By Nicolas Grizzle
Ahh, the ’90s. It sure doesn’t feel like they ended 20 years ago, but then again, nobody could release “Gettin’ Jiggy With It” today and be taken seriously. After giving the music some time to marinate in public consciousness, some songs remain like nuggets of gold in our ears. Many find their way to our fingers, and, if we’re lucky, the ukulele. I hope you’ll agree that these fresh uke versions of classic ’90s jams truly are all that and a bag of chips.
“Smells Like Teen Spirit” Nirvana
It’s 1991, you’re in a boxy Honda in the school parking lot, waiting for your friend’s last class to end. You turn on the radio, and every other station seems to be playing “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by this new band everyone’s talking about called Nirvana. Fast forward almost 30 years, and this youngster by the name of Feng E is straight up rocking out on the song with his uke in the video above, capturing the guitar, bass, and vocal parts with ease, and even getting the energy of the recording’s ferocious drumming into his playing. I’d like to think Kurt Cobain would be proud.
“Zombie” The Cranberries
Who doesn’t remember The Cranberries’ Dolores O’Riordan decrying the 1993 IRA bombing on “Zombie,” from their debut album of the same year, Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We? In this version for solo ukulele by YouTuber Rawuke, you can almost hear O’Riordan’s heart-piercing vocals through the emotional strums and plucks. Though it’s not his most-viewed video (check out the 1 million+ viewed “Sweet Child O’ Mine” as well), it’s a wonderful arrangement that milks the most out of this totally playable tune.
“Wannabe” The Spice Girls
Now that the Spice Girls have reunited (minus the busy supermodel/entrepreneur/mom-of-four Victoria Beckham, formerly known as Posh Spice), maybe it’s time to celebrate the pop they helped solidify as a defining sound of the ’90s. This version, by Melissa of YouTube channel Melissa y Eureka, is impressive for a couple reasons. First, English is not her native language, but she nails the song written and performed by a group of five English women without missing a beat. Second, it’s one take, one mic, and no effects, and the lyrics and vocal rhythms aren’t exactly easy to pull off in one shot. Finally, she exudes a low-key sass that really brings to mind the ethos of the Spice Girls without being annoyingly “extra.”
“OK Computer” Radiohead
Because it’s probably my favorite album of all time, I’m allowing this ukulele sampler of Radiohead’s 1997 masterpiece OK Computer here, even though it only contains snippets of the songs. The two-, and sometimes three-uke arrangements don’t leave me wanting, and the drum machine programming is pretty faithful to drumming on the album. The fingering is clearly visible, should you choose to try and recreate parts on your own. The sound quality is very good. There’s not a whole lot to complain about here, other than the misrepresentation that it was a whole album. It wasn’t exactly “No Surprises,” and I guess you could say I was a little “Let Down,” but it certainly didn’t leave me “Climbing Up The Walls.” Maybe I’m just a “Subterranean Homesick Alien” and should feel “Lucky” that I’m now “Fitter, Happier,” and stop trying to call the “Karma Police” on “The Tourist” in this EatMyUke video, who may or may not be “Electioneering” likes for his page. Cue “Exit Music (For A Film).”