It was an era without podcasts, iPods, YouTube, or Spotify. If you wanted to hear your favorite song, you were perched beside your boombox, listening to the radio’s nightly countdown of the hottest songs, ready to hit record and finally capture “Ice Ice Baby” on cassette tape.
As a child (and maybe on the young-ish side of a tween, but that wasn’t a term yet) growing up in the 90’s, I spent an exceptional amount of time dissecting lyrics to songs on the radio, searching for meaning, and attempting to relate them back to my young angsty life.
Fast forward 15 years, and for better or for worse, many of the messages in these songs still resonate, or at least reverberate in endless loops in my head while in the shower.
Below are my most memorable love lessons I learned from 90’s pop songs. If you weren’t a girl under the age of twelve with generic musical taste at some point during this decade, our lists will likely differ.
LESSON 1: I don’t want no scrub.
“If you don’t have a car and you’re walking
Oh yes son I’m talking to you
If you live at home wit’ your momma
Oh yes son I’m talking to you (baby)
If you have a shorty but you don’t show love
Oh yes son I’m talking to you
Wanna get with me with no money
Oh no I don’t want no (oh)”
– TLC “No Scrubs” (1999)
The lyrics here pretty much spell it out for everybody, and besides the fact that its now 2013 and socially acceptable and totally environmentally responsible to opt for Car2Go instead of having your own wheels, the rest basically still rings true. TLC reminds everyone here that being unemployed, completely financially reliant on others, and having your general affairs in a state of disarray may negatively affect your dateability.
LESSON 2: I should date someone who is proud to be dating me, too.
“Say my name, say my name
When no one is around you, say baby I love you
If you ain’t runnin’ game
Say my name, say my name
You actin’ kinda shady, you ain’t callin’ me baby
Why the sudden change?”
Destiny’s Child “Say My Name” (1999)
Other than instill in me an inherent suspicion surrounding men and fidelity (just joking), Beyonce preached about the importance of honesty and effective communication within a relationship, and I listened. If I’m dating someone, I want them to be proud of me. Expectations include: a certain level of openness in regards to feelings and making sure we’re on the same page, dating only me if we’ve decided we’re exclusive, and ability to say my name when we’re on the phone together.
LESSON 3: I should avoid dating someone for reasons that are purely superficial.
“You’re one of those guys who likes to shine his machine
You make me take off my shoes before you let me get in
I can’t believe you kiss your car good night
C’mon baby tell me-you must be jokin’, right!”
Shania Twain “That Don’t Impress Me Much” (1997)
Shania is wise to advise against people who are too hung up on looks, possessions, or their own brains as potential dates. All of these things can be wildly attractive in the beginning, and it looks great on paper, but this is all just surface stuff in the end. It doesn’t matter how nice his car is if he doesn’t love and respect you for who you really are! If flash and lifestyle seem to be the main concern of someone you’re dating, you’ll soon find yourself craving more substance than this person can provide. Hopefully sooner rather than later.
LESSON 4: I should show appreciation towards the person I’m dating.
“Late night, come home
Work sucks, I know
She left me roses by the stairs
Surprises let me know she cares”
Blink 182 “All the Small Things” (January 2000…but it felt like the 90’s)
This particular verse in the song stuck with me so much. Even though it’s meant to be humorous, as a kid I always pictured how lovely it would be to come home to a bunch of flowers on (by?) my stairs. Anyway, the point here is that if you love someone and they treat you well, why not pick up a couple of concert tickets on an otherwise uneventful Tuesday night? Thoughtful gestures like this don’t have to be expensive or over-the-top, but putting in a little extra effort when it’s not expected goes a long way, and will make your special someone feel appreciated.
LESSON 5: Everything will be better if people who are close to me get along with you.
“If you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends (gotta get with my friends)
Make it last forever friendship never ends,
If you wanna be my lover, you have got to give,
Taking is too easy, but that’s the way it is”
Spice Girls “Wannabe” (1996)
I KNOW, but I had to. The Spice Girls sang about female empowerment, and the importance of maintaining loyal friendships with other women while being in the driver’s seat of your own love life. If we are really taking these lyrics at face value, I should mention that I do not in fact want someone I’m dating to “get” with my friends. That’s probably a deal breaker. However, hopefully you realize it’s important to me that people who are close to me approve of you, and it’s important to you too. The last part of the verse may be open to interpretation…but I would like to read into it as the importance of avoiding acting selfishly in a relationship – in a general sense.