After the joyous, fluoro-coloured pop of the '80s, things took a turn for the darker in the ‘90s. Grunge made angst mainstream and Alanis Morissette proved there was a massive audience for singers wanting to get something off their chest Meanwhile, the titles of some of the decade’s biggest songs (and a few lesser known tracks) consisted of nothing more than an insult. Some were taking shot at another person, while, in keeping with the times, many of them involved a negative self-analysis.
“Creep” by Radiohead
Inspired by Radiohead singer Thom Yorke’s self-confessed stalker-like behaviour during university, “Creep” is about not feeling good enough – a sentiment that was fairly prevalent in the ’90s. The song’s ubiquity following its eventual chart success in 1993 led to the band coming to despise the song and only playing it sporadically in the years since. The insult the band gave the tune? Referring to it as "Crap."
“Asshole” by Denis Leary
Stand-up comedian Denis Leary found himself with a hit single when he put a routine about what a horrible person he is to music. There was no shame to be found here, with Denis boasting about all the awful things he did: driving slowly in the fast lane, peeing on the toilet seat… Yep, he was a real asshole – and proud of it.
“Loser” by Beck
More proof that people were pretty down on themselves in the ’90s, the breakthrough hit for singer/songwriter Beck came about as a result of his low appraisal of his own skills, specifically his rapping ability. The hook for “Loser” was a line he came up with during a recording session for the song, which, as it turned out, was the track that got him noticed and signed by major label Geffen Records. Now Alanis, that’s ironic.
“You Suck” by The Murmurs
Finally, a song that was aimed at someone other than the people performing it. The only hit for the indie duo comprised of Leisha Hailey and Heather Grody, “You Suck” does what it says on the packet – it tells the song’s subject exactly why they aren’t up to scratch.
“Jerk” by Kim Stockwood
It wasn’t a hit in Australia, but this song by Canadian singer/songwriter Kim Stockwood was a smash for her at home. And it fits this story’s theme, so what are you going to do? Straight to the point, “Jerk” features the lines: “You are such a jerk/There are other words/But they just don’t work.” There’s a lot to be said for simplicity.
“Freak” by Silverchair
“If only I could be as cool as you,” Daniel Johns sings in the chart-topping lead single from Silverchair’s second album – a sarcastic response to the critics that viewed the teen trio as grunge-lite. Nothing like taking an insult and turning it on its head.
“Bitch” by Meredith Brooks
Similarly, the debut single by Meredith Brooks took an insult and wore it as a badge of honour. Reclaiming the word “bitch” for “angry” women everywhere, the song was a massive hit, proving record executives nervous about its commercial prospects wrong.
“Silly Ho” by TLC
The hip-hop trio also released a song called “Creep” in the ’90s, but their use of the word had a very different meaning. Instead, they earn a spot on this list with Fanmail album track “Silly Ho,” which describes all the ways TLC aren’t like those other girls who wait around for or rely on men: “I have always had my own things.”
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