Top 10 Decade Defining Musical Acts: 1990s

Script written by Jordan Ruimy. During this decade, R&B and urban music developed with the incorporation of new styles, and teen pop and electronic music continued to be popular. But it was rock in its various forms, specifically grunge, alternative, and punk, that really dominated the period. For our series on the Top 10 Musical Acts Per Decade, we’ve based our choices on a mix of an act’s success, popularity and overall musical legacy. This is part of a series of videos spanning the decades of music from the 1950s to the 2000s. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 decade defining musical acts of the 1990s. Special thanks to our users Se7enNationArmy101, Ceione Pafford, Jack Morris, billyfresh23, MajorBooze, Opst3r, Mattyhull1 and toddlerss for submitting the idea on our Suggest Page at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Script written by Jordan Ruimy.

During this decade, R&B and urban music developed with the incorporation of new styles, and teen pop and electronic music continued to be popular. But it was rock in its various forms, specifically grunge, alternative, and punk, that really dominated the period. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 musical acts of the 1990s.

For our series on the Top 10 Musical Acts Per Decade, we’ve based our choices on a mix of an act’s success, popularity and overall musical legacy. This is part of a series of videos spanning the decades of music from the 1950s to the 2000s.

#10: Beastie Boys

First formed as a hardcore punk band, the group of white musicians broke the mold when they became a successful act in the mostly black-dominated genre of hip-hop. While the ‘80s were very kind to them, hits like “Sabotage” and “Intergalactic” paved the way for a very successful decade in the ‘90s, which included two number one albums. Their rap rock blend also influenced late ‘90s artists such as Rage Against the Machine, Sublime and Eminem.

#9: Alanis Morissette

This Canadian artist made the final cut because she released a tiny little album called Jagged Little Pill. You know, the one that sold over 30 million units around the world, spent 12 weeks atop the Billboard 200 albums chart and spawned three top 10 Hot 100 hit singles. Her follow-up Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie was another chart-topper three years later. Thanks to all her success, The Queen of alt-rock angst also helped launch the wave of female artists in the late the ‘90s and early 2000s.

#8: Backstreet Boys

Surprised? You shouldn’t be. This boy band from Orlando was huge – and practically inescapable – this decade. Howie, Nick, A.J., Brian and Kevin’s harmonies assaulted the pop charts and were indisputably the peak of the boy band craze that hit the ‘90s like a storm. Selling over 130 million albums around the world and charting six Top 10 singles, they completely overshadowed rivals like ‘N Sync, Hanson and 98 Degrees.

#7: Oasis

One of the most successful acts to come out of the Britpop movement, trouble-making brothers Liam and Noel Gallagher still make successful music in the UK today, albeit separately, but their American moment of glory was undoubtedly during the alt rock-dominated ‘90s. Big hits like “Wonderwall” and “Don’t Look Back In Anger” ignited their Beatles-inspired rock on the charts, paving the way for more success in the years to come until their breakup in 2009.

#6: Shania Twain

Another genre that was huge in the ‘90s was country music. And while we can’t forget Garth Brooks and the millions of albums he sold, we chose this Canadian singer because of her immense popularity not only on the country charts but the pop charts as well. With her catchy, melodic, female-empowering songs, Shania found crossover success like few before her, while 1997’s Come On Over became the highest selling album of all time by a woman. All this success and only four studio albums under her belt.

#5: Metallica

After polishing up their edgy ‘80s sound for mainstream audiences, this heavy metal band really brought things home during the next decade with 3 number one albums. Most notable perhaps is their legendary self-titled record, or The Black Album, which produced multiple songs that became the core of their live shows for the next few decades: do “Enter Sandman,” “Nothing Else Matters” and “The Unforgiven” ring any bells? Enough said.

#4: The Notorious B.I.G.

Nicknamed Biggie Smalls, this Brooklyn-born rapper was the driving force behind East Coast hip-hop and their never-ending battle with their West Coast counterparts. If 2Pac had the lyrics, Biggie had the flow and brought it in every song. Less than 3 weeks after his murder, The Notorious B.I.G.’s classic record Life After Death stormed to the number one position on the Billboard 200 and cemented his legend. Meanwhile, “Hypnotize” and Ready to Die’s “Juicy” have become inextricable from rap history.

#3: Tupac Shakur

Biggie’s one-time friend and eventual nemesis also had a profound impact on hip-hop and, more specifically, West Coast music. Today, he is still referred to as one of most important figures of the genre, helping to advance it with his skills as an MC, his flow and more. Tackling social issues, he found a way to relate to people and yet still rap in a thoughtful and intelligent manner. Sometimes known as Makaveli, 2Pac further made his mark with All Eyez On Me, as it became not only one of the biggest selling rap albums of all time, but also one of the decade’s most highly regarded.

#2: Mariah Carey

The ‘90s were really an amazing time for the singer nicknamed Mimi. Thanks to over a dozen chart-topping singles, she soon became Columbia Records’ best-selling act. She also set a record with her Boyz II Men duet “One Sweet Day,” which topped the Billboard Hot 100 for 16 weeks – a feat not yet matched by any other artist. Her influence was huge, with every other pop diva trailing behind her. Today, she has 18 number one singles to her name and an unmatched vocal range that’s since inspired countless artists.

Before we unveil our pick for Top Musical Act of the 1990s, here are a few honorable mentions:
- Red Hot Chili Peppers
- Celine Dion
- The Smashing Pumpkins
- Rage Against the Machine
- No Doubt
- Spice Girls

#1: Nirvana

Once upon a time, a musical revolution called grunge took over the radio airwaves, music video stations and pop culture. That time was the 1990s. While many bands likes Pearl Jam and Soundgarden contributed to the genre’s explosion, none of them had the impact of this three-piece led by the late Kurt Cobain. This Seattle-based trio created some of the messiest and most contagious alt rock in music history, more specifically with the unexpected success of Nevermind. Meanwhile, Cobain became known as the “voice of a generation” and helped craft a music legacy that still resonates today.

Do you agree with our list? Who’s your favorite musical act of the 1990s? For more music Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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