The decade of the 1990s was a fantastic way to bring the previous century to a close and herald the new millennium. During the 1990s, a new crop of A-list superstars emerged. After the alternative rock wave reinvigorated guitar music, a new generation of rap heroes widened the reach of hip-commercial hop.
At the same time, dance music blossomed, and female composers found their voice in the aftermath of the wave. The following is a selection of our favorite outstanding musical artists from the 1990s; each of these artists played an essential part in making the 1990s a decade to remember.
1. Michael Jackson
American singer, songwriter, dancer, and philanthropist Michael Joseph Jackson (August 29, 1958 — June 25, 2009). He is widely considered one of the most influential cultural leaders of the 20th century, earning him the title “King of Pop.” His four-decade-long career in music, dance, and fashion, as well as his highly publicized private life, made him a household name worldwide.
M.Jackson impacted musicians from many walks of life; he made complex dance techniques like the moonwalk (which he named) and the robot well known via his life and recorded performances. He has received more honors than any other musician.
Some estimates put Jackson’s record sales between $400 million and $1 billion, making him one of the best-selling musicians ever. He holds the record for the most Hot 100 number one songs by a male artist with 13. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) considers him the most commercially successful recording artist.
In 1990, George H. W. Bush named him “Artist of the Decade.” In 1992, Bush named him a “Point of Light Ambassador” for hosting underprivileged kids at his Neverland Ranch.
2. Toni Braxton
Toni Michele Braxton is a famous R&B singer born in the United States on October 7th, 1967. One of the most successful female performers of all time, she has sold over 70 million records worldwide. Braxton has been honored with several awards, including seven Grammys, nine Billboard Music Awards, seven American Music Awards, and many more. Georgia Music Hall of Fame inducted Braxton that same year, 2011. At the 2017 Soul Train Music Awards, she received the Legend Award.
After the success of her debut album, Toni Braxton became a household name in the R&B genre. According to the BBC, “spiritedly, mature soul at its best and just urban enough to make it the bedroom record for the hip hop generation” describes the album well.
With over 70 million singles and 40 million albums sold globally, Toni Braxton is one of the most successful recording artists. Her ballad “Un-Break My Heart,” written by Diane Warren, was a huge success, staying at the top of the charts for an impressive 11 weeks.
3. Elton John
Musician, pianist, and composer Reginald Kenneth Dwight (now known as Sir Elton Hercules John CH CBE) was born in the United Kingdom on March 25, 1947. After the success of his 1972 single of the same name, he became known as the Rocket Man.
In the 1960s, Elton John began his career, which led to his global fame as a solo artist and songwriter of some of the most iconic pop songs. “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me,” recorded with another 90s superstar, George Michael, and “Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” included on the soundtrack to “The Lion King,” are two of his most well-known songs from that decade.
Sir Elton John performing live on the island of Majorca, Spain:
4. Celine Dion
Canadian singer Céline Marie Claudette Dion was born on March 30, 1968. Dion is the best-selling Canadian recording artist and the best-selling French-language musician of all time, and she is renowned for her strong and technically proficient vocals. Her songs hear pop, rock, R&B, gospel, and even classical influences.
Dion is often considered a pioneering figure in the history of modern pop music. She has been called the “Priestess of Pop” and the “Queen of Power Ballads” by the press. Billboard writer Ed Christman crowned Dion “Queen of Pop.” Most contemporary female pop vocalists are claimed to have been influenced by her songs and vocal style.
These three musicians are commonly cited as the driving forces behind the power ballad’s renaissance and the subsequent transformation of the adult contemporary radio format into a significant cultural force in the late ’90s and early aughts. She was crowned the “Best-selling modern female artist in history” by Billboard in 2002.
5. Lionel Richie
Lionel Brockman Richie Jr., an American singer, songwriter, record producer, and television judge, was born in the United States on June 20, 1949. In the 1970s, he achieved widespread notoriety for his songwriting work and as co-lead vocalist with the band the Commodores.
Richie has won four Grammys: in 1982, for “Best Male Pop Vocal Performance,” for “Can’t Slow Down;” in 1984, for “Album of the Year;” in 1984, for “Producer of the Year (Non-Classical);” and in 1985, for “Song of the Year,” for “We Are the World,” which he and Michael Jackson co-wrote. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) first honored Richie with a diamond album award.
Richie has already taken home one Golden Globe and is up for a second nomination. In 1982, he has nominated for an Academy Award thanks to the original song he composed for the film Endless Love.
In 1986, he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song for his performance of the song “Say You, Say Me,” which was included in the film White Nights. Additionally, this piece of music gave the Academy Award for the year’s Best Original Song.
6. Whitney Houston
Whitney Elizabeth Houston was an American singer and actress born on August 9, 1963, and died on February 11, 2012. She has sold over 200 million recordings worldwide, earning her the moniker “The Voice.” Houston is well-known for her strong, soulful vocals and her ability to improvise with her voice, qualities that have made her an inspiration to many other pop singers.
Houston is revered as a musical legend and a symbol of American popular culture. She’s also considered a legend in the R&B music industry. From “Saving All My Love for You” (1985) to “Where Do Broken Hearts Go” (1988), she holds the record for the number-one songs in a row on the Billboard Hot 100 by a single artist.
7. Bryan Adams
The Canadian guitarist, singer, songwriter, and photographer Bryan Guy Adams OC OBC FRPS was born on November 5, 1959. Adams is reportedly one of the best-selling musicians of all time, selling between 75 and 100 million records and singles worldwide. Adams has had over a dozen top-40 songs in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia, and he dominated Canadian radio in the 2010s with 25 top-15 hits.
Adams has been nominated for several prestigious prizes, including 20 Junos out of 56 nominations and 15 Grammys (winning Best Song Written Specially for a Motion Picture or Television in 1992). Adams was placed at number 38 on the Billboard Hot 100 50th Anniversary Charts, a ranking of the top performers of all time, in 2008.
8. Mariah Carey
Mariah Carey is an American recording artist, actor, songwriter, and record producer; she was born on March 27, 1969. Her career is characterized by a range that spans five octaves, a vocal style that is characterized as a melismatic, creative talent, and a distinctive utilization of the whistle register. She has been dubbed the “Queen of Remixes” by several publications, including MTV contributor Princess Gabbara.
Throughout her career, Carey has been awarded a plethora of different honors. She has won a total of nineteen World Music Awards, five Grammy Awards, ten American Music Awards, fifteen Billboard Music Awards, and one Grammy Award. In August 2015, Carey was honored with a Hollywood Walk of Fame star.
9. Richard Marx
Richard Noel Marx, an American singer-songwriter with roots in adult contemporary and pop rock, was born on September 16, 1963. Thirty million records have been sold under his name alone.
Marx is the only male artist in Billboard chart history to debut seven consecutive songs in the top five. As a singer or co-writer/producer, he has been responsible for 14 number-one hits. Marx has been nominated for five Grammys and “holds the distinction of having created songs that have achieved No. 1 on the Billboard charts in each of the previous four decades,” as reported by Billboard. With the release of “Dance with My Father” in 2003, he was awarded the Grammy for Best Original Song.
10. Diana Ross
Diana Ross was born in the United States on March 26, 1944, and is known for her singing and acting. During the 1960s, she became a household name as the lead vocalist of the Supremes, a female group that would become Motown’s biggest draw and one of the best-selling acts of all time. They have more number-one hits on the US Billboard Hot 100 than any other female group in history.
Self-titled, Ross’s first solo album featured many of her most recognizable songs and was released in May of 1970. Ross received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, on November 16, 2016.
11. Phil Collins
On January 30, 1951, Philip David Charles Collins LVO, an English drummer, singer, composer, record producer, and actor, was born. Collins is known for his work in a variety of artistic fields. In addition to his success as a solo artist, he was a member of the rock band Genesis, where he played the drums and was the main singer.
Between 1982 and 1990, Collins’s solo career yielded seven number-one songs in the United States and three number-one hits in the United Kingdom. The sum is enormous when you add all his time with Genesis, other groups, and as a solo artist.
Collins’s variety of styles shines through in his singles. Another Day in Paradise is by far the most successful song, although there are other songs with a Pop Sussudio rhythm and songs with a prominent drum style, such as In the Air Tonight. Themes like love and loss are also appropriate for music. Collins’s global stardom has been a major factor in Genesis’s commercial success. Over 100 million copies of Collins’s solo albums had been sold globally by 2002, according to Atlantic Records.
12. Britney Spears
On December 2, 1981, American pop culture welcomed singer, songwriter, and dancer Britney Jean Spears. She is known as the “Princess of Music” for her role in reviving adolescent pop in the late ’90s and ’00s.
As one of the “driving force[s] behind the comeback of adolescent music in the late ’90s,” Spears earned the title “Princess of Pop.” She “help to bring in a new age for the genre that had gone dormant in the decade that followed New Kids on the Block,” as Rolling Stone’s Stacy Lambe put it.
Spears has been honored with numerous awards and honors throughout her career. The first-ever Radio Disney Icon Award, GLAAD Media Award’s Vanguard Award, and Hollywood Walk of Fame star.
13. Jason Donovan
Australian actor and musician Jason Sean Donovan was born on June 1, 1968. He first found recognition as Scott Robinson on the Australian serial opera Neighbours before launching a music career in 1988. He’s sold over three million albums in the UK alone. His first album, Ten Good Reasons, sold over 1.5 million copies in the UK alone in 1989.
He has scored four number-one songs in the United Kingdom, including the hit “Especially for You,” a duet with his former Neighbors costar Kylie Minogue that was released in 1988. His most famous theatrical performance was as Joseph in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, which he played in the early 1990s.
American singer, songwriter, and actress Madonna Louise Ciccone was born on August 16, 1958. Madonna, sometimes dubbed the “Queen of Pop,” is renowned for her ability to consistently surprise and delight fans with her new musical and visual directions. She has independently managed her whole career, although she has broken new ground in mainstream musical expression.
According to Billboard, Madonna is the most successful dance club musician of all time and the most successful solo artist in the history of the Hot 100 chart (second overall behind the Beatles). After George Strait’s 44 number-one singles on the Hot Country Songs chart, Madonna surpassed him with 50 chart-toppers on the Dance Club Songs list, making her the artist with the most number-one songs on any single Billboard chart.
Madonna was named the most successful singles artist in the history of the GfK Media Control Charts, a German music publication, on its 40th anniversary.
15. Ricky Martin
Ricky Martin is a famous Puerto Rican musician, composer, and actor whose real name is Enrique Martin Morales and was born on December 24, 1971. His career includes Latin pop, mainstream, dance, reggaeton, and salsa, attesting to his reputation as a musical chameleon. He’s been called the “Latin Pop God,” “King of Latin Pop,” and “King of Latin Music,” and is widely considered one of the most influential musicians in history.
Billboard has named Martin one of the Greatest Latin Artists of All Time and one of the Greatest Hot Latin Songs Artists of All Time, and his album Vuelve debuted at #5 on their Top 20 album chart. Two weeks later, he made chart history by being the first artist to concurrently top the Billboard 200, Hot Latin Tracks, Hot Dance Music/Club Play, Hot Dance Music/Maxi-Singles Sales, Top 40 Tracks, and the Billboard Hot 100.
16. Trisha Yearwood
Born in the United States on September 19, 1964, Patricia Lynn Yearwood is known for her work in the entertainment industry. Her first single, “She’s in Love with the Boy,” released in 1991, shot to the top of the Billboard country singles list, launching her career. Its related first album, also named, would sell over two million copies. By the early to mid-1990s, Yearwood had had a string of successful country singles.
Numerous honors and nominations have been bestowed on Yearwood. A total of three Grammys, three ACMs, three CMAs, and one Daytime Emmy have been bestowed upon the artist.
17. Bertie Higgins
American singer-songwriter Elbert Joseph “Bertie” Higgins was born on December 8, 1944. Just Another Day in Paradise, an album released by Higgins in 1982, reached the top 40. The song “Key Largo,” inspired by the same name’s film starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, peaked at number eight on the US Billboard Hot 100, number one on the Billboard Adult Contemporary, and number fifty on the Billboard Country chart.
In January 2016, he joined Jimmy Buffett, Julio Iglesias, and Tom Petty in being inducted into the Florida Music Hall of Fame with a lifetime achievement award. In 2019, he joined the likes of Ernest Hemingway and other luminaries in the Florida Artists Hall of Fame. Boneheads are a common nickname for his devoted following.
18. Martina McBride
Country music singer, songwriter, and record producer Martina Mariea McBride (née Schiff; born July 29, 1966) is a native of the United States. Her soprano voice and country pop songs have made her famous.
In 2004, McBride won the Country Music Association (CMA) Award for Female Vocalist of the Year for the fourth time in her career. She was presented with an honorary CMA in 2011. She has been up for 14 Grammys but has never taken home the trophy.
19. George Michael
George Michael is an English singer, songwriter, and record producer (born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou on June 25, 1963; died on December 25, 2016). He has sold over 120 million records worldwide, making him one of the best-selling artists and one of the most influential cultural figures of the MTV period. Michael is regarded as one of the most inventive minds in music production, composition, vocal performance, and live performance presentation.
On the UK Singles Chart, he had seven number-one hits, while on the US Billboard Hot 100, he had eight. Two Grammys, three Brit Awards, three American Music Awards, twelve Billboard Music Awards, and four MTV Video Music Awards were among Michael’s many musical honors.
On Billboard’s list of the “Greatest Hot 100 Artists of All Time,” he was placed at number 45 in 2015. According to the Radio Academy, between 1984 and 2004, he was the most frequently played musician on British radio.
20. Sarah Ann McLachlan
Sarah Ann McLachlan, OC OBC, is a well-known Canadian singer and songwriter born on January 28, 1968. As of 2015, she has racked up more than 40 million record sales throughout the globe. Surfacing is McLachlan’s best-selling album to this day, and it earned her two Grammy Awards (out of a total of four nominations) in addition to four Juno Awards.
In addition to her musical endeavors, she was the founder of the Lilith Fair tour, which primarily featured the work of female musicians.