Before One Direction: A Look Back on Britpop

Ten songs that dominated the 90's rock scene across the pond.

Before Harry Styles and Niall Horan, there were Noel and Liam Gallagher. During the 90’s, British popular culture seemed to be in a bit of a rut. In a post-Maggie Thatcher lull, no major rock music was being put out — a stark contrast to the explosion of grunge in the U.S. Out of this desolation came Britpop, a burgeoning movement inspired by ’60s and ’70s British rock.

Oasis — composed of Paul Arthurs, Paul McGuigan, Tony McCarrol and brothers Noel and Liam Gallagher — is undoubtedly the most popular group of the genre. The band, formed in Manchester in 1991, has sold over 70 million records worldwide. The Gallagher brothers and their public feuding were seen as the personification of the new “lad culture” permeating England at the time, which only furthered their popularity. Oasis’ sophomore album, (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?, was released in 1995 to immediate critical acclaim, and would soon become the defining album of Britpop.

In honor of the album’s 20th birthday, let’s take a look back at the most essential tracks to come out of the genre.

  • “Girls & Boys” by Blur

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    Thought of as Britpop’s first mainstream hit, Blur’s 1994 synth-heavy “Girls & Boys” harkens back to Joe Strummer’s narrative style, while encapsulating Britain’s youth culture at that time.

  • “Alright” by Supergrass

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    Arguably the catchiest song on this list, “Alright” continues to dominate airwaves decades after its release with its sunny reflection on typical suburban life.

  • “I Wanna Be Adored” by The Stone Roses

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    Though released in 1989, this single off of The Stone Roses’ self-titled album signified the band’s later emergence into Britpop through the Manchester rock scene.

  • “Common People” by Pulp

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    With a narrative expressing desire for a “normcore” life, this track expresses a different sentiment than the genre’s typical suburban mediocrity.

  • “A Design For Life” by Manic Street Preachers

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    This humorously named Wales band offered up some of the deepest Britpop tracks, including the above “A Design For Life,” as well as 1998’s “If You’re Tolerating This Your Children Will Be Next.”

  • “Connection” by Elastica

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    Elastica, formed by two former Suede members, was one of the only female-fronted bands in the genre. This post-punk track ruminates on a familiar theme of the genre that it borrows from: selling out.

  • “Lady Killers” by Lush

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    Formed within post-punk parameters, Lush’s 1996 single offers up a new take on feminism and alternative rock in general.

  • “The Drugs Don’t Work” by Verve

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    Though Verve is most known for “Bittersweet Symphony,” this melancholic ballad definitely deserves equal admiration.

  • “Animal Nitrate” by Suede

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    Suede introduced their own willful androgyny to the British mainstream with this punk-inspired break up track and accompanying visuals.

  • “Wonderwall” by Oasis

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    This anthem, the lead single off of (What’s The Story), Morning Glory?, has become a legend in itself. As Oasis’ first crossover hit, the vulnerable lyrics and jarring melody cemented the band’s place at the forefront of Britpop and the global rock scene.