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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 in pop culture replacing glam metal by 1992 and the beginning of hip hop. It also featured the rise of contemporary country music music as a major genre.

The U.S. and North America


Contemporary R&B and urban pop began between 1991 to 1998. Popular artists include 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 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, Spice Girls, *NSYNC, 98 Degrees, 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. 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.

According to Billboard, Mariah Carey was the most successful artist of the 1990s in the United States.


The 1990s saw the rise of alternative rock, including groups such as 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, Garbage and Alice in Chains. Pop-punk broke into the mainstream by 1994 with the success of Green Day, The Offspring, Weezer, Blink-182 and Third Eye Blind. This genre remained popular in America through the rest of the 1990s and the entire 2000s.

In the early 1990s a counter-culture movement rose in Britain, called Brit pop 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 movement was heavily influences 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 90's. 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.

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 succeeded in the first half of the decade and while Aerosmith, Bon Jovi and U2 succeeded throughout the entire decade. Styles such as classic rock and blues saw a decline in popularity, heralded, for example, by the death of Stevie Ray Vaughan.

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.

Hip hop

At the beginning of the 1990s, artists such as; Public Enemy, Mc Hammer, Dr. Dre, Beastie Boys, Ice Cube, Eric B. & Rakim, A Tribe Called Quest, and several others, continued to increase hip hop's popularity 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) and eventually went on to sell 19 million copies worldwide.

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, povery, and history.


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

Britpop popular in the second half of the 1990s, bands such as Oasis, The Verve and Blur take over the grunge scene which transforms into adult contemporary rock and post-grunge.

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.


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.


  2. [Country Rocks, Monday, Mar. 30, 1992 -]
  3. Rolling Stone article: " Inside "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill: page 1."

See also

External links

  • 90's Music - Grunge to Pop and Everything in Between

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