The Music

Music of the 90s.






Popular music in the 1990s saw the continuation of teen pop and dance-pop trends which had emerged in the 1970s and 1980s. Furthermore, hip hop grew and continued to be highly successful in the decade, with the continuation of the genre’s golden age. Aside from rap, reggae, contemporary R&B and urban music in general remained extremely popular throughout the decade; urban music in the late-1980s and 1990s often blended with styles such as soul, funk and jazz, resulting in fusion genres such as new jack swing, neo-soul, hip hop soul and g-funk which were popular.

Similarly to the 1980s, rock music was also very popular in the 1990s, yet, unlike the new wave and glam metal-dominated scene of the time, grunge, Britpop, industrial rock and other alternative rock music emerged and took over as the most popular of the decade, as well as punk rock, ska punk and nu metal, amongst others, which attained a high level of success at different points throughout the years. Electronic music, which had risen in popularity in the 1980s, grew highly popular in the 1990s; house and techno from the 1980s rose to international success in this decade, as well as new electronic dance music genres such as trance, happy hardcore, drum and bass, intelligent dance and trip hop. In Europe, Eurodance, Bubblegum dance and Europop music were highly successful, while also finding some international success. The decade also featured the rise of contemporary country music as a major genre, which had started in the 1980s.

It’s difficult to gauge the lasting impact of 1990s music in popular culture. A 2010 European survey conducted by the digital broadcaster Music Choice, interviewing over 11,000 participants, rated the 1990s as the second best tune decade in the last 50 years, while participants of an American land line survey rated the 1990s quite low, with only 8% declaring it as best decade in music.



Pop rock and singer-songwriter

Alanis Morissette

Alanis Morissette

In the 1990s, there was a revival of the singer-songwriter movement of the 1970s, which was closely connected to Third-wave feminism and the Lilith Fair, This movement lasted up to about 2004 with artists like Norah Jones and Sarah McLachlan. Important artists of this movement include Alanis Morissette, Tori Amos, Fiona Apple, Liz Phair, Juliana Hatfield, Edwin McCain, Jewel, Natalie Merchant, Sheryl Crow and Lisa Loeb. Perhaps the most important album of the movement was the multi-platinum 1995 album Jagged Little Pill by Alanis Morissette as well as Sheryl Crow’s 1993 album Tuesday

Night Music Club and her 1996 eponymous album.The trend ended in the late 1990s with Lynda

Lynda Thomas, first teen pop-rock idol of the 1990s

Lynda Thomas, first teen pop-rock idol of the 1990s

Thomas, who became the first idol of the “teen pop-rock” movement, which later in the 2000s reached its highest level of popularity with later singers such as Avril Lavigne, Kelly Clarkson, P!nk, Hilary Duff, and Ashlee Simpson.

Also in the 1990s, artists such as Jeff Buckley, Dave Matthews, Shania Twain, Bryan Adams, Elliott Smith, Melissa Etheridge, as well as Sheryl Crow borrowed from the singer-songwriter tradition to create new acoustic-based rock styles.



Michael Jackson

Contemporary R&B and urban pop became popular throughout the 1990s, but was overshadowed by more pop-rock and dance music by the second half of the decade. Michael Jackson achieved continued critical and commercial success in the 1990s with his 1991 album Dangerous which sold 35 million copies and his 1995 follow-up HIStory which sold 40 millions units (20 million copies of the double disc set). Jackson’s debut single “Black or White” from the former album was one of the best selling singles of the 1990s, and the debut single “You Are Not Alone” from the latter album became, on 2 September 1995, the first single to debut at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. In 1997, Jackson released Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix which became the best-selling remix album of all time, a record it still holds with over six million copies sold.

British girl group The Spice Girls managed to break the American market, becoming the most commercially successful British Group in North America since The Beatles. Their impact brings about a widespread invasion of teen pop acts to the US charts which had been predominantly dominated by

Backstreet Boys

Backstreet Boys

grunge and hip hop prior to the success of the group. Between 1997 and 2000 American teen pop singers and groups including Backstreet Boys, *NSYNC, 98 Degrees, Hanson, Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez and Destiny’s Child became popular, following the lead of The Spice Girls by targeting members of Generation Y. At the end of the decade,

Britney Spears

Britney Spears

Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera had huge successes with their hit singles, “…Baby One More Time” and “Genie in a Bottle” and respective debut albums which remain among the best selling of all time. Britney Spears’s single/ album went onto the top of the US charts in early 1999. “Womanizer” (Jive) was the second No. 1 hit for Spears after her debut single, ” … Baby One More Time.” Spears has the longest gap between No. 1 hits since Cher’s “Believe” claimed pole position in March 1999, just 10 days shy of 25 years after “Dark Lady” landed in first place.”

Madonna’s album Erotica was released in 1992 and became one of the most controversial albums to date. In 1998, she also had her most acclaimed album to date, Ray of Light, which has sold over 16



million copies worldwide. Cyndi Lauper released her first mature album Hat Full of Stars (1993), which leaves complete the image of her first two albums, but it is highly praised by critics even though it did not achieve commercial success. Larry Flick of Billboard called Janet Jackson’s The Velvet Rope “[t]he best American album of the year and the most empowering of her last five.” Released in October 1997, The Velvet Rope debuted at number one on the Billboard 200. In August 1997, the album’s lead single, “Got ’til It’s Gone”, was released to radio, peaking at number 12 on the Billboard Rhythmic Airplay Chart. The single sampled the Joni Mitchell song “Big Yellow Taxi”, and featured a cameo appearance by rapper Q-Tip. “Got ’til It’s Gone” won the 1997 Grammy Award for Best Short Form Music Video. The album’s second single “Together Again”, became her eighth number one hit on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, and placing her on par with Elton John, Diana Ross, and The Rolling Stones. The single spent a record 46 weeks on the Hot 100, as well as spending 19 weeks on the UK singles chart “I Get Lonely” peaked at number three on the Hot 100. The Velvet Rope sold over ten million albums worldwide and was certified three times platinum by the RIAA. Céline Dion achieving worldwide success with the song My Heart Will Go On from Titanic soundtrack.


Adult Contemporary & Contemporary R&B

In the early 1990s, Mariah Carey’s hit singles such as “Vision of Love” (1990) and “Love Takes Time” (1990), and Whitney Houston’s “All the Man That I Need” (1990) and “I Will Always Love You” (1992) topped the radio charts for the adult contemporary format.

Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston was the biggest female R&B artist of the 1990s.

Whitney Houston’s quiet storm hits included “All the Man That I Need” (1990) and “I Will Always Love You” (1992). Houston’s “I Will Always Love You”, a song from the 1992 hit film The Bodyguard, spent 14 weeks on top of the Billboard Hot 100 a record at the time, and sold over 40 million copies worldwide. It is the best selling single by a female act of all time. In the 1990s, Mariah Carey’s career originated in quiet storm, with hit singles such as “Vision of Love” (1990) and “Love Takes Time” (1990). Her albums Music Box (1993) and Daydream (1995) are some of the best selling albums of all time, and had major R&B influences. Richard J. Ripani wrote that Carey and Houston, “both of whom rely heavily on the gospel music vocal tradition, display an emphasis on melisma that increased in R&B generally over the 1980s and 1990s.” Carey’s “Vision of Love” is considered to be an extreme example of the use of melisma and know for kick starting the entire melismatic trend in songs with female artists for the next 20 years. Also during the early 1990s, Boyz II Men re-popularized classic soul-inspired vocal harmonies. Michael Jackson incorporated new jack swing into his 1991 album Dangerous, with sales over 50 million, and is the best selling album of the decade.]

Mariah Carey

Mariah Carey was declared the Artist of the Decade of the 1990s by Billboard. The popularity of the ballad and R&B leads to the development of a genre called Urban adult contemporary. Popular American contemporary R&B artists included Mariah Carey, Faith Evans, D’Angelo, Lauryn Hill, Whitney Houston, Sade, En Vogue, Toni Braxton, Boyz II Men, Mary J. Blige, Dru Hill, Vanessa L. Williams, Groove Theory, Bell Biv Devoe, Jodeci, Diana King, Tony! Toni! Tone!, Tara Kemp, Brownstone, Shanice, Usher, SWV, Aaliyah, Keith Sweat, R. Kelly, TLC, Xscape, Blaque, Brandy, Monica, Total and Tevin Campbell. In contrast to the works of Boyz II Men, Babyface and similar artists, other R&B artists from this same period began adding even more of a hip hop sound to their work. The synthesizer-heavy rhythm tracks of new jack swing was replaced by grittier East Coast hip hop-inspired backing tracks, resulting in a genre labelled hip hop soul by producer Sean Combs. The style became less popular by the end of the 1990s, but later experienced a resurgence.

During the mid-1990s, Janet Jackson, Mariah Carey, Faith Evans, TLC, Xscape, Whitney Houston and Boyz II Men brought contemporary R&B to the masses.

Janet Jackson

Janet Jackson

Jackson’s self-titled fifth studio album Janet. (1993), which came after her historic multimillion-dollar contract with Virgin Records, sold over twenty million copies worldwide. Houston, Boyz II Men and Carey recorded several Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 hits, including “Exhale (Shoop Shoop)”, “One Sweet Day”, a collaboration between Boyz II Men and Carey, which became the longest-running No. 1 hit in Hot 100 history. Carey, Boyz II Men and TLC released albums in 1994 and 1995—Daydream, II, and CrazySexyCool respectively – that sold over ten million copies, earning them diamond status in the U.S. Beginning in 1995, the Grammy Awards enacted the Grammy Award for Best R&B Album with II, and Boyz II Men became the first recipient. The award was later received by TLC for CrazySexyCool in 1996.

Mariah Carey’s duet with Boyz II Men “One Sweet Day” was pronounced song of the decade, charting at number one on the decade-end chart. Carey became Billboard’s most successful female artist of the decade, and one of the most successful R&B acts of the 90s.

R&B artists such as Janet Jackson, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey are some of the best selling music artists of all time, and especially in the 1990s brought Contemporary R&B to a worldwide platform.