In the '90s, you sang and danced to the hottest songs on the radio at every school dance, regardless of whether or not you knew what the lyrics actually meant. Yes, you were grooving to songs about drug use, abortion, and sex acts you didn't even understand yet. But along with all of the questionable '90s songs you grooved to, were '90s songs with legitimate messages — even if you didn't understand them at the time. And now that you have kids yourself, there are '90s song lyrics every parent should make sure their kid understands, because chances are good that you're going to be blasting the songs from your childhood and forcing your kid to bop along with you to your favorite tunes.
Rather than letting them run off into the school yard armed with '90s lyrics they might not understand, make it a learning experience for your children, so you can use some of your favorite nostalgic tunes to teach them a thing or two. Because '90s music was a special brand all its own, and the only thing better than reliving your glory days through the gift of song is by using those songs to teach future generations what it's all about.
1"Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)" — Green Day
Time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go
So make the best of this test and don't ask why
It's not a question but a lesson learned in time
The poignant lyrics of Green Day will not only get stuck in your kid's head for days on end, they'll help your child understand that everyone goes through periods of emotional turmoil and confusion, and that they're certainly not alone. Because if three dudes from the '90s can put it into words, so can they.
2"Waterfalls" — TLC
Don't go chasing waterfalls
Please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you're used to
I know that you're gonna have it your way or nothing at all
But I think you're moving too fast
Yes, these lyrics are a little progressive and intense to relay to your kids when they're young. But as they grow into their teen years, it's another perfect way to ask them to please slow down, and not to grow up too fast. The lyrics display the dissonance in several relationships, and how not talking openly to one another about issues only leads to loss. (And death. But maybe keep the "if you don't talk to your mother, you will die" sentiment out of the conversation...)
3"Iris" — Goo Goo Dolls
When everything's made to be broken
I just want you to know who I am
Oh, love. This song was pretty much relationship goals in the '90s, and everyone swayed in the gymnasium to the sweet sounds of this song, wishing that Nicolas Cage and Meg Ryan could have made it. The point to teach to your kids, though, is that even imperfect people deserve love. Even on your worst days, when you don't want the world to see you, you still deserve to be loved.
4"Doo-Wop (That Thing)" — Lauryn Hill
Girlfriend, let me break it down for you again
You know I only say it 'cause I'm truly genuine
Don't be a hard rock, when you really are a gem
This song is chocked full of nuggets of wisdom from Lauryn Hill. The song's message is all about respect — self respect and respect for others. Though the catchy refrain insinuates that some people are all about "that thing," the lyrics push the message of keeping your head up, your eyes open, and making sure that you're "right within" before you go searching for love in someone else.
5"Man! I Feel Like A Woman!" — Shania Twain
The best thing about being a woman
Is the prerogative to have a little fun
One of the catchiest '90s anthems about ladies doing it for themselves, by themselves. If you've got a child who's feeling the oppression of the patriarchy, turn to Shania. I'm serious. Because there's no shame in feeling like a woman, and it is a damn privilege to be free to feel the way you feel and have fun while doing it.
6"Give It Away" — Red Hot Chili Peppers
What I've got you've got to get it put it in you
Reeling with the feeling don't stop continue
Although this song might sound like it's all about sex, sex, sex, it's actually about the spiritual belief that you should give of yourself in order to reach a better place in life. Singer Anthony Kiedis wrote in his memoir Scar Tissue that a girlfriend once gave him a jacket she loved, because she thought giving her favorite things to the people she loved made her life better. "That stuck with me forever," wrote Kiedis. "Every time I'd be thinking 'I have to keep,' I'd remember 'No, you gotta give away instead.'" Let your love flow through you, give your favorite people things you love and that good energy will come back to you.
7"MMMBop" — Hanson
So hold on the ones who really care
In the end they'll be the only ones there
And when you get old and start losing your hair
Can you tell me who will still care?
Who ever thought that Hanson was so deep? A song that seemed like it was about complete nonsense (I mean, all of those ba du bops, come one) actually wound up being pretty poignant, looking back. Aside from a good dose of bubblegum pop, use this song to implore your child to focus on the relationships that matter most to them. Because relationships come and go quickly throughout life, and in the end only a few will last the test of time.
8"Wannabe" — Spice Girls
If you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends
Make it last forever, friendship never ends
Another song with a little bit of nonsense in it, all those zig a zag ahs, that had a great message at the end of the day. The ultimate '90s friendship is greater than fleeting love anthem, laced with tones of girl power and self respect. You feel empowered just listening to it, right? Pass that feeling along to your children.
9"Closing Time" — SemiSonic
Open all the doors and let you out into the world
Although everyone assumed this song was about a bar closing, it's actually about childbirth. Listening closely to the lyrics, you'll find that they all completely make sense pertaining to the miracle of childbirth. It's also a great way to usher your kids into the age of making decisions for themselves, because you're not always going to be around to keep them safe and guarded from the world.
10"Just A Girl" — No Doubt
Oh, I'm just a girl, all pretty and petite
So don't let me have any rights
Oh, I've had it up to here!
Gwen Stefani was an integral part of my coming of age in the '90s, teaching me all about love, loss, and why you should never date someone who's in your band. This epic feminist anthem is a perfect way to help your child understand the sexist injustice that surrounds growing up as a girl and will encourage them to explore stereotypes and gender equality.
11"Free Your Mind" — En Vogue
Free your mind and the rest will follow
Be color blind, don't be so shallow
Another song that might be a little bit racy for young ones, but is a killer way to teach your older children to leave prejudice behind. En Vogue nailed the prejudice they faced on a daily basis with the lyrics of this song, reminding everyone every where to free their minds before putting anyone into a race, gender, or socioeconomic box.
12"The Sign" — Ace Of Base
I saw the sign and it opened up my eyes, I saw the sign
No one's gonna drag you up to get into the light where you belong
A song about a broken relationship is the perfect opportunity to teach your kid about self worth. Sometimes, looking back on a relationship, it's much easier to see all the things that were wrong. But with gloriously catchy songs like this one, hopefully your child can hear the message and keep it near and dear to their heart. Toxic relationships are something to avoid at all costs, and you do that by keeping your eyes open and looking for all of those signs.
13"Ants Marching" — Dave Matthews Band
And all the little ants are marching
Red and black antennas waving
They all do it the same
They all do it the same way
First things first, no, this song is not really about ants. It's about how society tries to zap your individuality from you and turn you into an ant that marches along in a line with the rest of the ants. Teach your children that conformity is not necessarily their best option, even if it may be the easiest one. Don't let people put your chances in a box for them to wither away. Teach your children to take chances, to express themselves, and to be an individual each and every day.