The ‘90s are almost 30. This realization hit me like a Zima hangover while I was programming the playlist, Mother’s Day & Mom Rock. Originally, I was going to choose those classic “mom rock” songs that played in the station wagon whenever our mom drove us to school or soccer practice – ‘70s AM gold by artists like the Carpenters, Janis Ian, Carly Simon, Bread, Carole King, Marvin Gaye, Neil Diamond, etc. – but then I remembered something. I’m old. My mom and I are still close, but it’s been a handful of decades since she’s mothered me (also, many of those artists already exist on Rainy Days and Mondays: Sad Songs of the ‘70s).
But my younger sister is also a mom who is currently mothering some pretty incredible kids. And she grew up in the ‘90s. I was also really lucky to live and hang out with a fun crew of inspiring women back then. So with this generation in mind, I took a deep dive into the double denim decade to deliver a playlist that sounds like the 21st century never happened. And these songs have been sequenced in thick, bunchy layers as a loving tribute to “the Rachel haircut.” The top layers of this playlist include hits by Madonna, Coolio, Sinead O’Connor, Alanis Morissette, TLC, Mariah Carey and Sir Mix-A-Lot, to name a few.
Let’s not forget that the ‘90s were also the decade when alternative music went mainstream. Blame it on the success of Nirvana, Lollapalooza or the Flaming Lips’ 1995 appearance on Beverly Hills 90210. But a playlist of ‘90s mom rock wouldn’t be the same without some mid-layered cuts by the Breeders, Portishead, the Cure, Elastica, Beastie Boys, Pearl Jam, and alterna-hunk Evan Dando’s old band the Lemonheads (among many others).
It should be made clear that this Mother’s Day playlist is much more than just a compilation of ‘90s hits. It’s also a love letter to the modern-day moms I grew up with. If you listen long enough to the deeper layers of selections, you’ll hear some of the songs my college girlfriend sang while pumping the gas pedal of her 1993 Ford Probe. And there are even deeper cuts here that my female roommates and friends put on mixtapes for their boyfriends as well as some more anthemic jams that they drunkenly crooned over canned cocktails and Jell-o shots. I’ve also added tunes that featured heavily in the the soundtracks to our house parties as well as the songs that landed in my car’s cassette player while en route to wait in line for concert tickets at Tower Records. Other tracks here were played on our college radio station by us or our DJ friends. And some of the more cathartic of these musings were rewound and replayed after a brutal breakup.
The selections by (then) more mysterious artists like PJ Harvey, Pulp, Digital Underground, Mazzy Star, Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., Pavement and Luscious Jackson bring me right back to a time when I knew that my roomies and girlfriends wouldn’t always be available to join me at punk shows, raves, camping trips, rap shows, improv kitchen dance parties and indie festivals. Even back when we’d get together once a week in my living room to drink and yell at all the stupid characters on Melrose Place, I would think about how someday most of these amazing women would move on to become even more amazing moms. For all these moms and for those about to mom, we salute you. Happy Mother’s Day!