Playlist: To Be An Emotionally Intense ’90s Woman

I’d always heard that women were crazy, and that we’re super difficult to deal with, let alone figure out. We’re like ticking time bombs of inexplicable and confusing insanity! Everyone else (men) are chill and reasonable, and we’re all fucking nuts — and if we’re not crazy, it’s only a matter of time before we’ll be crazy. I didn’t know much at 10 or 11 years old, but that stereotype had definitely been ingrained. Perhaps you can relate? So when I started feeling Every Available Feeling a few years later, I just chalked it up to being a crazy girlperson — someone’s future crazy ex-girlfriend, or future complicated mess in some way or another. And I was ok with that, actually, because being complicated and tiptoed around (lest I DETONATE!) was pretty satisfying at the time, even if I didn’t feel interesting enough to be complicated.

For those times when I was really seizing my Womanly Psychosis (“feelings”), I would find sisterhood and solidarity in the female musicians of our time (“the ’90s”). I’m realizing now that, taken out of context, some of these lyrics are terrifying. Many of them give me the warm feeling of “thank goodness I’m not dating the singer of this song,” followed by “wait, I’ve been a version of the singer of this song. Hm.” This is the soundtrack to a decade’s worth of processing and embracing emotional intensity.

To Be* An Emotionally Intense ’90s Woman

[*or to be in a relationship with / to break-up with]

90s woman ok2


You Oughta Know – Alanis Morissette
Bitch – Meredith Brooks
Jealousy – Liz Phair
You Were Meant For Me – Jewel
Silent All These Years – Tori Amos
I Want To Come Over – Melissa Etheridge
Do You Love Me Now? – The Breeders
Nothing Compares 2 U – Sinead O’Conner
Stay – Lisa Loeb
Don’t Speak – No Doubt
Untouchable Face – Ani Difranco
Take A Bow – Madonna
Fade Into You – Mazzy Star
Sleep To Dream – Fiona Apple
Only Happy When It Rains – Garbage
Rid Of Me – PJ Harvey
I’m The Only One – Melissa Etheridge
Jealousy – Natalie Merchant
Adia – Sarah McLachlan
I Will Always Love You – Whitney Houston
#1 Crush – Garbage
Violently Happy – Bjork
Who Is He And What Is He To You – Me’Shell Ndegeocello
Angry Johnny – Poe
Ex-Factor – Lauryn Hill

What did I leave out? Let’s light some candles and talk about it.

Want to suggest a playlist theme? Hit Crystal up on Formspring and someone from the team will make it for you, if you’re lucky.

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!


lnj has written 310 articles for us.


  1. I love this playlist (my Pandora often resembles it!), and your intro. But I am having “feelings” about the omission of one kd lang. Anything from Ingenue (1992): Constant Craving, Mind of Love, Miss Chatelaine, Outside Myself, Save Me.

      • ok i’ve never listened to a single kd lang song. please school me! what are the top 5 kd lang songs i should hear. READY GO.

        • I bet you HAVE listened to a k.d. lang song – Constant Craving was a huge hit in the 90s. I’ve only just recently discovered her other songs, and I have SO MANY FEELINGS. Autostraddle needs to devote an article to this woman – more people need to know about her greatness!

          My favourites:

          1. Constant Craving
          2. Sexuality
          3. Black Coffee (cover) – this video in particular:
          4. Outside Myself
          5. Hallelujah (cover) – she totally owns this song

  2. All I can think as I look at this list is “How did my friends not all figure out that I’m trans?” :)

    Also, I need to go set up a playlist on my iPhone now. Ciao.

  3. I am SO INTO this playlist. Bonus points for including Poe!

    Basically every song from the Paranoid and Sunburnt album by Skunk Anansie, but especially “Intellectualize My Blackness” and “100 Ways to Be a Good Girl.”

    Also, “Hold On” by Sarah McLachlan, not “Adia.”

    • ok totally valid re: “hold on” BUT i felt super obligated to choose “adia” bc erin, “there’s no one left to finger.”

      • also i don’t know why i didn’t just use both of them? i think i forgot i could add two songs from one artist. y’all i’ve had A Week, seriously. it’s a million wonders i spelled ’emotionally’ correctly. now i’m just talking to you like we’re bffs, which is just how this is going to go, for the rest of this comment. it’s like a mini blog anything. i made a dip for lunch by mixing together two kinds of salsa and some lentils, like this is my version of cooking now. this is what it’s come to. stirring. the good news re: this awful week, is that if bad things come in threes, the third thing has already happened, so maybe there’s nowhere to go but up, you know? like maybe i’ll move on to stirring something over a heating element.

  4. one time my family drove to new hampshire and i spent the entire trip in the back seat staring out the window playing “Just a Girl” over and over on my walkman and singing along, with much feeling.
    after about 7 times my dad finally asked me to stop and i moped, VISIBLY, for the rest of the trip
    i don’t recall how old I actually was, but I still fondly consider this my First Day Of Being A Teenager

  5. My emotionally intense woman of the 90s (and 80s) was Diamanda Galas….
    hmm…I think I may take things too far :)

    • OMGGGGG.

      She was the most intense! For the uninitiated, Diamanda Galas performed what would become her best-known work (masterpiece) naked from the waist up, covered in sheeps blood, in an abandoned Catholic church. Themes were the complicity of Church and State in perpetuating the stigma of HIV/AIDS and responding with fear and homophobia, rather than compassion and, well, research funding.

      Also, the dignity denied to AIDS victims in their deaths.

      Also, she quotes the Bible and old spirituals.

      Also, it’s called the Plague Mass.

      MOST INTENSE. I would encourage ‘straddlers to look this shit up, but be warned: this is the only music that has ever actually scared me.

      • “Galás has been described as “capable of the most unnerving vocal terror””

        ok sold.

        • Her work is so intense and yet also so full of compassion and love.

          She is really amazing. If you can track down the old Re/Search book “Angry Women” (remember that one?!?) theres a good interview with her in it. Thats where I discovered her music.

          • aww, I cut my earnest young queer feminist teeth on that book! ♥ It’s where I first heard of her, and a lot of other amazing women.

  6. this is perfect.

    Also, I may have listened to too much Liz Phair in high school. I am not sorry for this.

    Whenever I happen to hear “Untouchable Face,” I can’t help but cringe a bit when thinking of my high school self. That one I am a bit sorry for.

  7. How about some Paula Cole? She was another ‘must play’ for any emotionally intense 90s girl — ‘Where Have All The Cowboys Gone?’ if you’re feeling a little bitter, or ‘I Don’t Wanna Wait’ for a more upbeat emotion (or to relive all those Dawson’s Creek memories). Aaaaah!

    Sheryl Crow is another omission – I’d go for “Every Day Is A Winding Road” for its great bongos.

    • TRUE STORY: girlfriend and I were having a rough day on a cross country road trip and “Every Day is a Winding Road” came on when we were already both crying. The best, the worst, the Midwest.

  8. I’m really bummed that 4 Non-Blondes/What’s Up didn’t make it onto this playlist.

      • y’all it’s not a snub! that song doesn’t belong here bc it doesn’t fit the theme! “what’s up” is about your feelings about the whole world and yourself and your place in it and such. this playlist is about your feelings about a specific person (or maybe a couple of people I SEE YOU POLYS), which is a very different kind of feeling.

        but i will concede that i should’ve added the other sarah mclachlan song, the natalie imbruglia one, and i didn’t listen to skunk anasie so maybe that one too. and ok, probably hyperballad, but it’s just a touch too happy for too long to really fit this theme.

        i take my playlisting seriously! PURIST.

        • Have you listened to the Brodsky Quartet version of Hyperballad? Because it gets INTENSE. Like, I can’t really listen to it without feeling all the feelings and my eyes welling up. And then also sort of feeling like I just had an orgasm in my ears and heart. TMI FTW.

  9. My parents banned me from listening to anything but Christian music for most of my youth, so I missed all of the 90s ladyangst. I’ve been trying to catch up by building a similar playlist of my own, so thanks for this – more material I can add to it!

    One that strikes me as missing is Bif Naked, but maybe she wasn’t a hit across the border? The album Splendora did, in additional to their music for Daria, is pretty good feelings material also.

    • Wow, I didn’t think anyone remembered Bif Naked. I’m in the U.S. and I remember MTV playing her video but she definitely didn’t blow up like Alanis. Didn’t know she did music for Daria. They need to bring that show back

        • i remember bif naked being on some random soundtrack and it being the only good song. WHAT WAS THAT SOUNDTRACK. agh.

          • Hmmmmm Wiki says she’s been on Buffy, Charmed, Ready to Rumble (with a cover of Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It”) and American Psycho 2. One of those?

            I started watching Buffy/Angel last month (I’m catching up on all the 90s media) and was super stoked when Bif showed up at the Bronze.

    • Hey gurl hey, I wore out many a WOW contempo christian compilation on my discman during my adolescence. And then Jennifer Knapp came out a few years later and made my life.

      • Omg, WOW was the only music most of my family owned. I had no idea about Knapp – that’s awesome!

      • We should be in the “I still have great musical taste even though I owned WOW cds” club. Which is kinda a long name. Maybe “I survived CCM” is better. Anyway, I saw Jennifer Knapp perform at a church last year and she took questions from the audience. It was all fun and happy until some little old lady in the back asked if Jennifer and her partner prayed together. The whole room got very quiet and very uncomfortable. Jennifer was real classy about it, obvs.

        • I have so many feelings about this and I’m totally behind this idea. We can sit in a circle, listen to “A Little More Than I Can Give” and rewatch Sixpence None The Richer music videos.

      • oh my god I had NO idea about Jennifer Knapp!!
        That is the best news ever. I know SOOOO many Christians stuck in the closet and it’s heart breaking.

    • there was some pretty angsty Christian music in that era too, though! like Plumb? wow. my best friend growing up was a pastor’s daughter, so because of her I listened to a lot of Plumb…super emo stuff.

  10. This is everything I could have ever wanted.

    Also – am I the only one that thinks the song titles themselves can be remixed into a pretty good 90s song?

    You Oughta Know, Number One Crush
    Nothing Compares to you..
    I want to come over
    and Fade Into You.

    Who is he and what is he to you?
    Angry Johnny?
    the Ex-Factor?
    Jealousy – Don’t speak – I will always love you.

    I’m the only one, only happy when it rains.
    Take a Bow, rid of me,
    Violently happy, my untouchable face.

    Do you love me now?
    Do you love me now?
    Do you love me now…

    I want to see other attempts.

    • I made a heartbreak-themed Heartthrob quote mashup along the same lines when the album came out. “Go if you want! I can’t stop you; what you are is lonely. They say, “love heals all wounds. Love removes the hurt in you”, and I have nothing to hold you down: How come you don’t want me now? I stuck around. I was a fool for love. Sometimes it feels that the side that I’m on holds the toughest hand. The longest stand.”

  11. THIS PLAYLIST. OMG. And why yes, I do think that this is a perfect time to brag about the fact that my avatar is a picture of me and Tori Amos. And finally, SOMEONE UNDERSTANDS! :D

  12. This list is fantastic and gives me all the angsty 90s/coming out feels (because my first two girlfriends were total 90s chicks.)

    My fav emotional 90s song is “Precious Things” by Tori Amos. Still play it on repeat on angsty days, especially when I’m all flustered about my religious past.

    • PRECIOUS THINGS. My all-time favorite. Sorry I’m freaking out right now. I just have a lot of feelings about Tori Amos…..

      • I bet a lot of us have Tori Amos feels.

        Also I have a surprising number of lesbian friends who were teens in the ’90s who had shirts that said “Just because you can make me come doesn’t make you Jesus.”

        • Oh, yes, all the Tori Amos feels. A friend sent me a copy of Little Earthquakes when I was 13 and it was all over. Tear in Your Hand is still my favorite, but close behind are Precious Things and Winter. Her cover of Smells Like Teen Spirit was like a religious experience.

          • Omg I practically grew up to tori Amos. I looovvee the songs mother, precious things, and father lucifer. Seriously she is amazing. My stepmom introduced me to her when I was like seven!

    • I just realized that Tori Amos’ attitude is the most sexy. A hippie, fairy-worshipping feminist who’s pissed that the church alienated her from Jesus because she likes fucking and hates hypocrisy? UH-MAZING.

  13. oh my god Laneia get out of my head. I just yesterday created a playlist entitled “90’s insanity”.

    Everything on your list is amazing. The only thing I could add would be: Natalie Imbruglia – Torn.

    She was lying naked on the floor, cold and shamed. I mean really.

    • natalie was in the original version! i don’t remember why i took her out. now i feel cold and shamed.

  14. I was but a child in the 90’s…but my first taste of 90’s female emotional intesity was I think..

    The Cranberries – Zombie. Was very powerful to me when I first heard it (not sure if it quite fits the playlist) but they have a lot of other songs that could fit the bill, I guess in terms of well known Cranberries songs:

    Ode to my family
    Miss you when you’re gone

    Oh, and one song that did spring instantly to mind

    Kiss the rain by Billie Myers.

    • Yes The Cranberries! I grew up on them. My parents were playing one of their cd’s when I was about 8, and I remember asking why it sounded like they were yelling. My mom just said “you’ll understand when you’re older.” Then when I was 10 my Alanis Morisette obsession kicked in, and it all made sense.

      I was just thinking today about my old 90s music. I played Jagged Little Pill, the Buffy Soundtrack, and Precious Little by Eleanor McEvoy about a million times. Everything about this playlist is wonderful.

  15. That dress that Shirley wears in the Paranoid video – I want it…and the panties, too.

  16. Yes yes YES!!!!!! This posts sums up my teenage years. Sarah McLachlan started it all when I happened to hear “Possession” in that one due South episode and she was my gateway drug to these other emotionally intense women. Much time was spent listening to these songs contemplating my feelings and life and just generally getting lost in the utter intensity of it all. So many deep feelings ;)

    Thank you sooooo much for this post, totally made my day :)

    • Yes! That was my intro to Sarah McLachlan too! Man, super nostalgia feels with Due South and all this music.

  17. I have a friend whose college roommate had her radio alarm set to play Meredith Brooks’ Bitch every morning, so yeah, she did not feel ashamed.

    this playlist is sincerely amazing.

  18. I am so excited about this post!! I was just a little kid in the 90’s but when I became an angst adolescent I became totally hooked on 90’s women musicians, and it totally changed the way I approached my life and music and I’m so excited I made a run on sentence. Fiona Apple is my hero, I have a lyric from her tattooed on me, and I cried when I saw her in concert last summer. I remember realizing when I first started listening to these women that it was okay to be angry and to have feelings and to actually express them. Soooo good!

  19. omg, LISA LOEB STAY. all my teenage feelings. i listened to it on repeat approximately 4,679 times.

    also, those glasses.

  20. This list proves that anyone who says the 90’s wasn’t a good decade is in fact lying. Thank you!

  21. Friends, please stay with me here; I’m going to nominate “Hyperballad” as a more suitable Bjork song for this list. So feelings-y! Or, of course, Possibly Maybe.

    But it’s hard to improve on perfection, though, so… these are just list “alternatives,” perhaps.

    • Yes, yes, yes to Hyperballad, especially if it’s the Brodsky Quartet version. God, so good. Thank you for reminding me of it!

    • Or Bachelorette.
      Now I can’t stop listening to Bjork. ALL WEIRDO ICELANDERS ALL THE TIME!

  22. laneia this is the best

    i was pretty obsessed with that song ‘bitch’ back in the days

  23. This playlist = try to constrain me, seatbelt. Much car dancing, steering wheel drums, and rockstar bellowing ahead.

  24. I’ve been obsessed with Tori Amos since I was like…6, thanks to my big brother. So happy to see her on this list! Amazing artist and so beautiful. *sigh*

  25. I’m pretty sure this is verbatim the exact mixtape I made over my first baby-dyke broken heart. Complete with hand decorated cover, sent via snail mail. There should definitely be some Cranberries, Natalie Imbruglia, and Indigo Girls added to this list.

  26. Daaaamn! No sleater-kinney, so you failed, really bad. Hahahaha, and I’m not even from Oregon . But lot’s of other 90s music I should probably … listen too haha.

  27. Oh my days this playlist… just …. THIS PLAYLIST!
    all of it!

    the girl done good. Nice one Laneia.

  28. to add to the awesome list:

    kathleen hanna post-bikini kill transition into le tigre
    the butchies
    team dresch

  29. I want to light a couple of spicy-scented candles, wrap myself up in a black duvet, and make sweet love to this playlist. And then cry when it breaks up with me.

  30. It needs some: Belly, Juliana Hatfield, Throwing Muses, Hole, Veruca Salt, and Sleater-Kinney to be complete.

    • I rediscovered Belly again recently. Untitled and Unsung is one of my all time favourite songs. It feels so feelingsy!

  31. This playlist plus the Sassy junk food panel tasting issue would reduce me to a puddle of blissful gratitude. Don’t have that issue any more so I’m still in solid form, but whooee: Happy.

  32. Cat Power and Aimee Mann are two more artists that come to mind. Cat Power’s earlier stuff is pretty darn moody.

  33. This is very relevant to as I have been having a lovely, emotionally regressive, listen-to-all-the-music-you-listened-to-in-high-school-in-the-mid-90’s time lately.

  34. Hoe is Tracy Bonham – Mother, Mother not on this list? She was sooo much better than Alanis Morrissett. What about Imani Coppola with Legend of a Cowgirl?

Comments are closed.