The 1990s were home to the wildest and wackiest trends of our lifetimes. The simple act of mentioning the ’90s brings about an array of memories.
One memory that stays with us is the music generated during the decade. The 1990s gave birth to some of the most iconic styles and phases of music ever seen. Many would argue it was the last great decade of music.
The music would be nothing without the artist behind it. Here, we’ll look into 21 of the greatest and most famous singers of the 1990s. Read on!
1. Michael Jackson
The talent and passion of the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, will undoubtedly inspire the music industry forever.
Jackson began his career in his early days by leading the family band called the Jackson 5. The success taught him dedication and hard work, but at the cost of childhood he could never retrieve.
In the ’80s, Jackson singlehandedly redefined pop music with smash hits such as “Thriller” and “Beat It.” He mystified us with iconic dance moves such as “the moonwalk.”
During the ’90s, he was still going strong with the songs “Black or White” and “You Are Not Alone,” both chart-toppers. His musical style resonated with many and can be considered the most influential of the past century.
Although Jackson’s later life was full of a lot of controversy, there’s no denying the incredible music he gave us. He sadly passed away in 2009 as a result of a drug overdose.
2. Elton John
Some people were just born with a gift for music. Such is the case with Sir Elton John.
Born in 1947 in Middlesex, England, John immersed himself in music throughout his childhood. Although his father protested, John decided to pursue a career in music.
John released his self-titled album in 1970, which spawned his first hit, “Your Song.” What followed were many awe-inspiring decades, including the ’90s, of pop/rock hits. Songs such as “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me,” “Something About the Way You Look Tonight,” and “Candle in the Wind 1997” enchanted audiences globally.
His works in writing musical theater and philanthropy have added to his legacy. John is an inspiration to millions across the globe today.
Aptly named Prince, the enigmatic star was born in Minneapolis in 1958 and pushed the boundaries of music.
As he grew up, he believed that music was the one talent he possessed. Drawing inspiration from Stevie Wonder, he developed his skills and began recording music in the seventies. By the time the nineties rolled in, Prince was a household name, with hits like “Cream” and “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” under his belt.
During his career, he released 39 albums, appeared or starred in almost 20 films, and received countless awards and accolades.
Prince was a self-proclaimed socially anxious person. He stayed closest to the ones he loved despite being one of the biggest stars of our time. Sadly, Prince passed away in 2016 from an accidental overdose of pain medications.
“Vogue” singer Madonna will forever be known as the undisputed Queen of Pop. Born in Michigan in 1958, Madonna was known by her teachers for displaying erratic behaviors at any moment.
These behaviors followed her into the spotlight. After dancing and writing music in New York, she signed with Warner Bros. Records, and her career took flight.
In the ’90s, she released hit singles such as the one mentioned above, “Justify My Love,” and “Ray of Light.” She starred in multiple movies across her career, including A League of Their Own and published a book entitled Sex.
Never one to shy away from controversy, Madonna paved the way for countless pop music hopefuls.
5. Whitney Houston
Earning the nickname the Voice, Whitney Houston set the standard for musicians.
Houston was born into the world of music, sharing familial ties with Dionne Warwick and Aretha Franklin. She spent time singing in a gospel choir and briefly became a model.
She released two albums in the 1980s. Her second record, Whitney, was the first female album to debut at #1.
In the ’90s, Houston was still going strong. She sang an iconic rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner,” starred in the film The Bodyguard, and continued to generate hit singles such as “I’m Every Woman” and “I Will Always Love You.”
Despite her untimely death, Houston remains an influential figure in the music industry.
6. Tupac Shakur
One of the most talented and influential rappers of all time is Tupac Shakur. The rapper grew up with his mother, who had been an active member of the Black Panther Party.
In a Maryland high school, Shakur studied poetry before moving cross-country to California. He continued his pursuits in stage performance before earning his GED.
After continuing his studies in poetry, Shakur began recording music, which spawned the release of his four studio albums, the last two—Me Against the World and All Eyez on Me—topping charts.
The songs “California Love” and “How Do You Want It” from All Eyez on Me also topped, reaching #1 in the Billboard Hot 100.
Shakur’s career was rife with gang conflict. After rivalries between coastal hip-hop scenes intensified, Shakur was shot and killed by an unknown assailant in September 1996.
7. Shania Twain
Canadian-born Shania Twain burst into the spotlight and redefined what makes good country music.
Twain began singing in bars as a child to help pay the family bills. She always regarded the process of writing music as true art and something that she deeply respected.
In the early 90s, she teamed up with (and eventually married) Robert John “Mutt” Lange, a well-known music producer. They worked together to release her ultra-successful album The Woman In Me, which spawned eight singles.
Following the success of her albums in the ’90s, Twain solidified herself as a household name. Her music made even the most reluctant listeners fans of country music.
Read next: For more like Shania, check out our post on the best female country 1990s singers here.
8. Mariah Carey
With an impressive five-octave range, Mariah Carey wows her audience. She took vocal training from her mother, which led to recording a demo tape. She gave the recording to Columbia Records, and her career began.
The ’90s was the starting point for Carey. She released seven studio albums during that decade, four of which topped charts as fans became awestruck at her vocal talents and ability to use the whistle register.
Her “All I Want for Christmas Is You” is one of her biggest hits to date, peaking at #1 in the US and internationally, and is certified Diamond—having sold over 10 million copies in the US alone.
Carey eventually shifted from pop to hip-hop/R&B flavors of music. Initially suffering from stage fright, she has evolved into one of the most iconic performers of our time and continues to amaze us to this day.
9. Céline Dion
After winning several high-profile singing competitions, Dion began recording music in the United States. Her contemporary hits in the ’90, such as “Because You Loved Me,” “The Power of Love,” and “It’s All Coming Back To Me Now,” rocketed her to success.
Her fame reached new heights when she sang the love theme “My Heart Will Go On” for the 1997 film Titanic. Considered Dion’s signature song, “My Heart Will Go On” won 11 music awards, including four Grammys in 1999.
Dion has gone on to sell out hundreds of shows and partake in multiple residencies in Las Vegas, and to this day, she remains one of the most impressive vocalists alive.
10. Janet Jackson
Youngest sibling of the Jackson family, Janet Jackson did not initially see herself as a stage performer. She had her eyes on a law career but took on a few acting roles to support herself in the meantime. This decision shifted her focus and culminated in her father/manager signing her to a record deal in 1982.
Jackson made quite a name for herself in the ’80s. She continued doing so well into the ’90s with smash hits like “Escapade,” “Love Will Never Do (Without You),” and “That’s the Way Love Goes.”
Jackson is known for her lyrical take on gender and racial issues, and her influence continues to be prominent in the pop/R&B community.
11. Alanis Morissette
The ’90s queen of alternative rock, Alanis Morissette, was born in 1974 in Ottawa, Ontario. She began her musical explorations at six when she learned to play the piano. By the age of ten, she had already written her first song.
Through the early ’90s, Morissette continually wrote, recorded, and released music. The release of Jagged Little Pill in 1995 gave the artist her big break. The album achieved double diamond and received the Album of the Year Grammy Award. Jagged Little Pill remains Morissette’s highest-grossing work to date.
Her unique grunge-rock style paved the way for many other famous pop/rock artists and gained her many accolades, including seven Grammys, a Brit Award, and fourteen Juno Awards.
12. Snoop Dogg
Easily the most lovable name in the rap game, Snoop Dogg is still a staple in the music industry. He derives his name from his childhood nickname of Snoopy, given to him by his parents.
In school, Snoop attracted crowds of classmates with his infectious rap abilities. He deduced that rap was the key to success. Over time, he learned to format his lyrics into structured rap verses, and his career began.
During the ’90s, he released four studio albums, all chart-topping and certified Platinum. Since then, Snoop has released an impressive 15 more studio albums. He has also collaborated with some of the biggest names in hip-hop and rap music.
With his smooth style and ability to freestyle his lyrics, Snoop’s music has become a pinnacle of success for aspiring rap artists.
Perhaps the most influential recording artist of our time is Beyoncé. She found her start in the 1990s with the iconic group Destiny’s Child.
The group, originally named Girls Tyme, reached a record deal in 1997 and was an instant sensation. The song “No, No, No” from their 1998 eponymous album charted at #3 the Billboard Hot 100. It became apparent that their musical energy was undeniable, and their vocal abilities were impressive.
After Destiny’s Child, Beyoncé went solo and released Dangerously In Love. The album gave her the means to showcase her solo talents, of which she possesses many.
Flash forward to the future, Beyoncé still captivates audiences and inspires millions across the globe. Her music brings awareness to social injustices and highlights female empowerment and black excellence.
14. Britney Spears
Our next singer, Britney Spears, may have shown up in the late ’90s, but her influence was prominent.
Born in 1981 in Louisiana, Spears had a knack for singing. As a child, she entered singing competitions and performed as an understudy on Broadway.
After appearing in The Mickey Mouse Club, Spears began meeting with managers of music labels and eventually signed with Jive Records.
What followed was pure mania and instant fame. Spears’ debut single “…Baby One More Time” rocketed her into the history books overnight. Her debut album landed her a Guinness World Record for Best-Selling Album by a Teenage Solo Artist.
The next decade saw multiple albums, iconic performances, and chart-topping hits, one after the other.
With so much to show under her belt—15 Guinness World Records, a Grammy Award, and 6 MTV Video Music Awards, to name a few—Spears has rightfully earned the title Princess of Pop.
The late ’90s saw a resurgence of love for the Goddess of Pop, Cher. However, her career was already well-established by then.
In 1998, Cher released her dance-inspired pop album Believe, which was considered a departure from her traditional musical roots. The album reinvented her fame to a modern audience, but her back catalog spoke for itself.
Given that Believe was her 22nd album, Cher had no problem working to promote herself during this decade.
Today, Cher is still a relevant and influential artist in the music industry. Through her countless tours and residencies, audiences still love singing the classic hits with her.
16. Garth Brooks
Singer-songwriter Garth Brooks is, unquestionably, the most successful artist to grace country music.
Brooks is one of the most successful musical artists of all time. Nine of his albums have achieved diamond status, selling more than 10 million copies each.
Boasting bar-friendly sing-along tunes such as “Friends In Low Places,” Brooks understands what it takes to make meaningful music. He was immersed in music throughout his childhood, learning to play guitar and banjo as a child.
Brooks decorated his career with 15 successful studio albums, with his concert tours and residencies consistently sell out to enthusiastic crowds. Undeniably, his energetic musical style influenced hundreds of country artists who rose to fame.
17. Sheryl Crow
A versatile artist of the ’90s, Sheryl Crow is known for her ability to engage with audiences with a variety of musical styles.
Crow was a music teacher at an elementary school when her music career began to take flight. She would perform in bands on the weekends, leading her to sing in commercials for well-known companies. The exposure gave her the boost she needed to record her music.
Her single “All I Wanna Do” from her debut album gave her the attention needed to provide her sophomore album critical acclaim. Crow produced multiple hit singles and nine additional studio albums in her career.
18. Lauryn Hill
Our next singer, Lauryn Hill, paved the way for female rap artists to break down barriers. She is among the most talented rappers of all time. Her work earned her multiple Grammy awards and set the stage for female artists to follow.
Hill was a member of the band the Fugees. Together, the band released two studio albums and generated influential hits such as “Killing Me Softly” and “Ready or Not.”
After the Fugees disbanded, Hill recorded solo work. She released her debut solo album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, in 1998 to critical acclaim. After the album was certified Platinum, Hill became the first female hip-hop artist to do so.
Hill’s unique artistic offerings solidified her as a role model for aspiring female artists to this day.
19. Jennifer Lopez
One of the most influential Hispanic entertainer, Jennifer Lopez—often shortened to JLo—found fame in the 1990s, and she carries it with her into the present day.
The Puerto Rican-American multitalented artist began her career by appearing in the television series In Living Color. She focused on acting by starring in film roles until she veered into music in 1999. Her debut album On the 6 proved that she was a triple threat.
Since then, JLo’s musical style has evolved, and she has released seven additional studio albums. She has also appeared in countless films, headlined the Super Bowl halftime show, and inspired the creation of Google Images with a single dress.
20. Kurt Cobain
The story of Kurt Cobain is a cautionary tale to those battling depression and addiction in the spotlight.
Cobain was the lead vocalist of the band Nirvana in the 1990s. On top of that, he played guitar for the band and penned many of the band’s most famous hits.
A talented entertainer, Cobain was known for his grungy, angsty vibes in both music and onstage performances. He experienced distaste for the fame his band had found and struggled with anxiety and depression.
Sadly, his struggles got the better of him. Cobain took his own life in 1994. However, the legacy of Cobain and Nirvana continues to live and inspire music lovers.
A supportive friend gave Seal the encouragement he needed to pursue a recording career.
Seal spent time during the 1980s performing in bars and restaurants. Meanwhile, he couch-surfed while a member of a small band called Push.
The right path led him to collaborate with DJ Adamski on the single “Killer.” Just like that, his career took off. Seal went on to release seven successful studio albums. The singer charmed his audiences with his hits “Kiss From a Rose” and “Crazy.”
Although the peak of his success came from his first two albums, Seal remains a prominent figure in ’90s music history.
Summing Up Our List Of Famous 1990s Singers
The 1990s were a decade of fantastic musical talent. Many people who lived through the decade still put on their favorite songs from then to feel a bit of nostalgia.
The contributions made by the artists of the ’90s paved the way for the talent we see today. The dedication, passion, and quality music produced bled into the 2000s and beyond.
As musicians progress with their dreams of producing music, they would do well to take notes from the artists from the ’90s.