Pop songwriter Diane Warren's catalog alone could fill out a list of the 10 best ballads of the '90s, but that wouldn't be too exciting. Her songs appear on here three times, along with some other timeless hits recorded by punk rockers, former Miss Americas, and sleaze metal gods.
- “How Do I Live.” Sure, LeAnn Rimes already had a few hits at the time, but this 1997 ballad written by the world’s foremost balladeer, Diane Warren, helped make her a household name. Nothing says ballad more than a song written for a movie about a plane taken over by convicts, “Con Air.”
- “One Sweet Day.” With the help of two of the biggest R&B/pop acts of the ‘90s, Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men, this song, about a lover who has passed away, is one of the best ballads of the ‘90s. Their voices complemented each other nicely and the song’s lyrics ("I know you're shining down on me from Heaven") come off as sweet, not sappy.
- “Unbreak My Heart.” A broken heart’s not the most groundbreaking subject matter for a ballad (okay, it's the least), but Toni Braxton, in this Diane Warren tune, demanded her lover “unbreak” her heart, a new approach. This soulful song is classic and will go down as one of the best ballads of the ‘90s.
- “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing.” Aerosmith have pop songwriters like Diane Warren (here she is again!) to thank for the revitalization of its career in the ‘90s. Songs like “Crying” and “Crazy” made them stars again, but this song from the Armageddon soundtrack brought the group back to superstar status and is one of the best ballads of the ‘90s.
- “November Rain.” Guns N’ Roses one-upped itself with the release of its farewell (sort of) opus “November Rain” in 1992, an over-the-top masterpiece that spit in the face of stripped-down grunge taking over the charts. Guns N‘ Roses would disintegrate shortly after. Axl said it himself: “Nothing lasts forever in the cold november rain,”
- “Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life).” The same band that named their massively successful major label debut after a children’s word for shit delivered one of the best ballads of the ‘90s. A bitter breakup song mistaken for some kind of sentimental remembrance, this ballad made Green Day even bigger when it appeared along with the last Seinfeld episode in 1997.
- “Again.” Janet Jackson took the reins over dance and pop music when her brother Michael’s career and albums started taking a dive in the '90s. The subtle production and simplicity of this 1994 ballad (from the forgotten “Poetic Justice” soundtrack) gives her voice room to spotlight a unique melody and show that she could do much more than "Rhythm Nation."
- “I Believe I Can Fly.” R. Kelly believes he “can touch the sky” (along with his fans?) in this sweeping 1996 single. The song’s melody sounds straight out of some old Broadway standard and its gospel backup is consequentially fitting. It’s profound too: it inspired Looney Tunes characters in “Space Jam.”
- “Save The Best For Last.” Former Miss America Vanessa Williams had tried her hand at pop and R&B and scored a few hits, but this 1992 song, penned by professional songwriters Phil Galdston, Jon Lind and Wendy Waldman, gave her her biggest one yet, one of the best ballads of the ‘90s and a standard for many years to come. Give her her crown back.
- “I Will Always Love You.” This song is basically Whitney Houston’s last gasp as one of the premier pop divas and it's one of the best ballads of the ‘90s, let alone in pop history. Houston took this Dolly Parton song to new heights and inspired a zillion bad karaoke performances in the process.
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