That’s Not What We Call Music: 25 Unfathomably Popular Albums Of The 90s

1
M People – Elegant Slumming (1993)

M People - Elegant Slumming (1993)

M People – Elegant Slumming (1993)

1993 was a great year for British albums, reflected in the Mercury Music Prize nominees that year that included Blur’s ‘Parklife’ and albums by Pulp, Primal Scream and Paul Weller. M People taking the £20,000 home at the end of the night was a huge surprise, and not a good one!

2
Simply Red – Stars (1991)

Simply Red – Stars (1991)

There was a time when Mick Hucknall could do no wrong. The flame-haired Manchester United fan boasted about his love conquests while his albums didn’t need talking up as they literally flew out of the shops. Well, not literally. Excluding Morning Glory, Stars sold more records in the 90’s than any other. It’s not held up well.

3
The Corrs – Talk on Corners (1997)

The Corrs – Talk on Corners (1997)

At one time the three Corr sisters and their brother Jim’s overproduced folk pop was ubiquitous all across the UK and Ireland, whereas the only talk on corners now are the conspiracy theories promulgated by suspicious Jim and the 9/11 Truth Movement he’s a member of.

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4
Gomez – Bring It On (1998)

Gomez - Bring It On (1998)

Gomez – Bring It On (1998)

Another surprise winner back in the early years of the Mercury Prize, Gomez certainly had their 15 minutes and then disappeared back into obscurity. The so-called “curse of the Mercury” started here folks.

5
MC Hammer – Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em (1990)

MC Hammer - Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em (1990)

MC Hammer – Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em (1990)

In 1990 artists didn’t come bigger than MC Hammer, who even started a short-lived fashion for Hammer Pants! If you don’t remember then you don’t want to know, trust us. Hammer tried shortening his name in a career reboot, after unthinkably filing for bankruptcy a few years after becoming one of the planet’s biggest stars.

6
Roxette – Joyride (1991)

Roxette - Joyride (1991)

Roxette – Joyride (1991)

Roxette’s best of was called Don’t Bore Us, Get To The Chorus, which may tell you everything you need to know about the Swedish duo’s lack of nuance. The tunes were cheesy, the lyrics terrible, and yet their hooks followed you around like stalky exes. Frightening.

7
Lenny Kravitz – Are You Gonna Go My Way (1993)

Lenny Kravitz - Are You Gonna Go My Way (1993)

Lenny Kravitz – Are You Gonna Go My Way (1993)

Lenny’s debut Let Love Rule did indeed rule, and follow up Mama Said had about three good songs on it. Are You Gonna Go My Way had barely three good moments on it, but that corrosive riff from the title track propelled Lenny to superstardom nevertheless. These days Lenny just seems so 90’s.

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8
Hootie and the Blowfish – Cracked Rear View (1994)

Hootie and the Blowfish - Cracked Rear View (1994)

Hootie and the Blowfish – Cracked Rear View (1994)

What were people thinking? Cracked Rear View was the world’s best selling album in 1995 (the year after its release) made by some South Carolina university dweebs with a penchant for roots rock, root beer and a talent for awful nomenclature. They were as deeply unfashionable as they were unstoppable in the mid-90s.

9
Counting Crows – August and Everything After (1993)

Counting Crows - August and Everything After (1993)

Counting Crows – August and Everything After (1993)

Lead singer of Counting Crows, Adam Duritz, managed to combine two spectacularly annoying traits in his delivery which were a) being overly whiny sounding, and b) clever clever. Had he not been such a pretentious try hard then the band probably would have sounded like, ooh, Hootie and the Blowfish. Bleak times.

10
Tin Machine – Tin Machine II (1991)

Tin Machine - Tin Machine II (1991)

Tin Machine – Tin Machine II (1991)

Oh how can we fault thee Dave? Even if the eponymously titled first album of Mr Bowie’s band was rubbish and the follow up was worse. Consider this though, sometimes it takes years to yield to the charms of Bowie albums, so ahead of their time are they. Expect a Tin Machine reappraisal in 2022.

11
Dodgy – Free Peace Sweet (1996)

Dodgy - Free Peace Sweet (1996)

Dodgy – Free Peace Sweet (1996)

If the name of that album looks like a mistake now, then really, it was frowned upon at the time too. The lead single from the album was called ‘Good Enough’, though plenty of critics begged to differ. The Hounslow power pop trio took mediocrity with guitars to new heights.

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12
Toploader – Onka’s Big Moka (1999)

Toploader - Onka’s Big Moka (1999)

Toploader – Onka’s Big Moka (1999)

This bunch were helped to popularity no end by being Jamie Oliver’s favourite band. The association has never been lived down by either, and you’ll still find thought pieces about the TV chef being written even now with the headline ‘Onka’s Big Plonka’.

13
Cast – All Change (1995)

Cast - All Change (1995)

Cast – All Change (1995)

Cast’s PR people made a big deal of the fact that their debut album sold more than the debuts of Jimi Hendrix and the Who, which perhaps highlighted a dip in quality more than anything else. Whiny and grating yet insidiously catchy and everywhere, Cast had all the ingredients to make you positively hate them. Still do.

14
Ugly Kid Joe – As Ugly As They Wanna Be (1992)

Ugly Kid Joe - As Ugly As They Wanna Be (1992)

Ugly Kid Joe – As Ugly As They Wanna Be (1992)

In 1992 it was easy to get into the charts if you were dumb and Californian and made a great play of being both. Ugly Kid Joe were bratty, snotty, full of attitude and not a lot else, except maybe shite.

15
Barenaked Ladies – Stunt (1998)

Barenaked Ladies - Stunt (1998)

Barenaked Ladies – Stunt (1998)

In 1998 Barenaked Ladies spent one week at the top of the Billboard charts with the song ‘One Week’, and it was one week too long. It was as if the band hadn’t shown up at the Pixar Christmas Party and some of the programmers had jumped on stage!

16
Limp Bizkit – Significant Other (1999)

Limp Bizkit - Significant Other (1999)

Limp Bizkit – Significant Other (1999)

Centuries into the future, advanced civilisations will look back at our times and they will ask one question that may prove impossible to solve: How did Limp Bizkit ever become so massive? It’s a mystery even 15 years on. Don’t judge us, future generations.

17
Savage Garden – Savage Garden (1997)

Savage Garden - Savage Garden (1997)

Savage Garden – Savage Garden (1997)

The eponymously titled Savage Garden album sold seven and a half million copies after its release in 1997. Read that back to me. Seven and a half million copies! Seven. and. a. half. million.

18
Ace of Base – The Sign (1992)

Ace of Base - The Sign (1992)

Ace of Base – The Sign (1992)

“I saw the sign and it opened up my mind,” sang the Swedish pop group Ace of Base about a head on collision with a road sign. Their lyrics weren’t the best and no, their music hasn’t stood the test of time.

19
Creed – Human Clay (1999)

Creed - Human Clay (1999)

Creed – Human Clay (1999)

Is Human Clay a euphemism? Creed might not have been very good, but at least the Christian rockers were honest about what they produced. Still, 11 million people bought this shit.

20
Eric Clapton – Unplugged (1992)

Eric Clapton - Unplugged (1992)

Eric Clapton – Unplugged (1992)

It used to be a received wisdom that Clapton was good because he’d written ‘Layla’ and been in Cream who weren’t bad, and because someone had once graffitied “Eric Clapton is God” on a wall in Finsbury Park (true story). Slowhand released this live album recorded for MTV, and it flew off the shelves. It made Norah Jones sound like Slayer.

21
Matchbox 20 – Yourself Or Someone Like You (1996)

Matchbox 20 - Yourself Or Someone Like You (1996)

Matchbox 20 – Yourself Or Someone Like You (1996)

Chances are you have no idea who Matchbox 20 were, and yet their album Yourself Or Someone Like You somehow managed to shift 15 million copies worldwide. Is there a country we don’t know about where they buy awful CDs?

22
Kenny G – Breathless (1992)

Kenny G - Breathless (1992)

Kenny G – Breathless (1992)

What the hell was Kenny G? Was he the 90’s own Acker Bilk? And if so, did the 90’s need it’s own Acker Bilk? Another nicely turned out dude who looked like he’d escaped from a Silicon Valley startup, his hair rivalled Michael Bolton’s for the 90’s very worst.

23
Shania Twain – Come On Over (1997)

Shania Twain - Come On Over (1997)

Shania Twain – Come On Over (1997)

Come On Over shifted an astronomical 20 million copies in the 1990’s, and Shania’s other album The Woman In Me did almost as well. Has anyone ever moved quite so much polycarbonate plastic over the counter and been so comprehensively forgotten?

24
Paul Weller – Stanley Road (1995)

Paul Weller - Stanley Road (1995)

Paul Weller – Stanley Road (1995)

Controversial this one, but really, Paul Weller’s most successful solo album was almost certainly his most boring. He’d had a surprising period in the wilderness before Wild Wood fired up the imagination again, but this was Weller at his most Claptonesque and pedestrian.

25
Blue is the Colour – The Beautiful South (1997)

Blue is the Colour - The Beautiful South (1997)

Blue is the Colour – The Beautiful South (1997)

The Beautiful South were massive in the late 90’s and nobody knows why. Okay, so Paul Heaton had a nice way with words but The Beautiful South were no The Housemartins, you hear what we’re saying?

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