x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

1990s were one of the saddest decades in music

Friday's Mixtape Rewind festival celebrates the decade but a study suggests the music produced in the 1990s was the most depressing in the past 40 years.

Friday's Mixtape Rewind festival at the Emirates Golf Club hopes to remind us of the sun-kissed days of 1990s music.

It will be hard to wipe grins off faces when that mountainous chorus from Go West's King of Wishful Thinking arrives, or to stop the singalong to the Europop-tastic Mr Vain by Culture Beat.

That said, I recommend staying away from anyone rapping the lyrics of La Bouche's Be My Lover ("Loving you, not like your brother, aw yeah I wanna be your lover" sounds creepy both in song and real life).

However, despite the loads of effervescent pop hits on offer, a study suggests that 1990s pop music was not all smiles.

According to a report by the British Psychological Society released earlier this year, music produced in the 1990s was, in fact, the most depressing in the past 40 years.

Researchers analysed four decades worth of pop hits in terms of their song structure. They found that "songs in minor-mode had increased" gradually from 1965 to 2009 with the 1990s being a decade where use of minor keys reached its peak.

This breaks the illusion we have of the 1990s, the last time European acts reached the Top 10 of both the US and UK charts.

The friendly and unsalacious pop hits we associate with that decade were nothing but a small blip.

Scanning through some of the biggest hits of the 1990s is a maudlin affair.

REM's Losing My Religion would have to be one the saddest chart-toppers of all time. Or consider Pearl Jam's Jeremy, a song about teenage suicide. Jewel's Foolish Game could only have been a hit in the 1990s. Can you imagine this heavy number hitting the top of the charts today? Its anguished chorus – which you can't sing along to without bursting into tears – makes Adele sound like Lou Bega.

Even the stars that eventually lightened up with the turn of the century were stuck in maudlin mode during the 1990s.

A new generation may have caught on to U2 with Beautiful Day in 2000 with its upbeat message, but their 1991 hit One was a soul-searching lament about death.

Instead of secretly sniggering at the one-hit status of some of the acts on the Mixtape Rewind bill on Friday, we should probably offer them some gratitude for keeping us sane during the 1990s. Their hits - and the hits of many artists of the time – acted as circuit breakers during that bleak period.