I embraced 90s alterna-girl angst at a very early age—it was my 10th birthday and amongst the gifts (Goosebumps books, Derwent pencils, those funny cardboard trees that grew psychedelic chemical leaves when you set them in the special solution), there was No Doubt’s “Just A Girl” CD single. It prompted an early awakening in which I became far too aware of female repression with only a really cute stamping of the foot and adorable sincerity to express my frustration. I owe to Gwen for helping me be an angry teenager—to always demand more and expect more from myself and other people in terms of discovering what womanhood meant to me. Here are 10 more songs that angsty, pubescent me embraced in the name of anger and feminism in the 90s.
1. “Bitch” – Meredith Brooks
OK, so first, girl is dancing in front of a window of twirling sunflowers while bashing a guitar—that’s enough to make any teenane girl in the 90s wet pants just a little bit. Second, she says “bitch” a lot which is really edgy to a 12-year-old. Thirdly, and most importantly, she’s got that uniquely 90s idyllic perspective of a woman being able to be everything all at once and not having to apologize for it.
2. “Seether” – Veruca Salt
When I was little I had no idea what this song meant, I just knew that I liked jumping around my room moshing my head and playing air guitar to it. It also made me want to tie-dye t-shirts, not take shit from anyone, and wear hair mascara.
3. “You Oughta Know” – Alanis Morisette
I’m guessing Alanis touched many a 90s angst-riddled youth in a million extremely powerful, wonderful ways. I used to spend hours negotiating with my parents so they’d play my tape of Jagged Little Pill on long drives, and then as the “F” word would loom, I’d prepare myself, steel my wits, hone my timing and… cough really loudly right as the profanity blasted through the speakers, hoping my parents wouldn’t notice that I was listening to music with swear words in it. Also, can you believe this song is (allegedly) about Uncle Joey?
4. “Stay (I Missed You) – Lisa Loeb
Sometimes I’m so shocked at the discrepancy by the female pop-culture role models I grew up with and the ones young girls are force fed now. Lisa was soft, fierce, quirky and accessible in a way that said, “to hell with your perception of me man. Yeah I fuck up sometimes but I’m here to learn and be better so don’t write me off you awesome fool.”
5. “Criminal” – Fiona Apple
Dirty, dark and bleak, Fiona Apple was apocalyptic in Criminal, turning the broken hearted female character into the heartbreaker. And looks pretty damn fine and filthy lurking in shadows with her signature animal eyes flashing and apathy drawn across her face all the while.
6. “Dress” – PJ Harvey
PJ Harvey was the ultimate in 90s feminine angst—the matriarch, if you will. There was something so violent in her disaffected womanhood that made me want to scream, wear ripped tights and smudge my makeup all over my face in some kind of “fuck men!” rebellion.
7. “Lay Down (Candles In The Rain) – Max Sharam
“We bled inside each other’s wounds.” Need I say more?
8. “I’m Only Happy When It Rains” – Garbage
Shirely Manson wasn’t talking about sun showers and rainbows either. And this is what we did in the 90s—we relished in our misery, and in turn being miserable made us happy. If PJ was the Queen then Shirley was the Jester—lurking by the sideline always with the most unexpectedly cutting darts to hurl.
9. “Linger” – The Cranberries
The bitterness of having your heartbroken but holding on for more of the same was a prevalent subject matter through the 90s and no one said it better than The Cranberries. The constant heartache, the inability to walk away from pain and all the earnest feelings of the 90s were pent up in the deep lyricism and Irish undertones of Dolores O’Riordan.
10. “Torn” – Natalie Imbruglia
This song really spoke to me as an angsty teen. I had always been looking for the perfect word to articulate how I felt and Natalie, in her shiny lipped, doe eyed, broken-heartedness had it for me—“torn.”