Every musical theatre performer with professional aspirations should have at least two pop/rock radio songs in their audition book. These selections should be contrasting in nature– and preferably from different decades and styles (i.e. pop, rock, hip hop, rap, country, etc.). Pop and rock songs from the 1990s make especially good choices because MANY contemporary shows incorporate music styles from that decade. Examples of well-known, ’90s and early ’00s-style rock musicals include Spring Awakening, Rent, American Idiot, Bare, Next to Normal, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, and many others.
If you’re looking to add a ’90s-style pop/rock song to your audition book, I’ve compiled a great list of radio tunes below to serve as a starting point. All of these songs were originally sung by men, but women can always put their own spin on them as well (and have). When you finish listening through this list, check out my list of female ’90s pop/rock audition songs here.
P.S. If you need assistance choosing appropriate repertoire for yourself or for your students, please check out my new repertoire consulting business, The Repertoire Guru.
1. “THERE SHE GOES” – THE LA’S (1990)
FUN FACT: The band Sixpence None the Richer did a great cover of this song in the late ’90s that ended up being nearly as popular as the original.
2. “BARELY BREATHING” – DUNCAN SHEIK (1996)
FUN FACT: ’90s one-hit wonder kid Duncan Sheik went on to score TWO Broadway musicals (Spring Awakening and American Psycho).
3. “YOU GET WHAT YOU GIVE” – NEW RADICALS (1998)
FUN FACT: The lyrics in the final section created some controversy due to the negative mention of health insurance, the FDA, big banks, Marilyn Manson, and more.
4. “BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S” – DEEP BLUE SOMETHING (1993)
FUN FACT: This song title comes from the famous Audrey Hepburn film, but the ‘breakfast’ part prompted many radio stations to play this exclusively in the mornings.
5. “CREEP” – RADIOHEAD (1993)
FUN FACT: Initially, this song wasn’t a commercial success, but it became so famous in a follow-up release that many listeners expressed little interest in Radiohead’s other songs.
6. “SEMI-CHARMED LIFE” – THIRD EYE BLIND (1997)
FUN FACT: While this may sound like an easy-going pop/rock tune, the lyrics apparently describe a drug user’s descent into crystal meth addiction (heavy stuff!).
7. “SAVE TONIGHT” – EAGLE-EYE CHERRY (1997)
FUN FACT: Eagle-Eye Cherry is actually a Swedish rock musician, and this single is his most popular international hit to date.
8. “SHE’S SO HIGH” – TAL BACHMAN (1999)
FUN FACT: Bachman has said that this song is about an experience he had in high school trying to get a girl to date his stepbrother.
9. “IRIS” – GO GOO DOLLS (1998)
FUN FACT: This song is one of the biggest crossover hits in the history of popular music, crossing over from modern rock radio to pop and adult contemporary radio.
10. “TWO PRINCES” – SPIN DOCTORS (1991)
FUN FACT: This song ranked no. 41 on VH1’s “100 Greatest Songs of the ’90s” and no. 21 on Blender magazine’s “50 Worst Songs Ever”. Conclusion: This song is everything.