The Best ’90s Bands and Musicians
Few things in life are more divisive than one’s taste in music. People fight over genres, bands, and individual artists, and even versions of the same song. Nominations and awards are given out, often causing mass controversy. And more seriously, musicians are willing to die for their art: A number of the performers in this list were allegedly killed over industry disputes.
So this list will likely strike a chord, so to speak, with some, while infuriating others. What can’t justifiably be argued is what an incredible decade the 1990s was for music. The dawning of grunge and the first true commercial success of hip-hop are marked by the ‘90s, in a display of the alternative forms rebellion and political unrest can take. Beyond that, the voices of a generation can be heard in all ’90s artists, from the pop songstress to the heavy metal vocalist.
Choosing one musical act above another is akin to choosing a favorite child, so this list isn’t ranked. Rather, it’s a trip through a time that many consider the last great era of music. Whether they’re making tunes or have moved on, bridged decades or disbanded as quickly as they began, take some time to enjoy 30 of the greatest musicians of the 1990s.
Of course, there’s another infamous band that truly defined grunge in the 1990s. Nirvana also got their start in Seattle, beginning in the late ‘80s. But it wasn’t until their sophomore album, Nevermind (1991) that they were recognized by the masses, having signed with major label DGC Records. The following year, the band performed at the MTV VMAs, and received the awards for Best New Artist and Best Alternative Video.
The short-lived group was riddled with issues. Lead singer and guitarist, Kurt Cobain felt he deserved more royalties than the rest of the members due to his songwriting contributions, which caused tension among the group. However, they managed to come to an agreement, and recorded another album, In Utero (1993), before embarking on a final tour in early 1994.
While on tour, Cobain’s wife, Courtney Love, found him unconscious in their hotel room. Cobain, a former heroin addict, had relapsed, and agreed to go to a treatment facility. He subsequently escaped, and was found dead from a self-inflicted shotgun wound on April 8, 1994. The band effectively broke up, and began to divide up their estate.
The remaining primary members, Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic, have since performed together a number of times, most notably with Sir Paul McCartney at a Hurricane Sandy relief fundraiser in 2012. As of 2014, Grohl, Novoselic, and Cobain are inductees of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
2. A Tribe Called Quest
The ‘80s and ‘90s marked the true beginnings of rap, and the early ’90s were defined by what’s now known as alternative hip-hop. The Queens, New York-based group, A Tribe Called Quest formed in the ‘80s, but didn’t take off until they signed with Jive Records in 1989. They released their first album the next year, kicking off the decade with People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm.
However, it wasn’t until their sophomore effort, The Low End Theory (1991), that the act started to make a real impact. They continued to create music throughout the decade, releasing Midnight Marauders (1993), Beats, Rhymes and Life (1996), and The Love Movement (1998). Beats, Rhymes and Life notably addressed the growing east coast versus west coast hip-hop rivalry. ATCQ announced that The Love Movement would be their last album as a band, and it went on to be nominated for the 1999 Grammy Award for Best Rap Album.
On March 22, 2016, ATCQ member Phife Dawg passed away due to complications from diabetes. Subsequently, an album recorded prior to his death, We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service was released. The remaining members performed songs from the album on Saturday Night Live, and there has been talk of a possible world tour in the future.
3. Pearl Jam
It has been said that grunge truly began in 1990 in Seattle, Washington. This is partially a reference to Pearl Jam, an influential group in the formation of the alternative rock subgenre that defined the ‘90s. Beginning with their most renowned album, Ten (1991), the band became a breakout success the following year, and the record eventually went platinum.
What is miraculous about the group is how they defined live performance, and how they continue to do so today. The longevity of their music can be seen in each album, especially Yield (1998), which showed a return to the band’s early sound, while also progressing in its themes.
The band has continued to steadily produce new music and tour throughout the last decade and a half. On April 11, 2017, Pearl Jam will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. 2017 is the first year that they are eligible, as an act can only be honored 25 years after its first release.
One of Nirvana’s greatest influences was R.E.M., whose acclaimed 31-year career is said to have “marked the point when post-punk turned into alternative rock,” according to AllMusic. Indeed, the band’s offerings, from Murmur (1983) through Collapse Into Now (2011), exhibit a unique sound that both maintains its roots and adapts throughout the years.
Though they began in the ‘80s, R.E.M. breakthrough single “Losing My Religion” was on Out of Time (1991), the band’s seventh album. While producing numerous quality records in a short period of time was where the group succeeded, touring was another story. In 1995, three of the four members suffered severe health issue while on the road. And in 1997, drummer Bill Berry quit the band, leaving guitarist Peter Buck, bassist Mike Mills, and vocalist Michael Stipe to continue on without him.
In addition to their Grammy-winning music and status as one of the greatest rock bands of all time, R.E.M. was also a politically active group. Their liberal and progressive ideals were touted along with their music, and they often used their platform and celebrity clout to express their support for various causes.
After being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007, the band continued to record music. In 2011, they disbanded for good, though compilations and re-releases of old albums have continued in the years since.
The 1990s were also a pivotal era for metal. Metallica entered the scene in 1981, and had a hit with their acclaimed third album Master of Puppets (1986). However, it was their self-titled fifth album released in 1991 (also know as The Black Album) that launched them into the mainstream. Known for defining the subgenre of thrash metal, Metallica is considered one of the greatest metal bands of all time, and was ranked No. 61 on Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Artists list.
With a 10-album discography and more than 100 million albums sold worldwide through their 36-year career, what might be most impressive is that the band shows no signs of stopping. Though they put out just three albums in the ‘90s, all went platinum, with the first receiving the highly coveted diamond certification. Additionally, they’ve earned eight Grammys Awards, the most of any metal band.
Throughout the years, there have been many changes to the band, including bassist Cliff Burton’s death and the departure of his replacement, James Newsted, in 2001. Drummer Lars Ulrich was instrumental in the takedown of the music sharing site Napster in 2002.
Metallica inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in 2009. Though they were certainly a signature act of the ‘90s, it’s also Metallica’s longevity that is key to what makes them part of the “Big Four” of thrash metal.
When it comes to experimental musicians, U2 has been leading the pack for an impressive 40 years. Their ‘80s tunes veered toward a punk sound. After achieving commercial success with their Grammy-winning album, The Joshua Tree (1987) and subsequent criticism surrounding their follow-up rockumentary Rattle and Hum (1988), they decided to switch gears and ring in the final decade of the millennium with a more electronic sound.
Thus Achtung Baby (1991) was born, marking a significant change in the music the band put out. This, paired with Zooropa (1993) redefined U2. The accompanying Zoo TV Tour was a profound deviation from the norm, meant to create a “sensory overload” experience for the audience.
Making use of the new technology of the time and the interactive experience of live broadcast may have been what led to Pop (1997) and the PopMart Tour, which are considered a low point in the group’s career.
The decade ended with U2 heading back to the studio to return to their roots, the result of which was All That You Can’t Leave Behind (2000). In the years since, the band has continued to grow and evolve, but never to the extent that they did in the 1990s. Regardless, they’ve firmly secured their place as one of the greatest bands of all time, with a record 22 Grammys, 2 Best Original Song Golden Globes, and an iHeartRadio Music Innovator Award for their activism.
7. Whitney Houston
Every so often, an artist comes around whose voice is unparalleled. But it’s an entirely specific combination of talent, timing, opportunity, and presence that makes a star like Whitney Houston. This is probably why there has never been anyone else, before or since, who can compare.
Houston was in demand from day one. She modeled as a teen, and signed her first recording contract in 1983. Houston won her first Grammy in 1986, and would go on to win five more, as well as a Hall of Fame Grammy. In fact, according to the Guinness World Records, she is the most awarded female artist of all time.
The ‘90s was truly Houston’s decade. Arguably her most iconic single, a version of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You,” came out in 1992, from her first starring film role in The Bodyguard. Her fourth album, My Love Is Your Love, was released in 1998, and is her most critically acclaimed. In 2000, Houston was named the Artist of the Decade at the Soul Train Awards.
After a low period in the early ‘00s, she put out a final album, I Look to You (2009). Tragically, her comeback was short-lived. On February 11, 2012, Houston was found in her bathtub, having drowned, with contributing factors linked to drug use. The timing of her death coincided with the Grammys, during which a tribute to her was performed by Jennifer Hudson.
Formed in the 1980s, Pantera is another revolutionary metal band. Their breakthrough success was the album Cowboys from Hell (1990), wherein they invented the subgenre of groove metal. The culmination of new vocalist Paul Anselmo, along with a revitalized effort from the Abbott brothers, created what is thought to be their signature sound.
Things only got better for the group with Vulgar Display of Power (1992) and its follow-up Far Beyond Driven (1994). The latter scored the band its first Grammy nomination. However, following these successes, Anselmo began to abuse heroin, and was hospitalized after overdosing in 1996. Nevertheless, the group continued to make waves, scoring two more Grammy nominations in 1997 and 1998.
In the following years, Pantera was never able to get back to the same level they were on in the early to mid-‘90s. Their final album, Reinventing the Steel, was released in 2000, and they officially disbanded in 2003. Any chance at a reunion was ruined when, in 2004, “Dimebag Darrell” Abbott was murdered by a fan while performing with his new band, Damageplan.
9. The Notorious B.I.G.
Music gives many artists the chance to live on after they’re deceased. Though his time on the rap scene was very short, Christopher Wallace, known by his stage name, The Notorious B.I.G. (often shortened to “Biggie”), made a huge impact, and continues to do so today. Beginning with his debut album, Ready to Die (1994), Biggie is credited with bringing attention back to east coast hip-hop artists.
Widely considered one of the best rappers of all time, Biggie initially maintained friendships with other rappers, including Tupac Shakur. However, the two were soon at odds as a coastal rivalry began, coming to a head in 1995, a year during which Biggie was making waves with his project Junior M.A.F.I.A., a group of up-and-coming rappers he mentored.
Just six months after Shakur’s murder in 1996, of which Biggie was considered a suspect, Biggie was killed in a drive-by shooting. Less than a month later, his second album, eerily titled Life After Death, was released, and quickly received diamond certification.
The rapper’s music and memory continue to be woven into popular culture. Biggie’s widow, Faith Evans, has announced that she’ll be releasing a duet album featuring her late husband in May 2017, titled The King and I.
10. Mariah Carey
The songstress Mariah Carey’s career started like something out of a movie. After a few years of trying to make it in the music biz, bouncing between waitressing jobs and trying to make rent, she met a friend who took her to a party. There, she gave her demo to the head of Columbia Records — and the rest was history. Carey’s self-titled debut album was released in 1990, and she earned two Grammys for her first single “Vision of Love.”
Though her second album was a bit of a flop, her third offering, Music Box (1993), struck a pop princess chord, and was followed by her critically acclaimed holiday album Merry Christmas (1994) and fifth LP Daydream (1995). Her following two albums, Butterfly (1997) and Rainbow (1999), were not as well-received, but they marked a breakout period for Carey, as she became more independent and delved into rhythm and blues.
If the ‘90s were Carey’s time to shine, the early ‘00s pulled a dark cloud over the star. She experienced a period of erratic behavior, and was eventually hospitalized for exhaustion. Her film, Glitter (2001), and the soundtrack that went with it did poorly, as did her next album, Charmbracelet (2002). It wasn’t until The Emancipation of Mimi (2005) that she made a comeback, with the record ranking as the top-selling of the year.
Since then, Carey has put out four studio albums, with varying degrees of success. Her voice has been critiqued repeatedly, as her impressive range and vocal stylings are her signature. Despite the fact that her clout has declined, Carey was a superstar in the ‘90s, and is credited with influencing many of the greatest pop singers to follow.
11. Counting Crows
The genre of alt-rock has many variations, some softer than others. It makes sense that Counting Crows would fall into this category, as they began as an acoustic duo featuring singer-songwriter Adam Duritz and guitarist David Bryson. As they grew in size, the band toured heavily, and developed a signature sound.
In 1993, the video for their surprise hit “Mr. Jones” got a lot of airtime on MTV, and August and Everything After (1993) quickly became the fastest-selling album at the time, after Nirvana’s Nevermind. Still, the act was and still is best known for their extensive touring during the decade, for their albums Recovering the Satellites (1996) and This Desert Life (1999).
Though they haven’t put out an album in several years, Counting Crows has continued to maintain their relevance throughout the past couple of decades in an interesting way: Their songs have appeared in several popular films. Most notable is the single “Accidentally in Love” from the Shrek 2 soundtrack, which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 2004.
Female artists, especially those in the hip-hop genre, have Salt-N-Pepa to thank for paving the way. Cheryl “Salt” James, Sandra “Pepa” Denton, and DJ Deidra “Spinderella” Roper debuted with Hot, Cool & Vicious (1986), which was nominated for a Grammy for its single “Push It.” The alubm went platinum, making them the first female rap act to achieve this honor.
Salt-N-Pepa put out one more album in the ‘80s, A Salt with a Deadly Pepa (1988), but it was 1990’s Black Magic and its single “Let’s Talk About Sex” that really put them on the map. With their fourth album, Very Necessary (1993) they became the first female rappers to take home a Grammy, for the single “None of Your Business.”
The groundbreaking trio disbanded after their greatest hits album in the early ‘00s, but have since appeared together on a number of occasions, including the two-season VH1 series The Salt-N-Pepa Show. As of 2017, they are headliners of the upcoming “I Love The ‘90s” tour.
13. Wu-Tang Clan
It takes talent to become a success, but a unique business model can also aid in the making of a star. When Wu-Tang Clan was signed to RCA in 1993, they released their critically acclaimed debut, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), as a unit. However, this was done with the stipulation that they were then able to break out as solo artists. Over the next few years, RZA, Method Man, Ghostface Killah, and the rest of the crew released their own projects, all of which were well-regarded.
Though various members appeared on each other’s records, it wasn’t until 1997’s Wu-Tang Forever that they all came back together as a group. This effort was nominated for Grammy for Best Rap Album in 1998, and effectively closed out a chapter for the group, ending their initial five-year plan, and allowing them to continue once more as individuals.
Unfortunately, this second round of solo efforts created an overly saturated market, and was not nearly as well-received as the first. The end of the decade brought with it the very last Wu-Tang album to feature all of the original members, The W. While still considered one of the greatest rap groups of all time, the ‘90s were undoubtedly the peak of Wu-Tang.
14. The Cranberries
Boasting a sort of folksy sound with rock elements, The Cranberries’ debut album, intriguingly titled Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We? (1993), failed to chart immediately upon release. However, with the help of MTV, they started to get some buzz. The group followed up with their second album, No Need to Argue (1994), which went platinum.
The success of singles like “Zombie” led to the band adopting a heavier sound for their third album, To the Faithful Departed (1996). By the time Bury the Hatchet (1999) was released, the group had begun to decline in popularity, however, their subsequent tour was their largest ever. Still, they decided to disband after the release of Wake Up and Smell the Coffee (2001), their fifth album.
In 2009, the band united, and released Roses in 2012. Their “unplugged” greatest hits album, Something Else, is scheduled for an April 28, 2017 release.
One of the most lyrically profound rappers of all time, Common (formerly Common Sense) became known in the Chicago hip-hop scene for his debut album, Can I Borrow a Dollar? (1992). But it was his second album, Resurrection (1994), that catapulted him to stardom. The single “I Used to Love H.E.R.,” though seemingly about a woman, brought Common into the coastal hip-hop rivalry, as it criticized the commercialization attributed to the west coast rappers of the day.
With his third effort, One Day It’ll All Make Sense (1997), Common was forced to shorten his name. Though not a financial success, the album was loved by critics, and earned the rapper a major contract with MCA Records. He put out two records under the label, Like Water for Chocolate (2000) and Electric Circus (2002).
Despite his acclaimed work in the ‘90s, it wasn’t until Be (2005) that he secured his place in history, with the album going gold and scoring four Grammys nominations. Common continues to write and rap along with acting and producing. He won a Grammy and an Oscar for co-writing the song “Glory” for the 2014 movie, Selma.
16. Stone Temple Pilots
The ability of a band to reinvent itself amid member changes and the varying sounds of the time enables longevity in many cases. Stone Temple Pilots (often abbreviated STP) is one such example. Beginning with their debut album, Core (1992), the San Diego-based group has spent two and a half decades rolling with the punches, though never matching their early breakout success.
Known for original vocalist Scott Weiland’s acoustic performances, STP put out a record-setting sophomore album, Purple (1994), featuring the hit “Interstate Love Song.” The band chose to shift direction at this point, releasing Tiny Music… Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop, which embraced the revival of glam rock. However, the shift occured during a tumultuous time in Weiland’s life, and the band split up to pursue separate projects before reuniting to create No. 4 (1999) and Shangri-La Dee Da (2001).
After another, longer hiatus, the band briefly reformed in 2012, after which Weiland was fired. STP continued to perform and record with singer Chester Bennington, who left in November 2015. A month later, Weiland passed away at the age of 48. In 2016, the band launched a search for a new singer.
17. Alanis Morissette
Though many seasoned artists don’t make it big until well into their careers, the right youthful edge has been known to propel an artist to stardom. Alanis Morissette began as a Canadian pop singer, releasing a dance-pop debut and a softer ballad-driven sophomore effort. After failing to produce a commercial hit, she began working with a new manager, scored a recording contract, and put out Jagged Little Pill (1995), an alternative album that quickly became a massive success and earned her numerous Grammys.
The “queen of alt-rock angst” continued to churn out tunes, but despite a few more hit singles, was unable to recreate her Jagged Little Pill triumph with follow-ups Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie (1998), Under Rug Swept (2002), and So-Called Chaos (2004). Her later efforts, Flavors of Entanglement (2008) and Havoc and Bright Lights (2012), continued this trend.
Despite her lack of commercial success in the last 20 years, Jagged Little Pill has shown how much impact an album can have years after the fact. In 2015, a 20th anniversary four-disc collector’s edition was released, which included the 10th anniversary Jagged Little Pill Acoustic.
In 2016, Morissette appeared on The Late Late Show With James Corden, singing a “modernized” version of her single “Ironic,” with references to today’s culture, demonstrating that popular culture really is cyclical.
18. No Doubt
Sometimes a band needs to fall apart before they can truly come together. No Doubt went through many changes in its formative years, including original vocalist John Spence’s suicide, the departure of several band members, and a significant shift in sound. It wasn’t until their third album, Tragic Kingdom (1995), that the group had a commercial hit on their hands.
After producing one of the best-selling albums in history (it received diamond certification) and scoring two Grammy nominations, the band’s follow-up, Return of Saturn (2000) was a flop. At the time, lead singer Gwen Stefani was doing a lot of work outside the group, which both helped and hurt No Doubt as a whole. Eventually, Stefani decided to pursue her own solo project, and the other members took on various external endeavors as well.
In 2012, No Doubt released Push and Shove its first studio album in over 10 years. Though mildly successful, guitarist Tom Dumont revealed shortly after that the band would be taking another hiatus. Though they have since performed together, there are no plans to release new music as of 2016.
After working in the music business as producers and sound engineers, Duke Erikson, Butch Vig, and Steve Marker wanted to create their own sound. With roots in grunge, they brought on singer Shirley Manson, with the intention of making a pop record. Their inadvertent first single, “Vow” got so much attention that they decided to create a full self-titled album, released in 1995.
With three Grammy nominations in 1997, including two for their single “Stupid Girl,” Garbage was off to a great start. Their second album, Version 2.0, debuted at No. 1 in the U.K., and brought them two more Grammy nominations in 1999. The band continued to tour extensively, and ended the decade with an international hit, “The World Is Not Enough,” for the James Bond film of the same name.
Throughout the next decade, subsequent albums Beautiful Garbage (2001), Bleed Like Me (2005), and Absolute Garbage (2007) were met with mixed reception. Independent albums Not Your Kind of People (2012) and Strange Little Birds (2016) have received positive reviews. In 2017, they embarked on The Rage and Rapture Tour with Blondie.
The idea for the original girl group, TLC, was actually conceived of without any of the original members. Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas were brought on by various parties, and released their first album, a funky R&B and hip-hop record titled Ooooooohhh… On the TLC Tip (1992), to critical acclaim. The album rung in a new era of girl power, only later to be matched by the U.K.’s Spice Girls.
1994’s follow-up album, CrazySexyCool has been cited by Rolling Stone as one of the greatest albums of all time. With four chart-topping singles, TLC received two Grammys in 1996. Despite their popularity and apparent success, the trio filed for bankruptcy around this time. Amidst feuding within the group, they released their third album, FanMail (1999), which earned three Grammys and sold over 14 million copies.
The group took a hiatus at this point, but was working on a fourth album when Lopes was killed in a car accident in 2002. The album 3D (2002), failed to meet the expectations set by their earlier efforts, and though Watkins and Thomas have continued to perform as a duo, they have not put out a record since. However, a final album is set to be released in summer 2017, funded by a Kickstarter campaign.
Hailing from Iceland, Bjork first released an eponymous solo debut in 1977, at only 12 years old. She continued to perform with a number of different bands, including The Sugarcubes, who are considered the “biggest rock band to emerge from Iceland,” according to Rolling Stone. But it wasn’t until her first two solo albums, Debut (1993) and Post (1995), that the artist was recognized internationally.
If Bjork’s unique dance-pop and techno sound was what attracted critics, her collaborative videos were what brought her into the limelight. Her 1997 album, Homogenic, showed a change in her image, and went platinum. Bjork also wrote and produced the score for the film Dancer in the Dark, as well as starring in the movie.
Bjork has continued to be one of the most consistent working musicians in pop, putting out numerous albums over the last couple of decades. Her musical style, voice, and artistry remains a topic in popular culture, despite her lack of mainstream attention in recent years. Bjork’s ability to constantly reinvent herself and experiment within the industry makes her an everlasting icon.
As previously mentioned, the career of an icon isn’t always long, but demonstrates a lasting power that continues after they’re gone. Tupac Amaru Shakur, an artistically educated California transplant, began his professional rap career with Digital Underground in the early ‘90s. He put out two solo albums, 2Pacalypse Now (1991) and Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z… (1993), both of which had moderate commercial success.
After a brief collaboration as Thug Life, Tupac put out his well-received third album, Me Against the World (1996), sparking his success. But it was All Eyez on Me (1996), his final album under his own name, that he became best known for. He also recorded the record The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory under the pseudonym Makaveli, which was released after his death.
Following various legal and personal struggles, including sexual assault charges that he served time for, Tupac was severely injured in a drive by shooting on September 7, 1996, dying in the hospital several days later at the age of 25. Since his death, Tupac’s legacy has lived on in the form of posthumous albums, compilations, documentaries, and academic studies. On April 7, 2017, he will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
23. Fiona Apple
Another young songstress, Fiona Apple, was the product of a talented family. Her mother was a singer, her father an actor, and her maternal grandparents a dancer and a vocalist. Apple’s debut album, Tidal (1996), was written when she was only 17, and was certified platinum.
Her follow-up, When the Pawn… (1999) also did well, but wasn’t met with the same commercial success as its predecessor. However, in 2000, Apple had a breakdown on stage and considered quitting the music business. She eventually put out Extraordinary Machine (2005) and earned a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Vocal Album.
Her last album, The Idler Wheel… came out in 2012, but in the years before and since, she has contributed to various soundtracks and compilations. For the 2017 Women’s March on Washington, she wrote a chant of sorts, titled “Tiny Hands.”
24. The Smashing Pumpkins
According to lead singer and founding member Billy Corgan, The Smashing Pumpkins were always “the next” something. Because of the influx of grunge and alternative rock, the band was looped in with groups such as Jane’s Addiction, Nirvana, and Pearl Jam, despite their protests that they were a unique sound. Indeed, their second album, Siamese Dream (1993), garnered mainstream recognition, though they incorporated influences such as layered guitars and a dream pop sound.
After their initial success, The Smashing Pumpkins ramped things up with their third album, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, a double album with 28 titles. Though critically and commercially prosperous, the tour for this album was wrought with conflict, including the dismissal of drummer Jimmy Chamberlin after he was arrested in conjunction with drug possession and the death by overdose of their keyboardist at the time, Jonathan Melvoin.
After the less popular albums Adore (1998) and Machina/The Machines of God (2000), the band broke up.
Several years later, Corgan announced that the band would be reforming, though without some of the original members. Despite lineup changes, The Smashing Pumpkins have put out more records, including Zeitgeist (2007) and Monuments of an Elegy (2014). There appears to be potential for a reunion in the future, but this is still unconfirmed.
25. Third Eye Blind
The end of the ‘90s saw the alternative rock of the decade leaning more toward pop. Third Eye Blind’s self-titled album in 1997 produced five singles, all of which were commercially successful. In particular, “Semi-Charmed Life,” which made it to No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100. With their second album, Blue (1999), their sales decreased, but they threw themselves into touring.
Unfortunately, Third Eye Blind never topped their initial success. Out of Vein (2003) was the band’s final album with Elektra Records, as they were effectively eliminated from the label when it converged with Atlantic Records.
Their fourth album, Ursa Major, was released in 2009, and led to the firing of guitarist Tony Fredianelli whilst touring. Third Eye Blinde’s following effort, Dopamine (2015) was also a miss, but the band has continued to produce music, last releasing EP We Are Drugs in 2016.
26. Janet Jackson
Janet Jackson got her start under the management of her father, Joseph Jackson, with whom she and her siblings had a contentious relationship. After two pop albums, she went out on her own, and her third effort, Control (1986), earned her three Grammy nominations.
Jackson’s fourth album, Rhythm Nation 1814 (1989), adapted a socially conscious theme, and transformed her from a sexy teen star to an adult artist. The tour for the album was also very successful. She earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a Grammy for the “Rhythm Nation” music video, and the title “Queen of Pop.” She continued this trend with her fifth album, Janet (1993).
Despite a shift in tone on her sixth record, The Velvet Rope (1997), Jackson continued to top charts and take home Grammys. Her success helped establish the artist as an ally to the gay community.
Her success continued into the new millennium, until the infamous “wardrobe malfunction” incident at the Super Bowl in 2004, resulting in her music being blacklisted on a number of stations. In the decade since, Jackson has focused more on her acting career, but her contributions to music history are timeless.
Another internationally recognized rock group, Radiohead, got their start as school boys in England. Their debut album, Pablo Honey (1993), while selling poorly in their homeland, started to pick up steam in Israel and the U.S.
With their first single, “Creep,” rising up charts, they felt the pressure to recreate this success with their follow-up, The Bends (1995). Though it didn’t make huge waves at the time, the album has gone on to receive critical acclaim.
But it was their third effort, OK Computer (1997), that cemented Radiohead’s name in ‘90s popular culture forever. It incorporated an electronic sound, and invoked themes relevant to the modern age, winning it Best Alternative Music Album at the 1998 Grammys. The band then took their time in releasing a follow-up, which eventually came in the form of two albums, Kid A (2000) and Amnesiac (2001), which fared well.
After their sixth album, Hail to the Thief (2003), Radiohead parted ways with their label. The members took a break to focus on their personal lives and solo projects, but returned with In Rainbows (2007), and once again broke the mold. They adopted a pay-what-you-want model, allowing fans to download the album from their website. The band has continued to release their subsequent albums digitally, and has garnered more and more critical acclaim.
28. Shania Twain
A country singer hailing from Canada, of all places, Shania Twain comes from very humble beginnings. She wrote and sang from a young age, but her career didn’t begin until her self-titled debut album was released in 1993. The record wasn’t a hit, but it helped her cultivate a relationship with her future husband, “Mutt” Lange. The connection led to her second album, The Woman in Me (1995), which was a critical and commercial success.
Twain’s third album, Come On Over (1997), soon became the best-selling album of all time by a female musician. This was likely the peak of her career. The artist’s fourth effort, Up! (2002), also rocked the charts, but did not bring the same critical acclaim.
After an extended break from releasing music, during which she toured intermittently, Twain broke the news that a new album was coming. The record is scheduled for a May 2017 release.
29. Lauryn Hill
Despite being what some might consider a “one-hit (album) wonder,” R&B artist Lauryn Hill had a significant impact on ‘90s music. She was a member of the Fugees, when their sophomore album, The Score (1996), won two Grammys and hit No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard 200.
While also acting, Hill put out her first and only solo record to date, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998). The album was a monumental success, and earned Hill 10 Grammy nominations and five awards in a single year, the most of any woman ever, at the time.
Following her many achievements at the end of the decade, 2000 brought with it a dramatic change: Hill almost completely left the public eye for a few years. Her only released work during that time, a concert DVD from her MTV Unplugged special, MTV Unplugged 2.0, did very poorly, and she did not put out new music until almost a decade later.
In the years since, she has performed occasionally, including a brief and chaotic tour with the Fugees, which ended due to her erratic nature. In 2013, Hill served a three month prison sentence for tax evasion. She has continued to pop-up in projects sporadically, including 2015’s Nina Simone documentary What Happened, Miss Simone?, the soundtrack for which she acted as producer and lent her voice to six songs.
Part of the California punk revolution of the ‘90s, Blink-182 began as a humble trio in 1992, started by Tom DeLonge and Mark Hoppus. They put out Cheshire Cat (1995) and Dude Ranch (1996) before drummer Scott Raynor was dismissed from the band. After adding drummer Travis Barker and releasing Enema of the State (1999), the group finally began to receive mainstream recognition.
The first big name in pop punk, the band closed out the ‘90s with a multi-platinum album and frequent media appearances. They continued their success with Take Off Your Pants and Jacket (2001), after which a shift began. Blink-182’s eponymous fifth album was released in 2003, and showcased a new sound that split the fanbase. The group announced in 2005 that they were taking an “indefinite hiatus.”
After a plane crash that killed several and left Barker severely injured, the trio reunited, though not without conflict. Neighborhoods (2011) and EP Dogs Eating Dogs (2012) received mixed reviews, and the contentious interactions between band members escalated. In 2015, DeLonge exited the band for good, and singer and guitarist Matt Skiba officially joined. Together, they put out California (2016), Blink-182’s second album to top the Billboard 200. A deluxe version of the album is scheduled for a May 19, 2017 release.
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