TOP 10: Best 90s Bands That Time Forgot

September 26, 2023

BY Eric Rezsnyak

While working on our episode devoted to the Best Solo Musician to Come Out of a Band, we were struck by the number of massive 90s bands that we just…don’t hear about anymore. Certainly it’s no surprise that a band has a life cycle. Scrappy early years that crescendo into massive mainstream success, and then a ride into the sunset. But bands like The Rolling Stones, Tears for Fears, Duran Duran, and more continue to release new albums and actively tour. And it made us realize: in the 2020s, where have some of the biggest bands of the 90s gone?

Here’s our list of 90s bands that time seemingly forgot. Note that we have nothing but respect for every act on this list! We would just love to hear from them again.

10. New Radicals

A bit of a cheat, because New Radicals — which had one spectacular album in 1998’s Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too — disbanded in the actual 90s. Frontman Gregg Alexander was reportedly unhappy with the pressures of touring and promoting, and stopped the band before it really ever started. We still have a handful amazing songs and one of the all-time great album openings (“Make my nipples hard, let’s go!”), and Alexander and group member Danielle Brisebois have continued to collaborate musically, including writing an Oscar-nominated song for the 2015 film Begin Again. New Radicals did reunite for a one-time gig, playing President Joe Biden’s inauguration in 2021, as “You Get What You Give” was one of his late son Beau Biden’s favorite songs.

9. Gin Blossoms

Gin Blossoms became staples of 90s alt-rock radio and film soundtracks, with a string of hummable tunes (“‘Til I Hear It From You,” “Hey Jealousy,” “Found Out About You”) and even a Grammy nomination to the band’s credit. The band broke up in 1997, reuniting in the early 2000s and combining and recombining in various iterations as the act toured and released a few additional albums — but nothing came close to the magic of their 90s output. The band most recently toured in 2022 to mark the 30th anniversary of the best-selling album New Miserable Experience, but the tour was shortlived due to an accident that injured one of the band members.

8. Semisonic

If you were in high school or college in 1998, I guarantee you, you knew every single word to Semisonic’s wistful anthem “Closing Time.” The song was EVERYWHERE, just missing the Billboard Top 10 singles chart, peaking at 11th place. The band followed up that success with 2001’s All About Chemistry album, an underrated gem. After that the band went on hiatus for nearly 20 years, performing a handful of shows in the late 2010s, and then releasing a new EP in 2020 titled You’re Not Alone, a sign of the times. In 2023 the band supported Barenaked Ladies on tour, its first regular gig in literally more than 20 years.

7. Tonic

Tonic had not one but two successful singles in the late 90s, “If You Could Only See” and “You Wanted More,” and the band’s debut album Lemon Parade sold more than 1 million copies. The band also appeared on soundtracks to The X-Files movie and American Pie. Kind of a big deal! After the 2002 album Head on Straight failed to gain traction despite two Grammy nominations, the band went on hiatus for most of the 2000s, ultimately reuniting for a new album in 2010. Since then, the band has toured, and guitarist Jeff Russo has gone on to score the FX television show Fargo. In 2021 the band released its first non-album single, “To Be Loved.”

6. Everclear

One of this author’s personal favorites on the list, Everclear was an awesome 90s alt-rock band with a slew of hits in the 90s — “Santa Monica,” “I Will Buy You a New Life,” “Father of Mine,” “Wonderful,” etc. The band had three consecutive albums go platinum in the United States. That’s an amazing legacy. But…where are they? The band disbanded and reformed with numerous members sliding in and out throughout the 2000s (sound familiar?), and in the past decade has toured with other 90s bands like Stone Temple Pilots and Marcy Playground. The band’s most recent album is 2015’s Black is the New Black, although it did have a non-album single, “Year of the Tiger,” in 2022.

5. Creed

It’s probably unfair to say that time has forgotten Creed. If you lived through the 90s, you absolutely knew the band — one of the most successful on this list. But in the immortal words of American poet laureate Janet Jackson, “What have you done for me lately?” Creed found massive — and I mean massive — success in the 90s via its albums My Own Prison, Human Clay and Weathered. In 1999, Clay was certified 11 times platinum. Eleven times! The mega-smash “With Arms Wide Open” and massive hit “Higher” gave the Christian-leaning rock band cross-cultural appeal, and lead singer Scott Stapp’s looks didn’t hurt either. The band broke up and reformed, and dropped a comeback album in 2009, before officially unofficially going on hiatus again by 2013. We’ve heard little from Creed since, although the band announced it would perform its first show in 12 years as part of a rock cruise in 2024.

4. Korn

Unlike virtually any other band on this list, Korn has continued to make new music consistently since the nu metal act’s heyday in the late 1990s/early 2000s. So why are they here? Because when is the last time you even thought about Korn? That’s why. To be fair, Korn’s albums continue to be successful. Requiem, released in 2022, was the first album since the band’s early 90s debut to not crack the Billboard Top 10 albums chart — all 12 in between did. That’s a seriously impressive feat. But whereas Korn was once a mainstay on “Total Request Live,” whereas Korn was a headliner on the doomed Woodstock ’99 stage, whereas Korn t-shirts could be seen regularly in every mall in American, outside of an admirably devoted cult (kult?) following, Korn has basically been removed from the cultural conversation. The band is there, but it just…passes right through the majority of us. Much like the kernels the band is named after.

3. Live

Live — a band whose name inspires confusion as to how you even say it — was a massive hit in the mid-90s with soaring, searing tracks like “I Alone” and “Lightning Crashes,” to name but a few. Top-tier musicianship and Ed Kowalczyk’s signature, emotionally evocative vocals were an irresistible combination, mixed with the dramatics of the band’s songs. Unfortunately the drama continued behind the scenes, as the band has split up and reformed in various permutations since the early 2000s, and as of 2023, the drama continues, giving your average episode of Real Housewives a run for its money. Bitter feuds! Vague accusations on social media! Multiple lawsuits! Most recently, actual arrests! It’s juicy, but it’s also sad, because it means we’ve had little to no new music from Live in five years.

2. Matchbox Twenty

I know what you’re thinking. Time didn’t forget Matchbox Twenty! Everyone knows Matchbox Twenty! Here’s my argument: this band had a song prominently featured in the biggest film of 2023 (Barbie). Surely you would think we would hear SOMETHING from or about them. After all, I saw multiple articles referencing another 90s band whose song was also prominently featured in said film, The Indigo Girls. Did you know that Matchbox Twenty released a whole new album right around the time Barbie hit theaters? No? That’s why Matchbox Twenty is here. That is a particularly crazy scenario because Matchbox Twenty was — with Creed — the biggest band on this list. The band’s 1996 debut album, You Or Someone Else Like You, sold 12 million copies. The 2000 follow-up Mad Season sold an additional 4 million. These were monster albums that virtually everyone owned, or at least knew the singles from — “Unwell,” “3am,” “Push,” “Real World,” “If You’re Gone.” To be essentially invisible for the first time the band has been relevant in nearly 20 years? When it had a project to actively promote? Something has gone very wrong with their PR, let’s just say that. Lead singer Rob Thomas had a hot moment in the early 2000s with a solo career and collabs with Carlos Santana. But even he has virtually disappeared from the cultural conversation. It’s super weird, given how ubiquitous the band once was.

1. Collective Soul

Collective Soul takes our top spot because it encapsulates the thesis better than anyone else: time has seemingly completely forgotten Collective Soul. Did you know that Collective Soul had three Top 20 Billboard singles in the 1990s? Three! “Shine,” “December,” and “The World I Know” all achieved at least that position (“Shine” very nearly cracked the Top 10), and the band had a total of seven Billboard Top 100 singles during the decade. And yet, can you name them? Be honest, could you even name the band or its songs without being prompted? Very few bands achieve the level of mainstream success that Collective Soul attained in the 1990s. But for some reason, the band is rarely discussed. It’s a great group with an impressive catalogue, even if we can’t always remember who they are or what they performed.

What are some of your favorite 90s bands that time forgot? Do you think we’re totally off on our analysis of the bands above? Drop your comments below.

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