scat singing as a way to deal with his stutter and raps about it in his eponymous song. He loved listening to Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. He also played piano and used it as a sort of security blanket because he could express himself and hide his stutter that way. In 1990, he moved to Berlin and got into the jazz scene there. For the first time, he added singing to his act and people were impressed. His agent, Manfred Zähringer, came up with the idea to mix his scat singing with dance music and hip hop and at first, John had reservations because he was worried he’d be ridiculed. His wife said that he could talk about his struggles with his speech impediment in his music and that’s what he did. At the age of 53 he became a superstar as “Scatman” rocketed to the top of the charts in so many countries. Sadly, he didn’t live very long after he achieved success. He was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1998 and continued to record even when he was told not to. He died in 1999 at the age of 57.

“Smooth” – Santana feat. Rob Thomas (1999)

This is the best song ever, hands down, enough said. Everything about it is perfect from the guitar and drum intro to the lyrics and that’s what made it a total meme. It’s not “Smooth” by Santana, it’s “Smooth” by Santana Feat. Rob Thomas of Matchbox Twenty. Yes, you need to say all of that. It had more cultural impact than Monterey, Woodstock, Isle of Wight, and Live Aid combined.

The song first became a meme in 2012 when this Twitter account called Rob Thomas Weather posting weather forecasts based on lyrics from the song like “Man it’s a hot one”.

Then in 2013, The Onion posted a YouTube video titled “Santana and Rob Thomas’ ‘Smooth’ Sweeps Grammy Awards For 13th Year In A Row”. I mean, I wouldn’t mind that.

In 2014, Neil Cicierega made this mashup of Enya’s “Orinoco Flow” with Grammy Award winner “Smooth” by Santana Feat. Rob Thomas of Matchbox Twenty and a little bit of “All Star”.

In 2015, someone tried to raise funds for a convention dedicated to “Smooth” by Santana Feat. Rob Thomas of Matchbox Twenty. Sadly, it only raised €532 out of its nearly €200k goal. I wish it was a real convention because it would be lit. At least you can get “Smooth” by Santana Feat. Rob Thomas of Matchbox Twenty merch.

Song/musician history:

Although the song was credited to Santana as first musician with Rob Thomas merely being featured and it appearing on Santana’s album Supernatural, the song was written by Rob Thomas and Itaal Shur. The original idea was Shur’s and it was a song called “Room 17”. Rob Thomas then re-wrote the lyrics and changed the title to “Smooth” and sent a demo of it to Santana, who loved it. Rob Thomas wrote the song for his wife, Marisol Maldonado, who he referred to as his “Spanish Harlem Mona Lisa”.

“Smooth” topped the charts in 1999 and spent 12 weeks at #1 in the US and was Santana’s first #1 since “Black Magic Woman” in 1971. The song was only behind Chubby Checker’s “The Twist” when Billboard ranked the top songs of the first 50 years of the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.

“The Next Episode” – Dr Dre, featuring Snoop Dogg, Kurupt, and Nate Dogg (1999)

Also known as the Snoop Dogg smoke weed everyday song, this song has been a meme thanks to YouTube, Vine, and Tiktok. Basically whenever something badass, like a boss, or gangsta happens, this song starts playing.

It was first made into a meme in the late 2000s thanks to gamers who incorporated the song into YouTube poops and remixes. Often they’ll mash the song up with a clip of Snoop Dogg dancing in the music video for “Drop It Like It’s Hot”.

There are plenty of memes with this song in it, but if I were to pick a favourite, I’d have to say Bernie Sanders being badass. Man, I miss this Bernie:

Song/musician history:

This song is a sequel to Dr Dre and Snoop Dogg’s song “Nuthin’ But a G Thang” from 1992. The song often references 2pac’s “California Love”. While “smoke weed everyday” is not the title of the song, that’s the last line of the song, said by Nate Dogg. The song is very influential and has been remixed many times.

Dr Dre is a name that you’ll certainly know because of his music and his entrepreneurship, Beats by Dre. He also owned a hip hop label, Death Row Records and was a former member of NWA. Snoop Dogg was signed to Dr Dre’s label and the two often worked together with Dr Dre producing his debut album, Doggystyle. He got his stage name from his childhood nickname Snoopy because of his love of the comic, Peanuts. Nate Dogg is Snoop Dogg’s cousin and he’s known as the “King of Hooks”. Kurupt is a trendsetter in West Coast hip hop and was also signed to Dr Dre’s label.

“Tubthumping” – Chumbawamba (1997)

“I get knocked down, I get up again, You’re never gonna keep me down” – inspiring lyrics and an infectious song. When a song is that repetitious, it’s gonna mean that it will be memed at some point and that’s what happened. Rolling Stone listed it as one of the most annoying songs of all time. In December 2019, Twitter user @HenpeckedHal tweeted a story about his wife going out to a pub and him trolling her by playing Tubthumping on the jukebox over and over again thanks to the high tech jukebox that you can control with the TouchTunes app. Thanks to that viral post, the band name Chumbawamba got a lot more searches on Google.

The song was also played in Family Guy in a scene where Chris tries to say goodbye to his crush at the airport so he rushes there as fast as he can and his crush isn’t who you think it would be. Other than that, the lyrics are quoted a lot.

Song/musician history:

Chumbawamba were formed in 1982 in Lancashire. The band members were previously in a band with an equally funny name, Chimp Eats Banana. Politically, they are anarchy-communist/libertarian socialist and sing songs about being against authority. They’re not afraid to critique famous people and their first LP’s title, Pictures of Starving Children Sell Records, criticised Bob Geldof, who organised Live Aid. They called Live Aid a spectacle to draw attention away from real issues and ultimately enrich the musicians without helping people in need. Their albums in the 80s and early-mid 90s were released on their own labels, Agit Prop and One Little Indian.

They’re best known for the song “Tubthumping”, their only hit in the US, where it reached #6 on the Hot 100. Longtime fans of the band were upset with them and called them sell-outs because by this time they had signed to a major record label. The band credited the song for bringing them back together and they had no idea how much of a sensation it would have become. The inspiration behind the song was a pub in Leeds called the Fforde Grene.

“Tunak Tunak Tun” – Daler Mehndi (1998)

This Bhangra/Indi-pop song was a huge success not only in India, but all over the world thanks to the huge South Asian diaspora introducing it to friends from different cultures and because the video went viral sometime in the noughties and people started making parodies of it as early as 2001. The first parody was made by a comedian named Dan Gomiller who does weird dances what looks like some sort of warehouse or garage. Hey! Be nice, green screens weren’t accessible to us plebs so you gotta use what you have. Appreciate the charm of old school YouTube. There have been many other dance parodies since, including one that was done by secondary school students that reached over 6 million views. The dance from the song was also used in World of Warcraft and has been remixed and YouTube pooped.

Song/musician history:

At first, Indian music critics didn’t understand his popularity and said that his main appeal was his female backup dancers, so he decided to stick it to the critics and make a music video for “Tunak Tunak Tun” where he clones himself and dances in front of a green screen with CGI backgrounds of St Basil’s Cathedral and some mountains. What a legend.

The meaning of the song title is that it’s a reference to a sound made by a Punjab instrument called a tumbi. The music video was the first in India to use a greenscreen and had an unprecedented budget of $610,000, adjusted for inflation, $1.29 million. What a masterpiece.

Daler Mehndi was born Daler Singh and started playing music in the early 90s. He’s played concerts all over the world. The famous “Tunak Tunak Tun” music video has gotten over 150 million views.

“Two Princes” – Spin Doctors (1993)

This song was famously used in the South Park episode, “Tegridy Farms”. Basically, Randy leaves South Park to move to the country to start a marijuana farm to cash on weed now being legal in Colorado. His family basically aren’t happy with it, but it does make the Marsh family a lot of money. In the episode, Randy puts a stoner hat on his son Stan (who is really unwilling) and when he puts it on, “Two Princes” starts playing and stops when he takes it off.

Song/musician history:

“Two Princes” was Spin Doctors’ biggest hit, reaching #7 in the US, #1 in Iceland and Sweden, #2 in Canada, and #3 in the UK and Australia. It was nominated for a Grammy for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group. The music video has some silent film influences and you can see the lead singer with the same stoner hat worn by the lead singer Chris Barron.

“U Can’t Touch This” – MC Hammer (1990)

Used in Family Guy in the Petoria episode, this song has a whole new meaning 30 years after it came out. Because we are in a pandemic, “U Can’t Touch This” is right! A secondary school principal in Alabama made a COVID-19 safety video parody to this song that has gotten over a million views. All over the internet you can see memes of this song related to COVID.

Here’s Peter Griffin’s “Can’t Touch Me”:

The song was parodied in 1990 by the Miami Dolphins as “U Can’t Touch Us” and in 1991 by Weird Al as “I Can’t Watch This”.

Song/musician history:

This was MC Hammer’s biggest hit and his signature song and has been used in so many shows, adverts, and movies. It sampled Rick James’ “Super Freak”. It made history as the first rap song to be nominated for Record of the Year at the Grammys. MC Hammer didn’t originally release this as a single so if people wanted to own the song, they had to buy the whole album… cheeky. The album went on to sell 18 million copies.

MC Hammer is the epitome of a one hit wonder who struck it rich and lived it up a little too much to the point where anyone who spends a lot of money is compared to him. He was spending money like it was going out of style. On top of that, he didn’t credit Rick James so he sued him and that cost him a lot. He made $33 million and blew it all on a mansion he built for $12 million and hired 200 workers with an annual payroll of $6.7 million. He lost money on the mansion, selling it for $5.3 million after living in it for 6 years. Tragic. He ended up $13 million in debt and filed for bankruptcy in 1996. After that, he turned to religion, started his own ministry, and said his priorities were out of whack. Now, he’s worth $1.5 million. Not bad, but a far cry from what he was worth at his peak.

“We Like to Party! (The Vengabus)” – Vengaboys (1998)

This song became a meme of sorts thanks to the famous Six Flags advert with Mr Six getting out of a bus and dancing to this song. Something you wouldn’t expect from an old man. I grew up in the same town as Six Flags and would go every year and naturally, this advert would be playing a lot on TV and everyone in my school would talk about it. It was a brilliant ad and made Six Flags a lot of money and they started selling Mr Six shirts. You can find the advert below:

Song/musician history:

Eurodance band Vengaboys were formed in Rotterdam in 1997 and were best known for the songs “We Like to Party” “Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom!”, and “We’re Going to Ibiza”. The former topped the charts in Belgium and was a top 10 hit in various European countries, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. It was their best known song in the US, where it reached the top 30 and was used at sporting events and of course in the Six Flags advert.

“What is Love?” – Haddaway (1993)

This one hit wonder has been memed so many times, starting in Saturday Night Live when it was used in the first “Roxbury Guys sketch”. That particular sketch was made into a gif and put on the website YTMND in 2005 and was later parodied with a pixel art version with an NES sounding version of the song. That bit from the sketch with Chris Kattan, Jim Carrey, and Will Ferrell bopping their heads to the song has been parodied so many times.

The song was also in the viral video Evolution of Dance – along with a lot of other songs on this list.

Song/musician history:

Haddaway was born in Trinidad and moved around a lot as a kid between Europe and America.He grew up listening to jazz music and learnt to play trumpet when he was 14 and was in marching band in secondary school. He enrolled in medical school, but he didn’t feel motivated so he moved to Germany in 1987 and worked in bars and started a company that organised fashion shows and photoshoots.

“What Is Love” was his debut single and it was an instant success in Europe, reaching #2 in Germany and the UK. He was a one hit owner in the US, but in Europe he did will getting other hits through the mid 90s.

“What’s Up?” – 4 Non Blondes (1993)

This song was used in a meme with He-Man lip-syncing to the song. You may recognise the part of the video where he’s laughing while the song goes “heyyeayeahyeahyeah” or something like that. That meme has been around since 2005 and is used as a bait and switch troll, kind of like how the Rickroll is used. The below viral video has been viewed over 170 million times.

Song/musician history:

4 Non Blondes were formed in San Francisco in 1989 and were active until 1994 and only reunited once 20 years later. The band only released one album, Bigger, Better, Faster, More! and it spent 59 weeks on the Billboard 200 albums charts.

This song is one of those that the title is not in the lyrics, although “what’s going on” is in the lyrics. Obviously they couldn’t go with “What’s Going On” because they didn’t want to be confused with the famous Marvin Gaye song. The song reached the top 20 in the US and reached #1 in many European countries.

“Wonderwall” – Oasis (1995)

Oasis are classic rock? Yes. Absolutely. In my opinion, they’re the best rock band of the 90s. I’m sick of Oasis erasure on classic rock radio stations. Often the first song you think about when you think Oasis is “Wonderwall”. It’s one of those songs that is easy to play on guitar and people like to play it at house parties and campfires to impress their friends, or maybe that cute girl, hence the “Anyway, here’s Wonderwall” meme. Weird flex, but okay. Like the scene in Wayne’s World where there was that “No Stairway” sign, lots of guitar shops have a sign with “No Wonderwall” so the employees don’t get annoyed with everyone playing the same songs over and over again. Wonder if there’s a “No Smoke on the Water” sign?

Noel Gallagher once walked into a guitar shop in Manchester and the whole store groaned at him… Well he is the guy responsible for “Wonderwall”, but pay some respect! He wrote other good songs! People even called the chords used in the song “The Oasis chords”

Guitarist Magazine: You say you don’t know chords. But people call the E minor seventh with the two fingers at the third fret, the Oasis chord…

Noel: After Morning Glory came out, I was in Manchester and went into this guitar shop and there was a sign banning people from playing Wonderwall. When I walked in they all groaned, Fucking hell, man, do you realise how many times we’ve heard Champagne Supernova and Wonderwall over the last six months?

“Anyway Here’s Wonderwall” really took off as a meme in 2013, thanks to this video by a YouTuber named Julia Banks, who played Wonderwall on ukulele, prefacing it with “Anyway here’s Wonderwall”.

From there, the phrase became a huge meme and people would caption any photo with a hipster with a guitar with that song.

Song/musician history:

Oasis were formed in Manchester by brothers Noel and Liam Gallagher. Basically, they were the biggest Britpop band. Not only did they have a rivalry with Blur on who was the better Britpop band, but the two Gallagher Brothers were rivals too, even releasing a single that was literally just an interview, titled “Wibbling Rivalry”.

Noel was the hardworking songwriter and genius behind the songs while Liam was the extroverted one who brought a rebellious attitude, banter, and style to the band. You can easily see the difference between their personalities based on how they use Twitter: Noel being all professional and businesslike, using it to promote his music (and not following his brother, Liam) and Liam using Twitter as his soapbox, typing rants often in all caps, like a mad lad. Don’t worry, Liam isn’t following Noel, or anyone for that matter.

“Wonderwall” is a pretty self explanatory song, about an imaginary friend who will save you from yourself. The Gallaghers being such Beatles fans, you might notice a little Beatles related reference in this one, Wonderwall being the title of the 1968 psychedelic film that George Harrison composed the soundtrack for. He was the first Beatle to release his own solo work.

It’s easily the most popular track on their 1995 breakthrough album, (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?, reaching #1 in Australia and New Zealand; #2 in the UK and Ireland; and reaching the top 10 in Canada and the US.

“Yakko’s World” – Yakko Warner (1993)

A viral Tiktok trend is to play this song to talk about colonialism or imperialism, usually by the British or Americans, but this is also a meme on YouTube where people will remix, speed up, and mash up the video and do funny things with it like replace bits of the song with something. Too many of these to name, but you can look up “Yakko’s World but faster” or something like that. Of course, the world has changed a lot since 1993 and there are going to be some countries on there that have broken up or no longer exist.

The Tiktok meme format is to have two columns and one side will be something like “Countries where being gay is illegal” and “Countries where being gay is legal” or “Countries run by men” and “Countries run by women” and the person will jump into the corresponding side when the country is announced.

Song/musician history:

This song was in the second episode of The Animaniacs and is a fan favourite and one of the most famous songs in the show. Voice actor Rob Paulsen will perform this song live from time to time. Randy Rogel wrote the song, inspired by his son studying geography. He noticed that “United States, Canada, Mexico, Panama” rhymed so he continued writing more countries down and completed the song and sent it to the creators of The Animaniacs. The song is to the tune of the Mexican Hat Dance, which is really called “Jarabe Tapatío” – the national dance of the country that originated as a courtship dance. The song originated in Guadalajara, Jalisco.

Honourable mention:

Because the early 2000s were basically still the 90s and this song is too much of a meme to not include in a meme songs post. 2001 was basically still a continuation of the 90s and I think it was more 90s than the beginning of the decade if that makes any sense.

“7th Element” – Vitas (2001)

This song in recent years has gone viral and has been such a meme that it would be a crime not to include it somewhere. It had such a cultural impact on the internet and I love this song so much. Brightened so many bad days.

In 2015, the song spread like wildfire on Reddit when someone was looking for The Fifth Element and accidentally found this gem and it got everyone’s attention because of Vitas’ weird tongue flick noise thing that some people call a “turkey call”. I really can’t describe it in words. You just have to listen to it. The video of the performance looks like something straight out of Eurovision: flamboyant, fabulous, alien like like Vitas and his dancers and band, Diva, came out of a UFO. One video of a performance of the song has gotten over 83 million views and people have made reactions and mashups to the song. One of my favourite mashups is one with this one scene from Inside Out where they go inside someone’s head and show what’s going on, but instead of emotions, this song plays. Yeah, that’s my brain.

Some people refer to this song as the Russian blblblbl song or the Chum Drum Bedrum song. Whatever you call it, it’s a song that will go down in history.

Russian YouTuber NFKRZ made a video explaining the song and its history and I think it’s a very good watch. Russian music has become really popular in recent years, particularly depressing music called Russian Doomer music and 80s Soviet new wave.

Song/musician history:

You may laugh at Vitas but he’s an incredibly talented musician and you can hear it in his other smash hit “Opera #2” He was born Vitaly Vladasovich Grachev in Latvia and raised in Ukraine. He moved to Moscow to further his music career and his career exploded in 2001. “Opera #2” was such a sensation that it was the best selling song in Russia for 3 years in a row. His falsetto is incredible. His music is really like nothing else I’ve heard, combining electronica, classical, jazz, and folk. He designs his own unique, eye catching costumes. He’s not only loved in Russia, but also in China. Stream “7th Element”, you won’t regret it.

Shoutout to my friend Patrick for supporting the blog!

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