The 1990s witnessed one of the most rapid rates of technological innovation in the 20th Century. A movement which spurred an increase in the availability of mass media and helped usher in an era where music was shaped by emerging technologies, transforming not only the songs of the 90s, but changing the world of music for the decades ahead.
At the epicenter of the new wave of technological innovations in the 90s was the digital revolution. Bulky, single-purpose mobile phones were replaced with smaller devices loaded with lots of embedded functionality. The internet grew exponentially from anonymity to become a digital communication and information super highway adopted by 50% of Western Countries. Helping to increase the dominance of the internet was Intel’s creation of the Pentium chip. For their part, computer hardware manufacturers added staples to their personal computer offerings such as CD burners and CD Rom drives.
With the onslaught of new technology came a transformation of the songs of the 90s. The 1990s heralded the dawn of the boy band, teen pop sensations, commercial and sampled hip-hop music tracks. Even armchair musicians would be given a chance to make more significant musical contributions with the glut in musical technology as it became possible for a wider number of musicians to produce electronic music. What started out sounding like dance music was gradually less targeted towards the dance-floor audience and more towards home listeners. This genre later became known as “Electronica”, or in its slower manifestations, “Chill-out” or “Ambient music”.
In late spring 1998, the first Mp3 player was released, alongside the 32 and 64MB Mp3 players. By the mid 2000’s the Mp3 format would overtake the CD player in popularity. Early adopters of the technology – mostly younger music audiences would be given the opportunity to endorse their preferred music tastes — the pop songs of the 90s, catapulting pop stars into the spot-light. Not surprisingly, between 1997 and 1999, American teen pop stars and groups were all the rage, with some of the more popular acts being the Backstreet Boys, NSYNC, 98 Degrees, Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears. This scene targeted the younger members of Generation Y.
Today, technology continues to play a vital role in deciding which music we allow into our personal space. The internet and new media have built on top of the foundations laid down in the 1990s bringing better access to talent that might have gone undiscovered in the past. Songs of the 90s evoke a sense of nostalgia of perhaps the decade in which the dominant music genres of today were still in their infancy.