Ahh yes, the 90s. A time where you had to drive to Tower Records to find new tunes, and stood in line to purchase concert tickets. When turning on MTV meant catching your favorite band’s latest music video, and immediately following paid a visit to Contempo Casuals in hopes of recreating the same look. This decade put the spotlight on female frontwomen who gave us epic inspiration, killer fashion, and totally awesome music!
Hailing from Anaheim, CA, No Doubt burst onto the music scene, bringing ska to the mainstream masses, with songs like “Spiderwebs,” and “Don’t Speak.” What girl didn’t want to be Gwen Stefani? With her tomboy, glam outfits and her unique voice, Gwen was destined to become an icon. Grammy-winning No Doubt continues to rock just as hard today, still playing shows and working on new music for their seventh studio album. Stefani currently is dominating pop culture, music and fashion. She is a coach on NBC’s The Voice, releasing a new solo album this winter, and has created several successful clothing, accessories, and beauty collaborations. It’s safe to say that she is more than “Just A Girl.”
Led by singer-songwriter Kathleen Hanna, Bikini Kill were trailblazers of feminism and the riot grrrl movement. Their music embraced female empowerment and punk ideals of DIY and anti-establishment. With album titles including, “P***y Whipped” and “Reject All American,” Bikini Kill veered from the mainstream, while still voicing their values through lyrics and performance style. The band broke up in 1997, with each member joining other projects. Hanna formed the group Le Tigre, and is currently with new group, The Julie Ruin. In 2013, she was the subject of the documentary The Punk Singer, which told the story of her life and career. She is married to Beastie Boys‘ Adam Horowitz.
This list would not be valid without mentioning Garbage. From their very beginning, Garbage has included a power-house group of musicians, including bassist Duke Erikson, guitarist Steve Marker, and renowned producer and drummer (yes, he helped create Nirvana‘s Nevermind) Butch Vig. This happy family, however, was not complete until singer-songwriter and all-together bad ass Shirley Manson joined the band. With her signature fiery red hair and brazen attitude, Manson is one cool chick. With chart-topping songs like “Only Happy When It Rains,” “Stupid Girl,” and “Special,” Shirley and the boys have cultivated a long-lasting and successful career. The band most recently completed an international tour celebrating 20 years since the debut of their first, self-titled album.
Much like No Doubt, Save Ferris also brought ska music from Orange County, CA. Lead singer Monique Powell’s powerful, retro voice helped create songs like “The World Is New,” “I Know,” and the band’s rendition of Dexy’s Midnight Runner’s “Come On Eileen.” After multiple lineup changes, the band seemed to have disbanded 2002…or so they thought. In 2013, Powell announced that the band was officially reuniting for a show — without notifying the original band members. A legal battle ensued over who had the rights to use the name Save Ferris. As of today, Powell continues to use the band name.
It’s safe to say that you’ve probably heard a Cranberries song in a movie or television show at least once or twice. The Irish band’s unique and memorable sound echoed throughout the 90s with songs like “Dreams,” “Linger,” and “Zombie,” much because of lead singer Dolores O’Riordan‘s hauntingly beautiful voice. After two solo albums and the release of the band’s sixth studio album Roses in 2012, not much Cranberries news has occurred. In 2014, O’Riordan joined former Smiths bassist Andy Rourke’s band, Jetlag, and is currently working on new music.
Letters To Cleo
This Bostonian band made waves in the 90s with their hit song, “Here And Now,” as well as memorable covers of Cheap Trick’s “I Want You to Want Me,” and Nick Lowe and Ian Gomm’s “Cruel to Be Kind,” featured on the 10 Things I Hate About You soundtrack. After the band’s official parting of ways in 2000, Lead singer Kay Hanley has since devoted her vocals and songwriting credits to several projects, including Disney’s My Friends Tigger and Pooh and Doc McStuffins. On the sixth season finale of NBC’s Parks & Recreation, Letters to Cleo reunited for a fictional concert. Ben Wyatt gleefully sang along.
Creating experimental, trip-hop, and electronic music, UK’s Portishead released their highly-successful debut album, Dummy, in 1994 to much international acclaim. Releasing only two more studio albums, songs like “Glory Box,” “Numb,” and “Only You” have solidified the band as pioneers of their genre. Lead singer Beth Gibbons strange, yet beautiful voice and songwriting skills have participated in several collaborations, including Joss Stone and Annie Lennox. Portishead continues to tour and perform at music festivals around the world.
Every 90s girl knows all the lyrics to “Lovefool.” The Cardigans burst onto the scene from Sweden after the success of their first single being featured on 1996’s Romeo + Juliet soundtrack. (Young Leo, swoon!) With international success, the band continued to release music and tour until 2005. After some reunion gigs in 2012-2013, lead singer Nina Persson suggested to the press that new music with the band could be a possibility. Persson continues to make music, with her first solo album, Animal Heart, released in 2014.
Oh Courtney Love, where do we even start? The uninhibited and outspoken singer-songwriter-musician of Hole certainly held her own. The band’s alternative, grunge, and punk influences mixed with bold, lyrical content garnered critical acclaim and Grammy nominations. Songs like “Violet,” “Doll Parts,” and “Celebrity Skin,” became fan favorites, as well as Love’s wild and unpredictable personality. Who could forget the epic run-in with Madonna at the 1995 MTV VMAs? In the midst of controversy, addiction, the loss of husband Kurt Cobain, and legal issues, Love has continued to make music and act. (Did you see her in the final season of Revenge? Amazing!) In 2014, Love announced that Hole was in the process of creating new material.
This 90s band had not one, but two female leads —Nina Gordon and Louise Post. Named after the bratty Charlie and the Chocolate Factory character, the band became a hit on MTV and the rock charts in 1994 with their single, “Seether.” Several years later, Nina Gordon left the band with rumored bad blood to pursue a solo career. In 2014, the band resolved differences and reunited their original line-up. Since their reunion, their fifth studio album, Ghost Notes, was released in 2015.
Sixpence None The Richer
Officially formed in 1993, Sixpence didn’t quite take off until the major success of their song, “Kiss Me,” released in 1998. This song was played on every tween girl’s Discman, dreaming of Freddie Prinze, Jr. The band also went on to record sweet covers of The La’s “There She Goes,” and Crowded House’s “Don’t Dream It’s Over.” Since then, lead singer Leigh Nash went on to record four solo albums, which included many Christian and worship songs. Her latest album, The State I’m In, released in 2015, had Nash switching gears—to country music.
Before Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball,” there was “Cannonball.” Formed by Pixies bassist Kim Deal, The Breeders had this big hit in 1993. Along with her twin sister Kelley, the band went through many lineup changes and solo projects. During hiatus, Kim formed indie rock band, The Amps. She also briefly reunited with The Pixies in 2004, going on tour and performing with them at Coachella, Lollapalooza, and Reading and Leeds Festival. Today, Kim is recording new music with the original Breeders line-up.
90s Bands With Female Singers