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The Official Student News Site of Parkway West High


The Official Student News Site of Parkway West High


30 years later: The albums of 1994

Mikalah Owens
Before there was Apple Music or Spotify, there was the Sony Walkman. Now reduced to only the latter word, a Walkman was just a portable cassette player, but in the ‘90s, they were a vital accessory. The Sony Walkman was the first piece of music media to allow people to travel with their music.

The music industry was forever altered in 1994 by a series of groundbreaking albums that emerged from various genres. It was a year marked by artistic innovation and genre-defining releases. From the gritty anthems of grunge to the introspective verses of hip-hop, artists pushed boundaries and left an undeniable mark on the music industry. 1994 was a pivotal year that witnessed the rise of new voices and the solidification of established artists. The albums released during this time were not just collections of songs; they were cultural milestones that reflected the complexities in the world around us.


Photo from Reprise Records

Dookie” – Green Day

Genre: Punk/Rock

Release date: Feb. 1

Before the eyeliner, red ties and concept albums, Green Day released “Dookie,” which would change the sound and look of punk music. The album was Green Day’s first major label record which for decades left the band excommunicated from punk culture, as the genre was supposed to be independent, not mainstream. Regardless of punk expectations, Green Day’s catchy guitar riffs, cynical lyrics and vulnerability on “Dookie” inspired the next generation of rock bands. At a time when singers like Axl Rose of Guns N’ Roses  and Layne Stayley of Alice in Chains  set the standard for having towering vocals and a wide vocal range, lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong ignored the benchmark and became famous for his drug-induced nasal voice, which would instantly become recognizable on “Longview” and “Basket Case.” Even though “Longview” was the first single off of “Dookie,” it was “Basket Case” that made Green Day as big as the Backstreet Boys in the ‘90s. With Tré Cool’s irreplaceable drumming pattern, bassist Mike Dirnt’s aptitude and Armstrong’s self-aware lyrics, it makes sense that “Basket Case” is the most popular song from “Dookie.” Despite “Basket Case” being the hit from “Dookie,” the underrated gems on the album are “Coming Clean,” “Welcome To Paradise” and “Burnout. Green Day didn’t take themselves too seriously when making “Dookie,” but the band’s talent and impressive fluidity with each other were apparent and unrepeatable. 


Green Day


Photo from A&M Records

Superunknown” – Soundgarden

Genre: Grunge/Rock

Release date: March 8 

Even though Soundgarden was the first grunge band to sprout, they were the last to bloom; as they were starting their rise to fame, the genre was fading out. To put it into perspective, Soundgarden’s “Superunknown” entered the music charts a month before Nirvana singer Kurt Cobain’s death. “Superunknown” was made while the band was processing the death of their best friend Andrew Wood, who led early grunge band Mother Love Bone, but sadly passed away from an overdose before the band could grasp onto a large audience. Since grunge had begun to fizzle out, audiences shifted their attention towards more upbeat sounds that were fronted by Green Day and The Offspring. This caused “Superunknown” to be more overlooked than it deserved to be. With songs like “Fell On Black Days,” “Mailman” and “4th of July” on the album, it was obvious Soundgarden had talent that people had never seen before. For years, grunge had dominated the music scene, so it makes sense that people were tired of seeing the same chord progressions and the same sad stories told over and over again by the same raspy voices. Though Cornell didn’t have the expected outgoing stage presence the other grunge singers had, his flawless, nearly four-octave range set him apart from the other icons. Listening to “Superunknown” now is more upsetting than anything, as Cornell passed away from suicide in 2017 after having a long history of drug addiction and depression. Listeners glossed over the frontman’s cryptic lyrics since the music was catchy, and his voice was impressively engaging. Cornell’s influence and late impact are captured with the lyric, “No one sings like you anymore,” off of the band’s psychedelic hit: “Black Hole Sun.”




Photo from City Slang

Live Through This” – Hole

Genre: Grunge/Rock

Release date: April 12

Released only four days after Cobain’s death, “Live Through This” walked the same road Nirvana’s “Nevermind” and “In Utero” did with rage and golden hooks, but only Hole’s job was harder. The band had to sell the alternative sound through a female lens, which as history shows, nobody is interested in. “Live Through This” was antagonistic frontwoman Courtney Love’s way of touching base on some of her past traumas, but for most of the album, the listener has to deal with the singer’s troubled victim complex. “Live Through This” is one of the staple pieces in the riot girl subgenre, and for many, the album helped form the “female rage” sound, but for others, the album capitalizes madness. The opening song “Violet” welcomes the listener into Love’s world, which is filled with rage, envy and bitterness. The song perfectly fits as the opener as it carries quiet verses to furious choruses, perfectly embodying Love’s sound of switching from the victim to the aggressor. Due to Love’s outgoing and problematic personality, a lot of Hole’s work does not get the recognition it deserves. Love’s writing style is very similar to Cobain and Billy Corgan’s of Smashing Pumpkins, but only her lyrics go unnoticed. In the song “Doll Parts” Love wrote, “I love him so much, it just turns to hate. Someday you will ache like I ache,” which is a line that undoubtedly would be seen quoted on an edgy Pinterest board – if anyone but Love wrote it.


Photo from Columbia Records

Illmatic” – Nas

Genre: Rap 

Release date: April 19

In the ‘90s, for years it seemed like the only two rappers that were talked about were 2Pac and The Notorious B.I.G. Yet, rapper Nas made his way into the rap world with his own inventive sound, gritty voice and unapologetic writing. Nas began writing his debut album, “Illmatic,” when he was just 17, and the record later came out when he was 23. As a young adult, most people are trying to figure out who they are and what they want to pursue, but Nas knew who he was and what he wanted to use his voice for at his young age. Similar to 2Pac, Nas specialized in his writing. Nas perfected storytelling with wordplay and emotion, helping his music reach a larger audience. Nas proved he could do more than just write on the song “N.Y. State of Mind,” where he raps on a complex beat that is centered around simple notes. Nas’ storytelling and tone helped make the rapper’s debut add a new flavor to the New York rap scene.


Photo from DGC Records

Weezer” – Weezer

Genre: Rock 

Release date: May 10

Glam, punk, soft and heavy metal are all subgenres of the rock genre, and for decades it felt like alternative bands could only fall into those categories. Yet, it was the California-based band Weezer that broke genre expectations and introduced the sound of nerd rock. Singer and guitarist River Cuomo’s lyrics made it come off that the band lacked communication skills as he started the song “Buddy Holly” off with the line, “What’s with these homies dissing my girl?” One would think that for a rock band, that lyric would drive listeners away, but Weezer mixed dorky lyrics with music inspired by Iron Maiden, KISS and Buzzcocks, which, surprisingly, helped the band gain a huge following. No matter how unserious the lyrics to “Say It Ain’t So” are, it is undeniably a phenomenal song, one that’s almost impossible not to play air guitar to. For a band that has been around for 30 years, Weezer is one of the only groups that hasn’t changed their sound or image. After three decades, the vibe of living in their mom’s basement is still evident, and fans are loving it. 


Photo from Capitol Records

Ill Communication” – Beastie Boys

Genre: Hip-hop/Rap/Rock

Release date: May 31

In the ‘80s, the Beastie Boys were ridiculed for their misogynistic lyrics and “frat boy” image. Yet, their fourth album, “Ill Communication,” challenged critics because of its uncharacteristically mature themes. Beastie Boys was one of the first bands to cross the boundaries of mixing punk and hip-hop, and the rap group shocked audiences after they included jazz in “Ill Communication.” The album is overall infused with jazz but still includes the same bratty punk beats and tongue-in-cheek lyrics that made the group famous. Oftentimes, fans forget that the Beastie Boys were rooted in the punk scene and grew up seeing the Ramones and Minor Threat —  two leading inspirations in the alternative scene. The rap group returned to their original hardcore sound on “Tough Guy,” which could easily pass as an early Black Flag song. Though, “Sabotage” worked as a blend of both their punk and hip-hop sound and became one of Beastie Boys’ biggest hits. Even though “Sabotage” is nothing short of a perfect Beastie Boys song, it overshadows “Get It Together,” which is a duet with legendary rap group A Tribe Called Quest Q-Tip. Despite A Tribe Called Quest and Beastie Boys having very different styles of rap, the reason why the combined sound flowed so effortlessly was because the Beastie Boys were not trying to outdo Q-Tip, and that the admiration for the icon was clearly present. Although “Ill Communication” was a turning point for the Beastie Boys musically and personally, the group didn’t lose their iconic sound that fans craved.


Beastie Boys


Photo from Columbia Records

Grace” – Jeff Buckley

Genre: Rock 

Release date: Aug. 23

At a time when musicians were trying to imitate the famous grunge sound, Jeff Buckley released “Grace.” The album was so isolated from the expected rock sound in the ‘90s that the record could have passed as being released in a different era. “Grace” is stunningly beautiful and almost too good to be true. This feeling is brought to light by Buckley’s vocal intensity, which sends immediate chills. Buckley demonstrates a technical and emotional vocal range that leaves you wanting more. Famed singers Robert Plant, Paul McCartney and Bob Dylan praised “Grace” and Buckley’s technique, but Rolling Stone gave the album a poorly aged three stars in 1994. The magazine tore apart Buckley’s now-famous cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” and insinuated that Buckley wasn’t sure of the sound he wanted to project. It’s fair to say that Buckley’s pain-filled voice can be intimidating at times as he jumps around multiple ranges, but the singer’s pure talent and emotion-drenched “Grace” made for a complex record. After the singer’s unexpected death in 1997, “Grace” was forgotten about for decades. Thankfully, 30 years later, when Gen Z started discovering Elliot Smith and Fiona Apple on their own, Jeff Buckley entered the discussion. After rediscovering the late singer, people appreciated the album for its melodic sound and Buckley’s distressing writing style. The song “Lover, You Should’ve Come Over” gained a lot of attention from TikTok and was the song that skyrocketed Buckley into the fame he deserved in the ‘90s. Other hits like “Forget Her,” “So Real” and “Last Goodbye” solidified “Grace” as being a near-perfect album that was unfortunately ahead of its time. In 2023, Rolling Stone reevaluated their critique of “Grace” and rightfully listed the record at 147/500 on their “The 500 Greatest Albums of All Times” list.


Photo from Creation Records

“Definitely Maybe” – Oasis

Genre: Rock 

Release date: Aug. 29

Before Oasis madeWonderwall” – the song that fake guitarists insist on playing when they see a guitar – the British band released the record “Definitely Maybe.” The record was the band’s debut album and easily worked its way into being listed as one of the best albums of all time. Unlike other bands, Oasis already knew what sound they wanted to have with their debut. “Definitely Maybe” opens with a thick, heavy guitar drenched in Liam Gallagher’s snarling voice onRock ‘n’ Roll Star,” which sounds similar to The Beatles — if they didn’t have bowl cuts and were edgy. The album was sung entirely by Liam Gallagher while his brother Noel Gallagher kept a healthy distance  from the vocals and focused instead on playing lead guitar, which ultimately is what controlled the main sound of the record. The track Live Forever” became one of Oasis’ biggest hits and is easily the highlight of “Definitely Maybe,” but “Slide Away” is by far one of the band’s best songs. Oasis rarely played “Slide Away” live, which ended up helping the song remain one of the band’s most special songs, as it didn’t fall victim to being overplayed like “Wonderwall.” It is a shame that fans probably won’t ever hear the song live since Oasis broke up in 2009, and the Gallagher brothers have what seems to be a never-ending public feud.


Photo from Bad Boy Records

Ready to Die” – Notorious B.I.G.

Genre: Hip-hop/Rap 

Release Date: Sep. 13

The debut album “Ready to Die” is seen as the beginning of the end of The Notorious B.I.G.’s career, and the blunt album title didn’t hide away from this theory. The rapper’s depraved tone and profane lyrics made “Ready to Die” paved the way for rappers to be able to talk about their traumas and mental health. Though death has always been a main subject in rap, The Notorious B.I.G. dealt with these dark subjects with real and sincere feelings. Unlike Kanye West or NF, The Notorious B.I.G. avoided talking about his mental health in a cliché way and did not make the record to gain pity. Instead, the album is filled with rhymed confessions and unforgettable storytelling that is told through emotionally brutal lyrics. The cathartic song “Suicidal Thoughts” showcases The Notorious B.I.G.’s talent not only as a rapper but more importantly as a poet. The album is incredibly versatile with sound, emotion and storytelling. While “Ready to Die” is humorous and at times prestigious, the tracklist still flows perfectly on the grim album. For being a debut album, there are not many flaws on “Ready to Die,” and songs “Gimme The Loot,” “Juicy” and “Big Poppa” are some of the biggest rap songs to ever be released and helped certify the album as a historic album. 


Photo from Trauma and Interscope Records

Sixteen Stone” – Bush

Genre: Rock 

Release: Dec. 6

If there were a band that could release a genuinely good debut album and then never make a solid record again, it would be Bush with their album “Sixteen Stone.” Compared to the incredible lineup of albums that came out in 1994, “Sixteen Stone” is nowhere near a masterpiece, but it had some jams and was a record that dominated the post-grunge era of music. Bush followed the grunge blueprint by having loud guitars and raspy singing, but Gavin Rossdale wrote lyrics that were not great nor catchy and had a limited strained voice. Even though Bush was not the “British Nirvana,” they still did alright for themselves. “Little Things,” “Machinehead” and “Comedown” were rightfully big hits for the band and still get a good amount of attention. However, the song that guaranteed Bush an important role in the ‘90s was “Glycerine.” The song comfortably worked in Rossdale’s limited vocal range and is still a timeless ballad.





Honorable Mentions


There were an overwhelming number of albums that came out in ‘94 that helped influence ‘90s music in their own way. It was, at times, frustrating coming up with a list of only 10 albums to go into detail about when there were so many monumental albums that came out in ‘94. Therefore, I wanted to recognize a few more albums that came out in ‘94, which are worth listening to.


“Whip Smart” – Liz Phair 

“Far Beyond Driven” – Pantera 

“The Crow” – Various Artists 

“The Diary” – Scarface 

“Vitalogy” – Pearl Jam


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About the Contributor
Mikalah Owens
Mikalah Owens, Staff Writer
Pronouns: she/her Grade: 12 Years on staff: 2 What is your favorite piece of literature? “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” by Peter Hedges. Who is your hero? That’s tough. I wanna say Henry Rollins since he’s gone through so much trauma and has overcome that and grown as a person; that’s really inspiring. Realistically, probably my Uncle. If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be? I don’t know… probably fries or something.
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  • L

    Lauren HolcombApr 15, 2024 at 11:46 am

    i love how ppl accuse courtney love of having kurt write all of her songs when her lyrics are beautiful musings about womanhood and trauma and life etc etc and kurt unironically put the line ¨poop as hard as a rock¨ in a song

    love the article!

  • A

    Ava EApr 12, 2024 at 8:01 am

    W piece

  • W

    Will GonsiorApr 11, 2024 at 11:18 pm

    I love Superunknown and and vitalogy but the best album from this year has to be Grace. Buckley’s take of “Hallelujah” has long been one of my favorite songs but the album is stacked top to bottom… “Grace,” “Lover,” and “Lilac Wine” are a few of the best cuts from this gem.

    Thank you Mikalah!