stupid folky ballad type songs
The 90s never really ended culturally though, did they? There was no break like punk rock or acid house at the end of the 90s to really set the stage for a new style or attitude towards music and pop culture in general. One thing that really suprised me was that you never heard "90s" as a signifier for something a bit dated or naff during the 00s. (Like "Combat Pants? Ugh.. so 90s!")The same way "80s" was used up until about 2002, until that era was cool again. Ten years ago is always supposed to be crap, right?
Although I've got a hunch "garage" will become a signifier for all kinds of retro shenaigans in the next few years. The "post-dubstep" crowd are on the case already.
I think the problem is that at the end of every decade since the 50s, you've had some sort of emerging trend in youth culture that set things up for the next decade. In the late 50s you had rock and roll, late 60s hippies, late 70s punk and disco, late 80s hip hop and acid house...
And then style as a whole and the popular culture had to play catch up with these developments in the following years. You couldn't have had the laid back, globular, flared design of the 70s without the hippies and you couldn't have had the stark, brightly coloured 80s without (if not punk, then) new wave.
But there wasn't any movement like that at the end of the 90s except a new(ish) tasteful eclecticism propounded by hip ambassadors like the Beastie Boys, Beck, James Lavelle, etc...
Not really much to go on there, eh? So now we just have this mish-mash of mostly retro signifiers.
Swears had quite a good thesis about this, I think.
Edit: in response to those forum posts about how nobody will remember the 90s.
"... no break like punk rock or acid house at the end of the 90s to really set the stage for a new style or attitude towards music and pop culture in general."