90s Pop Songs Bracket — National Championship: Which was the greatest No. 1 hit from back in the day?

And then there were two. What a long and unexpected road its been for the 90s Pop Songs Bracket. What started with 64 teams has been whittled all the way down to a pair of championship contenders: “Hypnotize” by Notorious B.I.G. and “Genie in a Bottle” by Christina Aguilera. 

Surprised? It is an unexpected matchup, but then again, very little about the bracket has been orthodox. Three No. 1 seeds lost in the first round and Mariah Carey — who had seven (7!) songs in the bracket — was bounced entirely before the Sweet 16. The Final Four consisted entirely of double-digit seeds. 

But who are we to argue with you, the voters? Choosing songs 20-30 years later takes on an entirely different meaning than when they were No. 1 hits. Longevity has an entirely new meaning. And now, it’s time to see which song stands the test of time above all others. 

The 64-song field is filled with No. 1 hits seeded based on weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart from 1990-99. No. 1 seeds stayed atop the Hot 100 the longest, while No. 16 seeds were No. 1 for the shortest amount of time. (In other words, don’t get mad at us for the seedings.)

Remember: These were the top 64 pop songs of the ’90s, so there’s a cutoff. There’s no Hootie and the Blowfish, for example. Still, anyone who was alive and well in the ’90s should know most, if not all, of these songs. They’re bangers. After all, they were No. 1 hits. For anyone who is uninitiated, all songs have links. Final Four takes place on Monday and championship voting will take place on Wednesday. 

Voting for the national championship will take place on our Cover 3 Podcast Twitter account and in the embedded tweet below.


Graphic by Mike Meredith

(16) “Hypnotize” — Notorious B.I.G., MP3 Region Champion

Road to the National Championship
Round 1:
Def. (1) “Macarena” 69.7% to 30.3%
Round 2: Def. (9) “Livin’ La Vida Loca” 67.7% to 32.3%
Sweet 16: Def. (4) “The Crossroads” 63.4% to 36.6%
Elite Eight: Def. (3) “Jump” 61.8% to 38.2%
Final Four: Def. (12) “Creep” 70.8% to 29.2%

“Hypnotize” was always under-seeded, so it’s not a total shocker that it made a run. Still, Biggie didn’t get to this stage without taking down some truly massive hits from the ’90s. In the first round, it comfortably upset the top-seeded “Macarena,” which, OK, that makes sense. “Macarena” burned bright and fast in the mid-90s and was criminally overplayed at every massive event. And Ricky Martin’s “Livin La Vida Loca” is such a niche song for a very specific moment in time. But taking down Bone Thugs-n-Harmony in the Sweet 16 by a large margin was at least a little unexpected, as was blowing past Kriss Kross in the Elite Eight. By the time “Hypnotize” reached the Final Four, TLC’s “Creep” felt like the easiest matchup possible. Sure enough, Biggie won that round by his largest margin yet. The only person standing in the way of a national title for Biggie is Christina Aguilera, which at first glance may not seem all that threatening, but we’ll get to why that’s not the case below. Can a No. 16 seed win the whole thing? “Hypnotize” is worthy of that chance.

(10) “Genie in a Bottle” — Christina Aguilera, CD Region Champion 

Road to the National Championship
Round 1:
Def. (7) “Because You Loved Me” 75.3% to 24.7%
Round 2: Def. (2) “End of the Road” 65.7% to 34.3%
Sweet 16: Def. (6) “This is How We Do It” 60.3% to 39.7%
Elite Eight: Def. (1) “I Will Always Love You” 63.9% to 36.1%
Final Four: Def. (16) “Gangsta’s Paradise” 53.6% to 46.4%

There must be a Christina Aguilera Twitter out there. There has to be. There’s no denying she has pipes, but “Genie in a Bottle” isn’t even the best example of that. And it certainly didn’t seem like the kind of No. 1 hit to get this far. You could have made a case for a little Cinderella run out of the first two rounds, but everything from the Sweet 16 on was a murderer’s row — and Xtina powered through with flying colors. She upended Montell Jordan’s “This is How We Do It” — a dangerous, under-seeded No. 1 hit — and upset the biggest hit by arguably the greatest pop vocal icon ever, Whitney Houston, with ease. To top it off, she edged out “Gangsta’s Paradise” which, despite its seeding, was a smash with legit national championship hopes. Props. Christina has already put together an astonishing and impressive run through the bracket … does she have one more win in her? 

It’s now time to vote. Which 90s song was the best of the decade? You are the judge and the jury here.

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