September 16, 2021
House music was born in the 80s but really hit its height in the 90s. As its sonic footprint expanded, many directions of influence emerged. And in the process gave birth to countless genres making it a global phenomenon. At the turn of the decade, the grips of the house movement expanded to the far corners of Europe. Tracks with origins in Chicago, Detroit, and New York were studied, reconstructed, and sampled. And a vast web of subgenres emerged, elevating rave culture.
The great producers of the 90s are known for successful singles that grew beyond the rave into mainstream radio culture. Many are sampled, covered, and remixed (sometimes ad-nauseam) today. Below you can dig into some of the house tracks that made an impact in the 90s.
A collaboration between Thomas Bangalter (1/2 of Daft Punk) and musicians Alan Braxe and Benjamin Diamond, the track samples the disco classic "Fate" by Chaka Khan. It took house into uncharted territory. The simplicity of this beloved feel-good house track is warm, inviting, and timeless.
Harddrive is made up of artists Louie Vega and Kenny Dope, a powerful and innovative duo championed by the label Strict Rhythm. Released in 1993, its catchy and evocative hook is sampled from Barbara Tucker's 1993 track “Beautiful People. Since the original release, the song has been remixed countless times.
Cajmere—aka Curtis A. Jones or Green Velvet— released this iconic track in 1992 during the second wave of Chicago House. This vocal-heavy track is minimal and raw. Composed of a drum machine, Cajmere on the vocals, and a bed of silly synth sounds it paved the way for a free frame structure not common in house music. It was also a trailblazer for the tougher sounds of ghetto house.
Background singer turned vocal queen Cece Peniston's bright and colorful “Finally” was a strong debut for the former gospel singer. Considered one of the top house tracks of all time, it showcases Peniston’s bold voice, a euphoric riff, and chorus quintessential of the disco influences in house music. Next time you go to a festival, count how many times you hear that iconic synth line break through the mix.
This smashing 1999 release put iconic DJ and Producer Paul Johnson on the global radar. "Get Get Down" is one of those tracks that everyone has heard at least once. It's beyond catchy and a blissfully simple concept. A bangin' 4/4 beat sampling Hamilton Bohannon’s disco hit, "Me And The Gang." The simple lyrics have made this a nostalgic icon of 90s house.
Daft Punk dominated the music scene in the 1990’s so of course, they had to be included in this list. The acclaimed duo’s 1997 track, "Around the World" was their introduction to the mainstream. It's a perfect example of Daft Punk’s French house sound. The robot vocals, with a disco boogie bassline, a sprinkling of synth, topped with a catchy hook. You would never guess that it was recorded in a bedroom. Regardless of the DIY recording, this track retooled dance music as we know it and still echoes today.
Armand Van Helden's lengthy discography includes remixes for Tori Amos, Brittany Spears, Katy Perry, and Janet Jackson. One of his most iconic tracks hit the airwaves in 1999, sparking a surge of disco house tracks that dominated dance floors. "U Don’t Know Me" has proven to be a timeless, good vibe creator. The groovy four-on-the-floor beat features the rousing soulful vocals of Duane Harden. It easily tugs on the heartstrings, if it doesn't touch you, you may not be alive.
The pop crossover trio Deee-light is quintessential as it gets. The 1990s hit single “Groove Is In The Heart" is ageless. The song is full of hype, led by the sultry and charismatic vocals of Lady Miss Kier, backed with a playfully funky '70s inspired house groove. Showcasing influences of hip hop and disco it took the clubs by storm and has appeared on multiple greatest dance hits of all-time lists.
This memorable track, produced in 1991 by the Basement Boys harmoniously fuses a crispy house beat with Waters' background in Jazz. House was still very much underground when "Gypsy Woman," was released. And despite its crossover success, Waters kept her day job for two years after the record hit the top of the charts. The iconic heavy bass line layered with chunky, shuffling beats and the iconic keyboard riff tells the story of a homeless woman who panhandled in front of the Mayflower Hotel in Washington DC but still wore her makeup so she should look presentable while asking for money. With that, the hook and perspective of the song were crafted, leading to the first socially aware classic house track to top the charts.
"Missing" is a song by English popular music duo Everything but the Girl, taken from their eighth studio album Amplified Heart (1994). It was written by band members, Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt. Released in August 1994 as the second single off the album it was an initial failure until their label Atlantic commissioned a remix by Todd Terry. Re-released in 1995 it received worldwide acclaim, peaking at or near the top of the charts in many countries.