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The Best Music of 1994: 30 Albums Turning 20 This Year

I read something the other day about the Alice in Chains EP Jar of Flies and how it was released in 1994. I did not understand this math, as when I subtracted that number from 2014, I came up with “2o.” That meant Jar of Flies was released 20 years ago this January.

What?

Once I realized it was true, and I got over my momentary, “How can this be true when I owned that very CD shortly after it came out, and I’m still only 18?” delusion, it occurred to me that wow, 1994 was quite the year for music. I was just out of college and heavy into grunge, after years of commitment to metal both heavy and hair. I’ve always appreciated all genres of music, however, because I was raised in a house that kept up with the pop charts (thanks to my mom) and country and folk charts (courtesy of my dad). Add in what I learned on my own through my own voracious appetite for music and pretty much nothing was off limits.

Intrigued by this Alice in Chains news, I hit the online archives to check out what else came out that year. Do you know what? So much good stuff hit the shelves (because there were still shelves) in 1994. I’m talking about rock megahits like Soundgarden’s Superunknown, a record called Throwing Copper by Live, and another biggie called CrazySexyCool by TLC. There was also the little matter of debuts by acts like Outkast, Marilyn Manson, Coolio, Aaliyah, and Oasis; a live record from Nirvana that still makes me miss Kurt; a final studio disc from a group called Pink Floyd; and the first and only album ever, sadly, by a guy named Jeff Buckley.

I told you it was a big year. Here’s some Soundgarden. I know they know what I’m talking about.

And here’s a roundup of the best of the best music albums released in 1994, which was indeed 20 years ago. Long story short: I remember it all.

  • 30 Music Albums Turning 20 This Year 1 of 31
    1994AlbumsCollage
  • Jar of Flies, Alice in Chains 2 of 31
    Alice_in_Chains_Jar_of_Flies

    Jar of Flies is the first EP to debut at #1 on the Billboard Top 200. 

     

    Singles: "No Excuses," "I Stay Away," and "Don't Follow" 

     

    Image credit: Wikipedia

  • Under the Pink, Tori Amos 3 of 31
    ToriAmosUnderthePinkalbumcover

    Tori followed up Little Earthquakes with Under the Pink, and its hit first single "Cornflake Girl."  I never liked raisins, so hanging with those girls was out. I was okay with cornflakes, though. That song was everywhere, that much I remember. 

     

    Singles: "Cornflake Girl" and "God" 

     

    Image credit: Wikipedia

  • Dookie, Green Day 4 of 31
    Green_Day_-_Dookie_cover

    Dookie solidified Green Day as a punk revival act and produced four singles, including their standby "When I Come Around." 

     

    Singles: "Welcome to Paradise," "Basket Case," "When I Come Around," and "She"

     

    Image credit: Wikipedia

  • Motorcade of Generosity, Cake 5 of 31
    Cake_Motorcade_of_Generosity

    Cake hit the big-time a couple of years later with "Going the Distance" on Fashion Nugget, but they had to start somewhere. That somewhere was with "Rock 'n Roll Lifestyle" on Motorcade of Generosity

     

    Single: "Rock 'n Roll Lifestyle"

     

    Image credit: Wikipedia

  • Welcome to the Cruel World, Ben Harper 6 of 31
    benharper

    Ben Harper's debut album Welcome to the Cruel World is still one of my favorites. It didn't chart in the U.S., but I saw him perform on tour in a very small venue in Ohio, and it's still one of my favorite shows ever. "Waiting on an Angel" and "Forever" are lovely, "Mama's Got a Girlfriend Now" is a kick, and his vocal performance of Maya Angelou's poem "I'll Rise" is worth many a listen, actually. 

     

    Image credit: Amazon

  • Cheshire Cat, Blink-182 7 of 31
    Blink-182_-_Cheshire_Cat_cover

    Blink-182 had to start somewhere, and that somewhere was Cheshire Cat. Travis Barker was yet to join the band for their debut album. 

     

    Singles: "M&Ms" and "Wasting Time"

     

    Image credit: Wikipedia

  • Mellow Gold, Beck 8 of 31
    MellowGold

    One word for Beck's Mellow Gold: "Loser." Remember? It hit several charts, including #10 on Billboard's Hot 100. "Soy un perdedor/I'm a loser baby, so why don't you kill me?" may not have been the most upbeat of lyrics, but it was pretty much the only part of the song I knew by heart, and if you were around the radio in 1994, so, probably, did you. 

     

    Singles: "Loser" and "Beer Can"

     

    Image credit: Wikipedia

  • The Downward Spiral, Nine Inch Nails 9 of 31
    Nine_Inch_Nails_The_Downward_Spiral_300x300_pixels

    "Closer" and "Hurt" were the biggies here, and I didn't go out once that year, I don't think, without hearing a NIN remix from The Downward Spiral on the dance floor. Trent Reznor captured the '90s for many of us with this record. 

     

    Singles: "Closer," "Hurt," and "March of the Pigs" 

     

    Image credit: Wikipedia

  • Superunknown, Soundgarden 10 of 31
    Superunknown

    Oh, Soundgarden. Oh, Superunknown. It's all good. It was part of the essential soundtrack of that year for me, and for all of them after, really. "Black Hole Sun" hit the biggest, but I really can't pick a favorite off of this one. Just can't do it. 

     

    Singles: "Black Hole Sun," "Fell On Black Days," "Spoon Man," "My Wave," and "The Day I Tried to Live"

     

    Image credit: Wikipedia

  • The Division Bell, Pink Floyd 11 of 31
    Pink_Floyd_-_Division_Bell

    Pink Floyd's last studio album, Division Bell, was released in 1994. "Take It Back" cracked the Top 100, and four others made the Mainstream Rock charts. 

     

    Singles: "High Hopes," "Keep Talking," "Lost For Words," "What Do You Want From Me?," and "Take It Back" 

     

    Image credit: Wikipedia

  • Smash, The Offspring 12 of 31
    TheOffspringSmashalbumcover

    The Offspring's Smash is best known as an independent album that hit #1 on the Heatseekers chart, and also for its hit single "Come Out and Play (Keep 'em Separated)" which is otherwise known as an earworm waiting to happen. (Or maybe that's just me?) It's an impossibly catchy, hard-edged tune that hit multiple Billboard charts

     

    Singles: "Gotta Get Away," "Come Out and Play (Keep 'Em Separated)," and "Self Esteem"

     

    Image credit: Wikipedia

  • Live Through This, Hole 13 of 31
    Hole-album-livethroughthis

    Released on April 12, 1994, exactly one week after Courtney Love's husband Kurt Cobain died of suicide, Live Through This is known for bizarre foreshadowing of his death and a few great songs. "Doll Parts" cracked the Top 100

     

    Singles: "Asking For It," "Softer Softest," "Doll Parts," "Violet," and "Miss World"

     

    Image credit: Wikipedia

  • American Recordings, Johnny Cash 14 of 31
    JohnnyCashAmericanRecordings

    Johnny Cash evolved as a musician until the day he died, and his American Recordings collaborations with Rick Rubin are shining examples. Cash interpreted songs from Leonard Cohen, Loudon Wainwright, Kris Kristofferson, Tom Waits, and Nick Lowe on this album. No songs charted, but the album did win Cash a Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album

     

    Image credit: Wikipedia

  • southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, Outkast 15 of 31
    Outkast-southernplayalisticadillacmuzik

    Outkast's debut album, southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, put "Playa's Ball" and the title track on the Billboard Hot 100

     

    Singles: "Git Up Git Out," "southernplayalisticadillacmuzik," and "Playa's Ball" 

     

    Image credit: Wikipedia

  • Throwing Copper, Live 16 of 31
    Livecopper

    I don't even remember being a huge Live fan, but I know I saw them live multiple times, so I must have been. Throwing Copper was a monster album that hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 200. "Lightning Crashes" was the biggest hit. 

     

    Singles: "All Over You," "Lightning Crashes," "White, Discussion," "I Alone," and "Selling the Drama"

     

    Image credit: Wikipedia

  • Weezer (Blue Album), Weezer 17 of 31
    Weezer_-_Blue_Album

    Do you know any big Weezer fans? Because if you do and your experience is anything like mine, these are some dedicated people. Weezer's debut is best known for "Undone — The Sweater Song" with a side of "Buddy Holly." Both were Top 100 hits from Weezer (The Blue Album).

     

    Singles: "Undone — The Sweater Song," "Say It Ain't So," and "Buddy Holly" 

     

    Image credit: Wikipedia

  • Ill Communication, Beastie Boys 18 of 31
    Beastie_Boys_Ill_Communication

    "Sure Shot." "Root Down." "Sabotage." Enough said. Ill Communication hit #1 on the Billboard Top 200, and its multimedia, especially the "Sabotage" video, was impressive too. It's still difficult to accept that these three can't record together anymore. 

     

    Image credit: Wikipedia

  • Purple, Stone Temple Pilots 19 of 31
    Stonetemplepilotspurple

    "Interstate Love Song" was one of the best songs of the grunge era, and the '90s, for me. Love it. It hit #1 on the Top 40 Mainstream chart, and Purple itself went to #1 on the Top 200

     

    Singles: "Pretty Penny," "Big Empty," "Interstate Love Song," "Unglued," and "Vasoline" 

     

    Image credit: Wikipedia

  • Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number, Aaliyah 20 of 31
    Aaliyah-age-aint-94

    "At Your Best (You Are Love)" and "Back and Forth were the late Aaliyah's big hits on her debut album

     

    Singles: "Age Ain't Nothing But a Number," "At Your Best (You Are Love)", and "Back and Forth"

     

    Image credit: Wikipedia

  • Cracked Rear View, Hootie & the Blowfish 21 of 31
    Hootie_&_the_Blowfish_-_Cracked_Rear_View

    Hootie & the Blowfish lead singer Darius Rucker, now a country star, says a 20th anniversary Cracked Rear View tour may happen for Hootie this year. This remarkably successful record has hit diamond status, selling over 12 million copies, and ended up #7 on Billboard's End of the 1990s countdown. It had a string of hit singles, including "Let Her Cry," which won the group a Grammy. I know the whole album by heart, still. 

     

    Singles: "Time," "Only Wanna Be With You," "Hold My Hand," "Let Her Cry," and "Drowning" 

     

    Image credit: Wikipedia

  • Grace, Jeff Buckley 22 of 31
    jeffbuckleygrace

    Jeff Buckley's version of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" is such a beloved cover and song — period — that it's difficult to believe the singer only released one studio album before his untimely death. Grace is that album. "Last Goodbye" was the only song to chart. "Lover, You Should Have Come Over" is a fan favorite. 

     

    Single: "Last Goodbye" 

     

    Image credit: Amazon

  • Definitely Maybe, Oasis 23 of 31
    oasis

    Before "Wonderwall" and "Champagne Supernova" there was Definitely Maybe. Oasis's debut talked about wanting to get famous, and that was certainly apt foreshadowing. Three songs hit the Billboard Mainstream and Modern Rock charts, and they were #1 on the Heatseekers chart, which was more than true. 

     

    Singles: "Live Forever," "Rock 'n Roll Star," and "Supersonic" 

     

    Image credit: Amazon

  • Ready to Die, The Notorious B.I.G. 24 of 31
    Ready_To_Die

    Hard to believe Biggie's gone, still, even though his debut album stated for the record: Ready to Die. "Big Poppa" and "One More Chance/Stay With Me" were the big hits. 

     

    Singles: "Big Poppa," "One More Chance/Stay With Me," and "Juicy/Unbelievable" 

     

    Image credit: Wikipedia

  • American Thighs, Veruca Salt 25 of 31
    verucasalt

    Try not to sing along with "Seether." Maybe you can resist it, but I never can. That was the biggest hit off of Veruca Salt's debut, American Thighs, which charted, too. 

     

    Singles: "Seether" and "Number One Blind"

     

    Image credit: Amazon

  • Brandy, Brandy 26 of 31
    Brandy_Norwood_—_Brandy_(album)

    Brandy Norwood's hit single "Baby" is 20 years old this year, along with the rest of her self-titled debut album. Three other singles charted, too. She went on to star in the TV series Moesha and took a break from music that ended in 2012 with the album Two Eleven

     

    Singles: "Baby," "Best Friend," "Brokenhearted," and "I Wanna Be Down"

     

    Image credit: Wikipedia 

  • Under the Table and Dreaming, Dave Matthews Band 27 of 31
    Dave_Matthews_Band_-_Under_the_Table_and_Dreaming

    Dave Matthews and his band spent years on the college circuit, based in Charlottesville, VA., near the University of Virginia. With the release of Under the Table and Dreaming, the 1990s jam band world was theirs. The album reached #11 on the Billboard Top 200 in 1994 and produced a number of hit singles, including: "What Would You Say," "Ants Marching," plus my personal favorite, "The Best of What's Around." 

     

    Singles: "Satellite," "Ants Marching," and "What Would You Say"

     

    Image credit: Wikipedia

  • No Need to Argue, The Cranberries 28 of 31
    CranberriesNoNeedToArgueAlbumcover

    No Need to Argue hit #6 on the 1994 Top 200 and was notable for leaving me with a "Zombie" earworm that lasted probably the entire year. I can therefore do quite the Dolores Riordan impersonation to this day. Sorry, Dolores. You sound better, no question. The album is seven times multiplatinum, meaning it's sold over seven million copies to date. 

     

    Singles: "Ode to My Family," "Ridiculous Thoughts," and "Zombie"

     

    Image credit: Wikipedia

  • Unplugged in New York, Nirvana 29 of 31
    Nirvana_mtv_unplugged_in_new_york

    Kurt Cobain died in April, and Nirvana Unplugged in New York was released in November. If a man can participate in his own memorial, Cobain did just that with this lovely collection and the accompanying TV broadcast. I can still see the stage setting in my mind. The album went to #1 on the Billboard. Still such a loss. 

     

    Singles: "Lake of Fire" and "The Man Who Sold the World" 

     

    Image credit: Wikipedia

  • CrazySexyCool, TLC 30 of 31
    TLCCrazySexyCool

    This entire album is great from start to finish, and I don't say that very often. TLC made something special with CrazySexyCool, which hit #3 overall for the year, and won Grammys for Best R&B Album and for "Creep" as Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group. 

     

    Singles: "Waterfalls," "Diggin' On You," "Red Light Special," and "Creep" 

     

    Image credit: Wikipedia

  • Sixteen Stone, Bush 31 of 31
    Sixteen_Stone

    Sixteen Stone came in just under the wire with a December 1994 release and ended up at #4 for 1995 on Billboard. A hit single machine ("Glycerine" did the best, but I was an "Everything Zen" fan, as I recall), I remember feeling like this was the record that wouldn't quit. I'm sure Bush wasn't upset about that. 

     

    Singles: "Glycerine," "Machine Head," "Everything Zen," "Comedown," and "Little Things" 

     

    Image credit: Wikipedia

Image credit: Wikipedia

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