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For music from a year in the 1990s, go to 90 | 91 | 92 | 93 | 94 | 95 | 96 | 97 | 98 | 99

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1990s in music were music performed in the 1990s. This decade saw the continuation of teen pop of the 1980s and the emergence of grunge music and alternative rock[1] in pop culture replacing glam metal and the continuation of hip hop. It also featured the rise of contemporary country music music as a major genre, which started in the 1980s.[2]


The U.S. and North America



Vocal group, Backstreet Boys became the biggest act of the 90's. Their popularity became known as Backstreetmania


Contemporary R&B and urban pop began throughout the 1990s, but was replaced by more pop music and dance music by a short time in 1999. Popular artists include Backstreet Boys, Salt-n-Pepa, Groove Theory, Boyz II Men, Jodeci, Diana King, Tony! Toni! Tone!, Tara Kemp, 3T, Brownstone, Shanice, Paula Abdul, Usher, SWV, Aaliyah, Keith Sweat, R. Kelly, TLC, Seal, Brandy, Monica, Tevin Campbell, Maxi Priest, Shaggy and Toni Braxton. Teen pop carries over from the late 1980s into the year 1990, but died out in 1991 with Michael Jackson, New Kids on the Block, Milli Vanilli, Madonna, Prince and Janet Jackson at their peak, while Debbie Gibson, Boy George, Cyndi Lauper, Rick Astley, The Blow Monkeys, Spandau Ballet and Tiffany were at the end of their popularity. Between 1997 and 1999 teen pop singers and groups including the Backstreet Boys (Although formed in 93 and released records before 97), the A*Teens, Spice Girls, *NSYNC, 98 Degrees, Hanson, Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez and Destiny's Child became popular. Ballad songs were popular during this decade, popular artist included Michael Bolton, George Michael, Kenny G, Robert Palmer, Celine Dion, Sade, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Bryan Adams, Lisa Stansfield, Roxette, Gloria Estefan, Vanessa L. Williams, Shania Twain, LeAnn Rimes and Jennifer Paige.

A revival of the singer-songwriter movement of the 1970s, closely connected to Third-wave feminism and the Lilith Fair, this movement lasted up to about 2002 with artists like Norah Jones. Important artists include Alanis Morissette, Tori Amos, Edwin McCain, Jewel, Natalie Merchant and Sheryl Crow. Perhaps the most important album of this movement was the many-times platinum Jagged Little Pill by Alanis Morissette.[3] The swing music revival is sparked by bands such as Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Cherry Poppin' Daddies and the Brian Setzer Orchestra. It primarily occurred late in the decade. The singer songwriter movement revived one again in 2006 to the present.

According to Billboard, Mariah Carey was the most successful artist of the 1990s in the United States. Also her duet with Boyz II Men "One Sweet Day" which spent 16 weeks atop the Hot 100 and became the only single in history to do so, was pronounced song of the decade, charting at number one on the decade-end chart.


The 1990s saw the rise of alternative rock groups such as Alice In Chains, Red Hot Chili Peppers, R.E.M., Live, Counting Crows, Goo Goo Dolls and Our Lady Peace. Grunge was popular from 1991 to 1994. Nirvana are considered to have brought both grunge and alternative rock, which dominates both the 1990s and 2000s rock scenes, along with Pearl Jam, The Smashing Pumpkins, Soundgarden, Stone Temple Pilots, and Alice in Chains. Pop-punk broke into the mainstream by 1994 with the success of Green Day, The Offspring, Blink-182 and Third Eye Blind. This genre remained popular in America through the rest of the 1990s and the entire 2000s.

Bands like Sonic Youth and The Pixies set the stage for the rise of Indie Rock in the underground scene, with bands such as Pavement and The Flaming Lips gaining popularity in the early years. The third wave ska movement kicked off after brewing in the underground for the majority of the 1980s, with bands like Rancid, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Reel Big Fish and Sublime all gaining popularity. Pop groups such as No Doubt also gained popularity.

Guns N' Roses, Warrant and Van Halen remained popular in the first half of the decade and while Aerosmith, Bon Jovi, Meat Loaf and U2 maintained their popularity throughout the entire decade. However Aerosmith remained as the biggest rock band in the decade. Styles such as classic rock and blues saw a decline in popularity, heralded, for example, by the death of Stevie Ray Vaughan.

The Heavy Metal band, Metallica, released their eponymous 5th album in 1991, which was a giant success, and brought Thrash Metal to the mainstream for the first time.

The bands Megadeth, Slayer, Anthrax, and Alice in Chains, had a big thrash metal concert called "Clash of the Titans". The 3 of the Big four of Thrash Metal held one of the biggest underground tours of the decade and brought the Alternative rock that Alice In Chains had to offer to the crowds.

In relation to the aforementioned swing revival, psychobilly also became popular late in the decade, led by Reverend Horton Heat.

Surf rock had a revival, led by bands such as Los Straitjackets.

Rap Rock or Rap Metal had its slight peak of success in the '90s with bands such as Rage Against the Machine, P.O.D, Limp Bizkit and Kid Rock

Hip hop

At the beginning of the 1990s, artists such as; Public Enemy, Beastie Boys, Mc Hammer, Ice Cube, A Tribe Called Quest, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Wu-Tang Clan and several others, continued to increase hip hop's visibility in the music mainstream. With the help of artists such as; Fugees, 2Pac, and Notorious B.I.G., hip hop began to rival rock music with commercial sales and success by the mid nineties.

In 1998, Lauryn Hill released her debut album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, which debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, making it the first album by a female rapper to do so. In 1999, The Miseducation was nominated for 10 Grammy's, winning five, (which at the time was unheard of for a hip-hop artist) and eventually went on to sell over 19 million copies worldwide.[4]

By the late 1990's, the style of hip hop changed drastically to that of early '90's hip hop. The majority of earlier hip hop cultural elements began to diminish, with business, money, and materialism being more of a focus and focal point. The overall sound changed drastically as well. Turntablism became less common in the mainstream, with Synthesizers being a more common provider of beats, giving a more polished sound. The traditional emcee lyrical forms and styles also changed. Story telling, and internal rhymes became less common, as well as many of the topics of early '90's lyrics, such as; social issues, poverty, and history. By about 1999, more 2000s styled glam started coming in along with dirty south and crunk with artists such as Mannie Fresh, Cam'ron, DMX, and Jay-Z.

Country music

The popularity of country music exploded in the early 1990s. The stage had been set in 1989 with the debuts of several performers who proved to be profoundly influential on the genre during the 1990s and beyond. Most notable of that group was Garth Brooks, who shattered records for album sales and concert attendance throughout the decade. The RIAA has certified his recordings at a combined (128× platinum), denoting roughly 113 million U.S. shipments.[5] Brooks recorded primarily in a honky-tonk style, although he frequently combined elements of soft rock and arena rock in his songs. His songs sometimes explored social themes, such as domestic violence (in "The Thunder Rolls") and racial harmony ("We Shall Be Free)," while others — such as "Friends in Low Places" — were just good-time songs.

Other performers who rose in popularity during the early 1990s were neo-traditionalists Clint Black and Alan Jackson and southern rock influenced Travis Tritt. Mary Chapin Carpenter had a folk-style about her, while Lorrie Morgan (the latter the daughter of the late George Morgan, himself a country legend) blended elements of country and pop, and occasionally operatic sounds in songs such as "Something in Red." Trisha Yearwood was one of the top new singers of 1991, while Diamond Rio blended traditional and bluegrass styles and Brooks & Dunn provided a driving honky-tonk sound.

During the 1990s, country music's mainstream popularity became so great that Time magazine devoted a cover story detailing the genre's history and reasons for its growing popularity.[citation needed]

During the early-to-middle part of the decade, several recordings were influenced by the popularity of line dancing, including "Boot-Scootin' Boogie" by Brooks & Dunn and "Achy Breaky Heart" by Billy Ray Cyrus. This influence was so great that Chet Atkins was quoted as saying "The music has gotten pretty bad, I think. It's all that damn line dancing."[6]

A steady stream of new artists began their careers during the mid- and late-1990s. Many of these careers were short-lived, but several went on to long-lived, profitable careers. The most successful of the new artists were Shania Twain, LeAnn Rimes, Lee Ann Womack, Martina McBride, Kenny Chesney, Collin Raye, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, while Lonestar and Dixie Chicks were the most successful new groups.

Pop-influenced country music began growing in popularity, particularly after Twain and Hill rose in popularity in the latter half of the 1990s. In 1998, Hill's "This Kiss" and Twain's "You're Still the One" both reached the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100, in addition to peaking at No. 1 on the Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart. Rimes had a multi-million selling hit with "How Do I Live" (a song successfully covered by Yearwood), while Lonestar also had a huge crossover hit with "Amazed." Some critics began to be troubled by a trend toward what they perceived as pop music marketed as country, contending that radio was concentrating more on newer music while ignoring the more traditional styles of older artists such as Merle Haggard, George Jones and others who continued to record and release new material. Johnny Cash and producer Rick Rubin once purchased a full-page advertisement in Billboard magazine — after Cash's critically acclaimed album Unchained won a Grammy for Best Country Album, despite a lack of support from radio — showing a young Cash displaying his middle finger and sarcastically "thanking" radio for supporting the album.

In the 1990s, alternative country came to refer to a diverse group of musicians and singers operating outside the traditions and industry of mainstream country music. In general, they eschewed the high production values and pop outlook of the Nashville-dominated industry, to produce music with a lo-fi sound, frequently infused with a strong punk and rock & roll aesthetic, bending the traditional rules of country music. Lyrics were often bleak, gothic or socially aware. Other initiators include Old 97's, Steve Earle, Uncle Tupelo, Son Volt, Ryan Adams, My Morning Jacket, Blitzen Trapper, and Drive-By Truckers.

A number of notable legendary artists in country music died during the decade, including Tennessee Ernie Ford, Roy Acuff, Roger Miller, Conway Twitty, Charlie Rich, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Tammy Wynette, Eddie Rabbitt and Hank Snow.


In the early 1990s a counter-culture movement rose in Britain, called Britpop by the music press, rejecting the themes of disenfranchised youth coming out of America in favor of a songs written specifically about the experiences of the British youth. Although the movement was heavily influenced by 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s British rock there was very little that musically defined the Britpop bands beyond the intensely British lyrical themes. Britpop bands such as Blur, Suede, Pulp, Elastica, Supergrass, and Oasis regularly topped the singles and album charts throughout the decade. Oasis were the biggest band of the Britpop scene and the only band to make a significant impact in the US market. The Britpop phenomena ran out of steam by the end of the 1990s with most of its most successful bands splitting up or fading away.

Dance music evolves throughout the decade. The popularity of house, techno and rave in the early part of the decade leads to the boom of the more commercial eurodance genre and eventually the huge popularity of trance in the late 1990s. Popular dance and pop group include Ace of Base, Aqua, Stardust, Los del Río, Jamiroquai, Soulsearcher, Corona, Everything but the Girl and Right Said Fred. Between 1990 to 1996 Pet Shop Boys, Take That, Westlife and Boy zone also became popular. Take That sparks the boy and girlband phase during the late 1990s throughout the United Kingdom and Europe, reaching as far as Australia and the United States. From 1996 to 1998, the Spice Girls reach massive success across the globe. The Backstreet Boys, a vocal group who have been confused for a boy band, formed in 1993 and dominated the charts worldwide from 1995 onwards. Their success started in Europe.

The fall of the Iron Curtain brings Western styles to Russia and Eastern Europe.

The arrival of Massive Attack in the early 1990s leads to a new style of slow electronic music, that is dubbed Trip Hop and influences groups such as Portishead, Björk, Tricky, Morcheeba and Thievery Corporation.

Latin America

In 1991 21-year-old singer Luis Miguel rediscovers the bolero, echoing back to the trios of the 1940s with his album Romance. He becomes the biggest international Latin star until the late 1990s.

No Mercy, Chayanne and Thalia also becomes an international hit.

In 1998 Ricky Martin eclipses Luis Miguel as the top Latin star as he performs The Cup of Life during the 1998 World Cup and releases Livin' La Vida Loca which would become an international hit.

Surge of newfound interest in Spanish-language rock, led by bands like Soda Stereo, Café Tacuba or Maná which gained large international following during this period. Others would follow their footsteps.

Along with the rise of Spanish rock came "rock alternativo", a Spanish equivalent to alternative rock headed by bands like Los Piojos, Babasonicos and Attaque 77. The "rolinga" or "stone rock" genre also emerged from "rock alternativo", popularized and headed throughout the entire decade by Viejas Locas. The stone-rock genre would remain popular in the 2000s with the Viejas Locas' vocalist, Pity Álvarez's other band, Intoxicados.

In the mid-1990s, Puerto Rican singer Jennifer Lopez and Mexican-American singer Selena became popular.

By the early 1990s, Puerto Rico becomes a merengue stronghold, with acts such as Elvis Crespo, Olga Tañon and Grupo Mania topping the charts throughout Latin America.

After Selena's death, Colombian singer Shakira and Spanish-Filipino singer Enrique Iglesias began to rise into the top of the pop charts by the end of the decade.

Beginning in 1990, the salsa romantica that began in the 1980s becomes a standard in tropical music thanks to chart-topping stars mainly from Puerto Rico such as Marc Anthony, Jerry Rivera, Tito Rojas, Victor Manuelle and Gilberto Santa Rosa.

The North American group, Backstreet Boys became a prominant artist in Latin America.


Michael Hutchence

Bands and singers such as INXS, Crowded House, Peter Andre, Human Nature, CDB, Silverchair, Tina Arena, Kylie Minogue and Deni Hines were popular during this decade.

Again, the success of the Backstreet Boys reached these shores.


See also

External links


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