In the 1990s, popular music was dominated by boy bands and pop stars. However, there were a few gems in the rough that emerged from the decade, songs that are still remembered and enjoyed today. Here is a list of 20 of the greatest songs from 1996.
- 1. “Wannabe” by Spice Girls
- 2. “Change the World” by Eric Clapton
- 3. “I Believe I Can Fly” by R. Kelly
- 4. “Tha Crossroads” by Bone Thugs-n-Harmony
- 5. “Return of the Mack” by Mark Morrison
- 6. “Don’t Let Go (Love)” by En Vogue
- 7. “Ironic” by Alanis Morissette
- 8. “Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)” by Backstreet Boys
- 9. “I Love You Always Forever” by Donna Lewis
- 10. “Last Night” by Az Yet
- 11. “Barely Breathing” by Duncan Sheik
- 12. “Twisted” by Keith Sweat
- 13. “Say You’ll Be There” by Spice Girls
- 14. “C’Mon n’ Ride It (The Train)” by Quad City DJ’s
- 15. “You’re Makin’ Me High” by Toni Braxton
- 16. “Follow You Down” by Gin Blossoms
- 17. “Firestarter” by The Prodigy
- 18. “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” by Celine Dion
- 19. “No Diggity” by Blackstreet and Dr. Dre
- 20. “Un‑Break My Heart” by Toni Braxton
- Final Thoughts
1. “Wannabe” by Spice Girls
An iconic hit that still resonates with listeners today, “Wannabe” was released in 1996 as the debut single from the Spice Girls. It quickly became a global smash and its infectious hook is instantly recognizable.
The song’s popularity helped to catapult the Spice Girls into superstardom and is credited with ushering in a new era of girl power music.
2. “Change the World” by Eric Clapton
Featured as the soundtrack for the film Phenomenon, Eric Clapton’s “Change the World” was released in 1996.
The song is an uplifting and hopeful anthem about making a positive difference in the world. Its catchy melody and inspirational message have made it a timeless classic that continues to be enjoyed today.
3. “I Believe I Can Fly” by R. Kelly
A popular song from the 1996 film Space Jam, “I Believe I Can Fly” became a major hit for R&B singer R. Kelly. The track is an inspirational anthem that encourages listeners to have faith in themselves and reach for their dreams no matter how unattainable they may seem.
It won three Grammy Awards and has since been reworked for a variety of genres, including choral and gospel versions.
4. “Tha Crossroads” by Bone Thugs-n-Harmony
The gangsta rap group Bone Thugs-n-Harmony released “Tha Crossroads” as a tribute to their former mentor Eazy-E, who died in 1995.
The song is an upbeat number that contains references to the Bible and speaks of finding strength in difficult times. It won a Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group and peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
5. “Return of the Mack” by Mark Morrison
“Return of the Mack” is a soulful hip hop number by British singer Mark Morrison. It has a catchy hook and celebrates the joys of being single.
The song was a huge success, reaching over 170 million views to this date. This only goes to prove that the dance floor still grooves to “Return of the Mack” even today.
6. “Don’t Let Go (Love)” by En Vogue
En Vogue’s “Don’t Let Go (Love)” is a romantic R&B ballad that speaks of never giving up on love. The song was the lead single off their album EV3 and was a major hit, reaching top 10 in various countries. It has since become one of the group’s signature songs.
7. “Ironic” by Alanis Morissette
A certified gold and her highest charting single in the US, “Ironic” is one of the most popular songs by Canadian singer-songwriter Alanis Morissette.
The song’s lyrics showcase a series of events that are ironic in nature and make for a thought-provoking anthem about life’s unexpected turns. It remains her best known song to this day.
8. “Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)” by Backstreet Boys
The Backstreet Boys were quite the sensation when they first hit the music scene in 1996. One of the songs from their debut album, the boy band instantly became a chart-topping success and went on to be one of the world’s most popular acts of all time.
9. “I Love You Always Forever” by Donna Lewis
“I Love You Always Forever” by Donna Lewis was released in 1996, and the song quickly gained traction with its upbeat tempo and charming lyrics.
It was a huge hit that peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 charts, and has since been covered by many other artists throughout the years.
10. “Last Night” by Az Yet
This next song is an R&B classic by the group, Az Yet. Released in 1996, “Last Night” is a smooth and groovy slow jam that has quickly become one of the most beloved R&B hits of all time.
The reason this song is still loved by fans all over the world today has everything to do with its unforgettable chorus and emotional lyrics.
11. “Barely Breathing” by Duncan Sheik
Duncan Sheik made waves in 1996 with his hit single, “Barely Breathing”. The song gained critical acclaim for its clever and thought-provoking lyrics that dealt with themes of heartbreak and emotional turmoil. You can stream it on all music platforms.
12. “Twisted” by Keith Sweat
“Twisted” by Keith Sweat is a classic from 1996 and still remains one of the most beloved R&B songs of all time. With over 80 million views on Youtube, you know this song is a certified bop.
The soulful, slow jam features Sweat crooning his way through an ode to love, with lyrics that are as romantic as they come.
13. “Say You’ll Be There” by Spice Girls
Next on the list is “Say You’ll Be There” by the Spice Girls. This iconic pop song was released in 1996 and has been a fan favorite ever since. With its instantly recognizable beat, powerful vocals, and catchy hook, it’s no wonder why this song has stood the test of time.
14. “C’Mon n’ Ride It (The Train)” by Quad City DJ’s
Peaking at number three on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, “C’Mon n’ Ride It (The Train)” remains one of Quad City DJ’s most popular singles. This unique mix includes samples from a variety of genres like funk and pop, making it stand out from other dance-pop songs of the era.
15. “You’re Makin’ Me High” by Toni Braxton
From her Secrets album, Toni Braxton’s “You’re Makin’ Me High” reached the Billboard Hot 100 chart at number one and stayed there for a week. It is a classic R&B jam that features her signature powerful vocals and a killer bass line.
16. “Follow You Down” by Gin Blossoms
Gin Blossoms reached the height of their fame with the release of “Follow You Down” from their 1996 album, Congratulations I’m Sorry. This alt-rock hit is a classic example of mid-90s radio rock and it peaked at number nine on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart.
17. “Firestarter” by The Prodigy
“Firestarter” was The Prodigy’s first big hit in the United States and it reached number one in the UK. The song is an example of the band’s signature mix of techno, rave and rock music. Its dark and eerie sound makes it one of the most distinctive songs from 1996.
18. “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” by Celine Dion
Who could possibly forget Celine Dion’s iconic ballad, “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now”? This melodramatic and powerful love song is one of the most successful singles from her acclaimed album Falling Into You.
It peaked at number two on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart and has been used in countless movies and television shows since its release.
19. “No Diggity” by Blackstreet and Dr. Dre
“No Diggity” was a massive hit when it was released in 1996, reaching number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
This hip hop/R&B collaboration is Blackstreet and Dr. Dre’s most iconic song and features rap verses from both artists as well as soulful vocals from Queen Pen. You can still stream it on all music platforms out there.
20. “Un‑Break My Heart” by Toni Braxton
Finishing out our list of the greatest songs from 1996 is Toni Braxton’s second entry, “Un‑Break My Heart”.
This emotional ballad has since become a timeless classic that has been covered by numerous artists over the years. It was also recognized as one of the most successful singles of all time.
From Toni Braxton to The Prodigy, there is something here for everyone to enjoy. Whether you are a fan of hip-hop, R&B, rock or pop music, these songs will provide you plenty of nostalgia and excellent listening experience.
So, if you are looking for a great way to relive the music of 1996, these 20 songs definitely have you covered. Enjoy!