Even though the amped-up trio released two prior studio albums in the early '90s, it was Dookie that found the group mainstream success, kickstarting a new wave of punk after the genre faded in the late-'70s and early'80s. Not to mention, the album sent guy liner sales skyrocketing through the roof. Billie Joe Armstrong and his gaggle of misfits came out swinging with a fresh punk look along with music that spoke to a whole lot of angsty teens, making awkward high school experiences just a bit easier to get through. Best singles: "Longview" "Basket Case," and "When I Come Around."
Released just days after lead singer Courtney Love's husband — and Nirvana frontman — Kurt Cobain's suicide, Live Through This was a lighter departure for the band, following their hardcore '91 release Pretty On The Inside. Loaded with guitar riffs, sulking melodies and lots of Love angst, the set was pure rock magic. However, the antics of Love are what made this album even more delicious as she let the world know of her short-fused temper, drug use and her uncanny ability to interrupt a Madonna/Kurt Loder interview. Best singles: "Doll Parts" "Miss World," and "Violet."
Baby-mama drama, social issues and street life comprised New York-based rapper Nas's debut. Illmaticraised a torch for East Coast hip-hop after the genre had been dominated by West Coast rappers Dre, Snoop Dogg and Tupac Shakur for much of the early '90s. Despite being praised for its lyrical content and Nas's incredible rhymes, Illmatic stayed on the charts for two years, eventually going double platinum. Best singles: "The World is Yours," "Life's A Bitch," and "One Love."
Although mostly known for its eye-popping Spike Jonze-directed video for "Sabotage," Beastie Boy's third set showcased a more mature sound after the hard-rapping trio spent much of the late-'80s and early'90s creating in-your-face anthems and fighting-for-your-right-to-party jams. The eclectic set was a fantastic fusion of hip-hop with jazz and rock rhythms. Best singles: "Sabotage," "Get It Together," "Sure Shot," and "Tough Guy."
Along with Nas's debut, Ready to Die was another near-flawless set of classic hip-hop that would change the rap game forever. Being the first album released under Diddy's Bad Boy Records, Biggie's debut was a firestorm of slick beats all matched to perfection with the incredible rhymes of the dearly departed rapper. However, on a twist of fate, it was also this album that began the now infamous East Coast/West Coast rap feud that ultimately led to the deaths of Tupac and Mr. B.I.G, leaving Ready to Die the only album to be released by Biggie while he was still alive. Best singles: "Big Poppa," "Juicy."
Madonna's sixth studio album featured a grown and sexy R&B sound, and a pop star who was discovering a new, more mature sense of self. The album is a dream from start to finish, from the beginning smooth grooves of opener "Survival" to the closing strings of her Babyface-produced ballad, "Take A Bow," these stories are worth staying awake for. Best singles: "Secret," "Human Nature," and "Bedtime Story."
Don't hate. It may only be March, but hang up some mistletoe because the holiday album that gave life to the biggest Christmas song of our generation is celebrating a milestone this year. It'll be 20 years in November, when Mariah's Christmas opus, "All I Want For Christmas Is You" was born. From those opening twinkles to the final, ornament-shattering high notes, the song has been putting us into the holiday spirit for decades (at least the first time we hear it.) Best tracks: "Silent Night," "Joy To The World," "O Come All Ye Faithful," and "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town."
This urban songbird trio hit their apex with their second album, going from urban to pop and back again. Lead single "Creep" added a new term in the cheater's thesaurus, and sexy romps "Red Light Special," and "Diggin On You" were straight-up bedroom gems. But "Waterfalls" is what shot these girls to superstardom.