Continuing my countdown of my favorite TV theme songs, we move on to the decade of my birth, the 1990s!
The 90s were also really weird, we saw hip-hop truly emerge as the likes of Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, The Notorious B.I.G., Nas, Jay Z, Tupac, and a whole host of other men and women became household names and proved the genre wasn’t just some passing fade. The internet came into greater prominence and with it geek culture started to change and evolve even more, Bill Clinton established himself as the coolest President since JFK with his laid back, yet intelligent southern swag (although there were a lot of…problematic things that happened with Bill and his little Bill as the decade went on).
CGI became a more frequently used feature in movies some were good (like Jurassic Park and Men In Black) and a lot more were bad (plenty of terrible picks but we’ll go with the Super Mario Brother’s movie as an example). And most importantly television began to reshape as networks such as FOX, UPN, The WB, began to rival the Big 3 (CBS, ABC, and NBC) on the broadcast side and cable television exploded with HBO starting to root itself as a major player with shows like Oz and Sex in the City. Kids TV hit a golden age with the Disney Channel, Cartoon Network, Nickleodeon, and blocks such as Kids WB! and FOX Kids providing a ton of fun content (can’t sleep on PBS either!). Good or Bad, the 90s were one of the strangest times in history.
Now with that stuff out of the way, lets take a look at some of the best TV theme songs the 90s had to offer!
10. The Simpsons- The Simpsons is an American entertainment institution, being on the air now for almost 3 decades, lasting through 5 US President (even predicting the current one, although they hated being right on that one), 3 Popes, and a whole host of other world events and inspiring a variety of animated shows more suited for adults such as South Park, Family Guy, and Rick and Morty; it’s provided us with tons of memorable moments, and of course the huge amount of guest stars lending their voices to some of the series most fondly remembered episodes.
Probably the simplest song on either list so far, The Simpsons theme song, composed by the great Danny Elfman, cuts straight to the point in the beginning, saying the name of the show and then getting into the instrument portion of the song. Plenty of horns, with Lisa’s saxophone bit now being iconic, and a few string instruments, The Simpsons theme song is short, sweet, and gets right to the point.
9. Full House- A staple of ABCs old TGIF line up, Full House was an overly adorable/cutesy ratings juggernaut for the network in the late 80s and early/mid 90s. Centered around the recently widowed Danny Tanner raising his 3 daughters with his best friend Joey and his brother in law Jesse in San Francisco, it never did anything that could be considered controversial, it always played it extremely safe, making it ideal for the entire family to watch together without getting any odd or awkward moments.
The theme song reflects this, having an upbeat and warm feel to it. Simply saying how good it feels to have people around you who love you and that no matter how far you go, the light will always show you the way home. It would be higher, but the remixed version for the Netflix sequel series Fuller House annoys the hell out of me. See, when the show came out back in 2015 I worked at a Target and there were little adverts for the show constantly playing on a damn loop in the electronics department, basically souring me on the show and killing any desire for me to watch, and it also made me dislike Carley Rae Jepsen, the singer of the theme. But the original will always be a classic to me.
8. Arthur- They don’t make them like Arthur anymore. One of the best, and surprisingly deep, children’s shows to come out in decades, Arthur managed to be at times fun and silly to watch, show off and embrace a variety of different cultural backgrounds, and teach kids valuable life lessons. Arthur and his crew of friends had tons of adventures, through their days at school, playing in the band, or even diving into and exploring books, helping to foster a love for reading. Although D.W. is top 5 most annoying children in the history of television, I still adore this show to this day.
Song by the Ziggy Marley, son of the legendary Bob Marley, Arthur’s theme is probably the most relaxing you’ll hear on TV. Having a positive and uplifting message of unity and working together, over a laid back reggae like song, it’s song that eases you into whatever adventure Arthur and friends were going to get into.
7. Family Matters- Another staple of 90s ABC, Family Matters was sort of a working class version of The Cosby Show, until an appearance by Steve Urkel (originally supposed to be a one off character) stole the spotlight and the focus of the show changed, for better or worse. Family Matters wasn’t quite on the level of other shows of the time such as The Cosby Show, Fresh Prince, or Martin, but it was still fondly remembered and holds a special place in pop culture history.
The theme song is just as catchy and memorable as the song for Full House, something of a signature sound that all those old TGIF shows had. It wasn’t as overly cutesy as Full House, so the song isn’t as “awww” inducing, but having sort of a light gospel feel to it and a pretty good piano sequence in the tail end of the song, it made you feel just as good listening to it.
6. All That- Fresh out the box, stop, look and watch, ready yet? Get set, it’s All That!! That is all we needed to hear to get excited for what was essentially a junior version of Saturday Night Live. All That held down the Snick (Saturday Nick) block of programming on Nickleodeon back in the mid-late 90s and into the 2000s. It made stars out of most of the cast success as Kenan Thompson, Kel Mitchell (spoilers, won’t be the last time you see them on this list), eventually Nick Cannon, and Amanda Bynes who has had an…interesting few years to say the least. From Good Burger to Repair Man, Superdude to Vital Information, All That is a beloved nostalgia trip for any young adult who grew up with the show (and is a big part of why we watch Teen Nick, that and Degrassi reruns, wait does Degrassi still air on Teen Nick?)
All That’s theme song is performed by TLC. Honestly, that enough said.
5. Kenan & Kel- Ahhhh Here We Go! Spinning off from All That, Kenan and Kel is among the best live action shows in the history of Nick. Starring Kenan and Kel, the show featured around the two’s misadventures in Chicago, with Kenan always having a plan or a plot to make it to the top, and Kel being dragged along with his beloved Orange Soda! It was the prototype for shows like Drake and Josh and iCarly, and like All That, it is a massive reason why The Splat block on Teen Nick has been such a success.
The theme song is done by rapper Coolio, artist behind the highest charting song of 1995 Gangster’s Paradise. It’s a slickly done song, with nods to other famous duos like Magic & Kareem and Penn & Teller. It’s worth listening to on it’s own and is a nice compliment to the show that followed it.
4. Mighty Morphin Power Rangers- I’ve talked about my love of the Power Rangers franchise before, so I won’t go into too much detail here. To keep things short and sweet, Power Rangers has become a fixture in kids entertainment for over 2 decades (in fact, next year will be the 25th anniversary of the franchise!) so to say a lot of kids grew up on the show would be a massive understatement. However, while all of the seasons have had varying degrees of success and quality, the original series will always be the most iconic, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers!
The song is composed by the great Ron Wasserman (the man behind the fantastic theme song to X-Men the animated series) and has plenty of awesome rock themes; a sick guitar solo, a ton of great drum work, and a singers who seem like they are full into the song! The original theme song is still the best!
3. A Different World- Historically Black Colleges and Universities were something of an unknown to a lot of folks in the mainstream. People were aware of what they were to be sure, but we had never gotten a proper look at what life was like for the people and students who made up those university communities.
Then along came A Different World and it helped open up that life to tons of people. Created by Bill Cosby as a Cosby Show spin off centering on Cliff and Clair Huxtable’s second oldest daughter Denise as she headed off to college, the first season of the show is a bit of an oddity, as from the perspective of many alum of HBCUs, the campus and life didn’t really reflect what life at those schools was like. In season 2, Cosby brought in Debbie Allen (herself an alum of Howard University) to help give the show a revamped feel and focus, and the series picked up from it’s second season on. You got the feeling and energy of what life at an HBCU was like and it helped A Different World earn it’s place in pop culture and helped inspire a generation or two of young black men and women to head off to college.
The revamped season 2 got a new theme song and it helped reflect the new attitude of the song. Subtle bass guitars, a sort of jazzy feel to the singers, all helped give the show a memorable and easy to vibe to song, leading you into the updated feel of the show.
2. Pokemon (Indigo League)- Just as Ninja Turtles and Power Rangers before it, Pokemon took the world by storm and both endeared children to the franchise and annoyed parents with the merchandise, cartoon, and everything in between. Pokemon came onto the scene in Japan in 1996, with the first games in the series Red and Green (and later an update version of both called Pokemon Blue) and once it came to the west a couple years later, PokeMania was in full swing. While it doesn’t have the same massive pop culture presence that it did in the very beginning, Pokemon still remains in an iconic and beloved franchise.
The original theme song of the series (similar to Power Rangers) is still the best and most well know. The opening course saying how the singer wanted to be the very best, like no one ever was still rings true all these years later, the drum beats, the guitar, and the almost victorious closing all help to continue to inspire new players of the games viewers of the show to always strive for excellence!
Before I get to the top song, here is a quick Honorable Mention…
Gullah Gullah Island- Happy black people are in sort simply on TV, we always tend to be shown as either sad, angry, or a combination of both. So when an upbeat show like Gullah Gullah Island comes along, we tend to cherish it. Set on an island-town in South Carolina, Gullah Gullah Island was a Nick Jr. staple back in the 90s, fitting in the programming block along with shows like Blues Clues, Little Bear, and reruns of Muppet Babies. Centering around the goings on of 6 and their weird frog/lizard/dinosaur pet, the show didn’t reach the same heights in popularity as some other Nick Jr. classics, but it’s still a pleasure to watch whenever they decide to show it on one of Nick’s other networks.
The theme song has some things in common with the Sesame Street song, not in instruments because this show how more of a tropical theme with some use of steel drums, but in a happy and positive vibe. Anytime I listen to this song it makes me want to go to Gullah Gullah Island, in fact that might be my next vaction spot!
And the number 1 TV Theme Song of the 1990s is…
1. The Fresh Prince of Bel Air- The show that turned Will Smith into a star (and helped him out of a financial pinch) Fresh Prince of Bel Air was a classic of the early/mid 90s. Centering around the wealthy Banks family adding the wild Will from West Philly, we got to see some generational and culture clashes in the show, mostly between Will and Uncle Phil and over the course of the series we saw the attachment between all members of the family develop and growth, forming one of the best and most loved TV families of all time.
The theme song is so within it’s time, that it’s become timeless (thank you Nostalgia Critic for that observation). Usually it is a mixed bag when networks try and incorporate hip-hop into their show, it can be either really awkward or great, Fresh Prince lands firmly on the great side. Song by the Prince himself, the song tells you all you need to know about the series. Will gets into a scuffle with someone at a basketball court (implying to be a gang member), and just like Craig in Next Friday, Will moves to avoid another confrontation and likely more violence in his neighborhood, so his mom sent him to Bel Air to live with his rich family members. It’s simple in the delivery, yet so memorable, the beat is tight and if you grew up with the show, you’re probably singing or humming the song now. Without a doubt, the Fresh Prince TV theme song is the best of the 1990s and could be the greatest of all time, but that’s a list for another time!
So those are my picks for the best theme songs of the 1990s, but there are plenty that I loved but was unable to include in this list, so in the comments below make sure to add some of your favorites.
Also be on the look out within the next week as I continue this series with my Top Ten TV Theme Songs of the 2000s, that will include everything from 2000-today and later a full Top Ten TV Theme songs of all time! A quick note on that order, a couple of shows from the 60s and 70s will be grandmothered in, so be aware of that once that list comes out.
Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @Jamel727! I will also be doing a few more videos on my very amateur YouTube channel, so stay tuned for more of those!
Until the next time as always be safe, be cool, and I’ll catch you later!!