In the ’90s, everything had a soundtrack. Even things that didn’t necessarily need a soundtrack (music from Oz, anyone?). We all still remember the big ones: Pulp Fiction, The Bodyguard, Clueless, Romeo + Juliet. But others got lost over time—shoved in boxes with our old Discman, swiped by roommates, traded away at the record store for credit to buy Strokes or White Stripes CDs. Let’s get reacquainted with some long-lost musical friends from the ’90s.
1. Singles (1992)
The source: It’s hard to recall now in the wake of “Aloha,” but there was a time when Cameron Crowe films were really real and what you were all about as a Gen-Xer. And it doesn’t seem like we recall Singles much at all anymore, period. This grunge rom-com—yes, that was a thing—arrived the same year as Melrose Place, but apparently from a different planet.
The music: As a 22-year-old who was more into Wilson Phillips, grunge sneaked up on me. With Pearl Jam, Chris Cornell and Alice in Chains, the Singles soundtrack was my catch-up guide.
Standout songs: Paul Westerberg’s “Dyslexic Heart” and “Waiting for Somebody” and Jimi Hendrix’s “May This Be Love.” (I know. Those aren’t really grungy. But remember that Wilson Phillips admission, and grade me on a curve. And give me some credit for at least wearing a lot of chunky shoes.)
Pairs with: Then: First-job angst. Considering a trip to Seattle. Now: Estimating your retirement savings. Considering a trip to Portland.
2. The Craft (1996)
The source: Girls do witch stuff. It’s also a reminder that we’re due for a Fairuza Balk revival—maybe starting with an Orange Is the New Black guest spot?
The music: Perhaps the most quintessentially ’90s soundtrack ever, with acts like Matthew Sweet, Jewel, Sponge, Tripping Daisy and Elastica.
Standout songs: The covers of “I Have the Touch” (Heather Nova), “How Soon Is Now?” (Love Spit Love) and “Witches Song” (Juliana Hatfield).
Pairs with: Then: Lighting candles. Reading Weetzie Bat books. Talking all night. Now: Lighting candles. Reading Weetzie Bat books. Instagram stalking.
3. Party of Five (1996)
The music: If you remember anything from this soundtrack, it’s probably the theme song, “Closer to Free” by the BoDeans, which makes Hootie & the Blowfish sound morose in comparison. But most of the rest of this accessible alternative mix has aged pretty well.
Standout song: Stevie Nicks covering Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin'” is your new midlife anthem.
Pairs with: Then: Finally cleaning your apartment after your post-breakup funk and then buying some new organization supplies at Target. Now: Finally grabbing some uninterrupted Pinterest time.
4. Stealing Beauty (1996)
The source: In the movie, Liv Tyler is in Tuscany looking for her father—and to lose her virginity. Which really aren’t great missions to mix.
The music: Everything that you aimed for when you made a mix CD: Non-obvious combinations (think John Lee Hooker and Liz Phair back-to-back) that somehow work seamlessly.
Standout song: “My Baby Just Cares for Me.” (If, like me, you didn’t know about Nina Simone till this soundtrack, we can be shame buddies. But at least we did start liking her, right?)
Pairs with: Then: Getting up the nerve to share your writing or art. Having someone over for dinner and trying to pick out a wine that made it seem like you knew what you were doing. Now: Finally starting to write or paint again. Drinking the wine you like and not caring what anyone else thinks.
5. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1999)
The source: As you know, we are required by law as members of this age group to love Buffy. This soundtrack to the series predates the better-known “Once More With Feeling.”
The music: It’s the twilight of the ’90s soundtrack era, and this compilation falls from the heights of Stealing Beauty. (Also, I’m really sorry for that Twilight evocation, guys.) But we do have the poppy alternative fun of Guided by Voices’ “Teenage FBI” and the resplendent guilty pleasure anthem “Lucky” by Bif Naked.
Standout song: Of course, the Buffy theme by Nerf Herder. It was the “Love Is All Around” of the ’90s—the anthem of the decade’s premier TV cool chick.
Pairs with: Then: The gym. A road trip with your girlfriends. Now: Tabata workouts at home. A road trip with your tween daughter or niece.