In the 1990s, country music was going through a period of change. The style of music was changing, and the players involved in the scene were quickly taking on a new form. The folksy style of artists like Johnny Cash was giving way to music with a pop influence.
Many newcomers would end up some of the biggest country stars of the decade, while some legends would adapt and bring a new style to the end of the 20th century.
And in this post, we’re going to take a look at some of the individuals who became the most famous country singers of the ‘90s. Let’s get started.
1. Garth Brooks
No matter your level of familiarity with country music, you’ve likely heard of Garth Brooks. He rose to prominence in the 1990s and is, without a doubt, one of the biggest musicians of the decade.
He’s the best-selling solo artist in American history and has maintained firm control over his discography.
Brooks had his breakthrough in 1990 with his second album, No Fences, which spent 23 weeks as #1 on Billboard‘s Top Country Albums chart. From there, he took the country music scene by storm, delivering Diamond-certified albums regularly.
His blend of rock, pop, and country gave him crossover appeal, and he still sells out arenas and stadiums across the country.
2. Shania Twain
The best-selling woman in country music, Shania Twain exploded onto the scene in the 1990s. Twain was given the title of Queen of Country Pop after establishing herself as one of the biggest stars of the crossover genre.
Despite being a household name by the end of the decade, Twain had a rocky start to her career. Her debut album was a flop, and her opportunity to break out in country music seemed slim.
Her second album, The Woman in Me, assuaged those fears, as it became a smashing success, earning her millions of sales and a Grammy Award. From there, she became a household name and one of the biggest country music acts in the world.
3. George Strait
Our third artist, George Strait, was already an established artist by the time the 1990s rolled around, but his legend continued to grow in the decade. He released his best-selling album Pure Country in 1992 and earned his title as the King of Country Music.
In a musical landscape that was constantly shifting, Strait continued making country music that appealed to older sensibilities of the genre. Critics have dubbed his music neo-traditionalist country, which harkens back to the origins of the genre.
Even if his sound might have sounded dated to some, he continued to sell records and have high concert attendance.
4. Trisha Yearwood
The 1990s were the biggest years of Trisha Yearwood’s career. During this decade, she cemented herself as a major player in the country music scene.
While her career success has not eclipsed that of her husband Garth Brooks’, she was still a foundational part of the decade.
Yearwood first broke out in 1991 with her single “She’s in Love with the Boy.” When she released her debut album later that year, it made waves in the industry.
Throughout the rest of the decade, Yearwood had a string of hits; following the 1990s, she took a hiatus from music.
5. Toby Keith
While Toby Keith would become an even bigger star in the following decade, it cannot be denied that he made a splash during the 1990s. He had moderately popular records early in the ’90s, but toward the end of decade, he broke out in a big way.
His debut single, “Should’ve Been a Cowboy,” was the most-played country song of the decade. In 1999, he laid the groundwork for the rest of his career with the smash-hit song “How Do You Like Me Now?”
His signature cowboy hat and strong vocals are what won him fans across the globe.
6. Faith Hill
Wife of the next country singer on the list, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill began the 1990s as a relative unknown in country music, but by the end of it, she rose to become a beloved mainstream artist.
She has won five Grammy Awards over her illustrious career and is one of the best-selling country artists of all time.
In 1993, Hill released her debut album, Take Me As I Am, and found success with country music fans.
After a multi-year break to recover from touring and starting a family with husband, Hill reemerged with Faith in 1998 and Breathe in 1999. These two albums brought her to the public eye, where she achieved great success.
7. Tim McGraw
While Tim McGraw may not have as many peaks as other artists of his generation, he has been a consistent performer in the country music scene since his breakthrough in the 1990s.
McGraw has received numerous awards in his long career, including Grammy Awards and Country Music Association awards.
His debut album did little to establish the young singers in the world of country music. However, it wasn’t until his 1994 album Not a Moment Too Soon that he exploded onto the scene. Critics consider it one of the finest country albums of the decade, placing McGraw as a new face of country music.
8. Reba McEntire
As the 1990s began, Reba McEntire was already a bona fide star in country music. She, however, pushed her music to new heights for the new decade, beginning with tragedy.
In 1991, eight of her band members passed away in a plane crash. McEntire’s guilt took on the form of the album For My Broken Heart. It became her best-selling album, which brought her a new wave of critical and commercial success.
As the decade dragged on, McEntire dabbled in acting, leading her to star in her television show in 2001.
9. The Chicks
Formerly known as the Dixie Chicks, the Chicks spent much of the 1990s as an independent act. The band stuck with playing on the country music and bluegrass concert circuit with no major labels interested.
It wasn’t until 1998’s Wide Open Spaces that Natalie Maines, Martie Maguire, and Emily Strayer found success in the mainstream. Their next album, Fly, was also a smash hit, reinforcing the band’s position as a fixture in the genre.
Throughout its career, the band has won 13 Grammy Awards and is one of the best-selling female bands of all time.
10. Alan Jackson
Bringing together the best of the past and present, Alan Jackson has become a renowned artist over his storied career. While his career began in the late 1980s, he reached his highest commercial and critical success in the next decade.
Jackson’s fans have grown to love his blend of classic country music with the more pop-influenced country songs of the ‘90s.
Early in the decade, he had several #1 hits, such as “She’s Got the Rhythm” and “Chattahoochee.” Jackson has also written songs for other artists, such as Randy Travis.
11. Martina McBride
Soprano country singer Martina McBride originally began her career with the neo-traditionalist sound that defined artists like Alan Jackson and George Strait in 1991.
After breaking out with her single “The Time Has Come,” McBride incorporated more pop influences into her music and achieved crossover success. After releasing the albums Wild Angels and Evolution, McBride found herself a success both in country music and outside of it.
Over her career, she has won numerous awards from the Country Music Association and has been nominated for a Grammy Award 14 times.
12. Kenny Chesney
Four-time Entertainer of the Year winner Kenny Chesney made a name for himself in the 1990s and quickly became one of country music’s most popular live acts.
He has remained a crossover sensation since the ‘90s and has six Grammy Award nominations under his belt. His tours are the stuff of legends and attract fans from across America.
Chesney began the decade as relatively unknown, producing a few moderately successful albums. In 1996, he began to achieve mainstream success with his album Me and You.
From there, he continued to grow in popularity as the decade drew closer to a close.
13. Billy Ray Cyrus
Though his daughter would go on to have an explosive career, Billy Ray Cyrus was a hitmaker of his own in the 1990s.
Cyrus emerged onto the scene in 1992 with his much-remembered single “Achy Breaky Heart.” Though the song has polarized critics, it topped charts and thrust Cyrus into a popular country singer.
His debut album, Some Gave All, was a smash hit for Cyrus as well, being one of the best-selling country albums of the entire decade. Cyrus would later turn to television and step away from music until he collaborated with Lil Nas X for the track “Old Town Road.”
Summing Up Our List Of Famous ’90s Country Singers
Country music saw a revolution in sound in the 1990s. Pop and rock influence grew in the genre, and many artists had to choose between embracing this new style or relying on the classic sound.
Regardless of personal preference, it’s clear that the decade was a very successful time for the genre, with many new stars emerging.
Country music has a long and storied history, and the 1990s is one of the most intriguing chapters. We hope you’ve enjoyed this list and maybe found a few new artists to check out.