1990s Music: What Songs Were Most Popular?


Music in the 1990s was truly inspired. So many great, timeless songs were written and recorded by so many different types of artists, it’s impossible to list.


Every other week a new genre popped up. First it was Alternative, then SkaPunk, then Fusion, then RapRock — you get the idea. Musicians were blending styles like never before, aided by the affordability of digital recording equipment that could now operate in the artists’ homes.

Pop still sold strong. Country did well. Rap and hip-hop exploded. Industrial went mainstream. Even electronic music came to the forefront. I mean, if David Bowie does a drum n bass record you know it’s popular.

There was a rebirth of creativity and inspiration in the early to mid-90s. Much of music had gotten stale and old and a new, younger crop of musicians burst onto the scene and took control. Generation X was born.

Slowly electronics and orchestral elements crept back into the music that had been stripped down so much. The music got very interesting and became the basis for what most music sounds like today.

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Music engineers got really good in the 1990s. Being able to cut and paste sound files gave song writers and engineers and entirely new way of looping and constructing recorded music.

[ Skip to Complete List of #1 songs from the 1990s ]

Popular Artists from the 1990s

Who were the most popular musical artists in the 1990s?

  • Paula Abdul
  • Janet Jackson
  • Madonna
  • Mariah Carey
  • Bon Jovi
  • Vanilla Ice
  • Whitney Houston
  • C&C Music Factory
  • Gloria Estefan
  • Bryan Adams
  • Michael Bolton
  • Michael Jackson
  • Boyz II Men
  • Ace of Base
  • Nirvana
  • Stone Temple Pilots
  • Pearl Jam
  • N.W.A.
  • Snoop Doggy Dogg
  • Tupac Shakur
  • TLC
  • Coolio
  • Celine Dion
  • Bone Thugs N Harmony
  • Spice Girls
  • Elton John
  • The Notorious B.I.G.
  • Puff Daddy
  • Hanson
  • Nine Inch Nails
  • Radiohead
  • Aerosmith
  • Guns N Roses
  • Britney Spears
  • Matchbox Twenty
  • Linkin Park
  • Limp Bizkit

Music in 1991

Garth knows you loved him in 1991

Garth knows you loved him in 1991

In 1991, a new method for ranking top-selling music albums was used. The rankings were based on actual retail store sales using bar code data opposed to telephone or fax reports, which could be be manipulated.

In response to the Persian Gulf War, Yoko Ono, Sean Lennon and Lenny Kravitz resurrected John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance.” The song, recorded by a number of artists listed as the Peace Choir, was released on January 15, the UN’s deadline for Iraq to pull out of Kuwait.

Some concerts were just plain dangerous. Three fans were crushed to death at an AC/DC concert IN Salt Lake City and rioting destroyed a Guns N’ Roses concert in St. Louis after Axl Rose dove into the crowd during “Rocket Queen” to punch a dude with a camera (see video).

The rock n roll scene was still dominated by arena rock. Motely Crue, Aerosmith, Van Halen, Queensryche, Extreme, U2, Skid Row and Metallica all were selling strong.

Nirvana was beginning to catch on as well, but hadn’t quite taken over the entire music industry just yet.

Solo artists did well. Tom Petty, Bonnie Raitt, Bob Seger, Prince and Bryan Adams all sold a ton of albums.

Phil Collins was the Record of the Year Grammy Award for “Another Day in Paradise.”

Best new artist in 1991? Mariah Carey.

Garth Brooks owned country music that year. His third album, Ropin’ the Wind, was the first country album ever to debut at number one.

Hip-hop and rap was gaining unprecedented popularity. Ice Cube & Ice-T both scored motion picture roles. N.W.A and Public Enemy had top-selling albums. “Can’t Truss It” was one of my favorite songs back then.

Natalie Cole covered her dad’s song “Unforgettable.” It was pretty sweet. Amy Grant even hit it big with “Baby Baby.”

Paul Simon held a free concert in NYC’s Central Park on August 15 in front of an astonishing 750,000 people.

“EVERYBODY DANCE NOW!” That’s right, 1991 gave us C&C Music Factory. What an awesome year.

Music in 1993

Photo of the In Utero back album cover without effects

Photo of the In Utero back album cover without effects

In 1993, Many music stores revolted against high CD prices by selling used CDs. The music industry saw this as a conflict of interest and threatened to withhold advertising dollars from any dealers who sold used CDs.

Controversy over lyrics and graphics continued to create headlines in 1993. I remember one day when my grandma asked me to promise never to listen to Ice-T’s “Cop Killer” because my grandpa was a cop.

The back cover of Nirvana’s album In Utero showed human fetuses, so K-Mart and Wal-Mart refused to carry it. The highly anticipated follow up album to 1991’s Nevermind debuted at number one in September.

BET imposed a month-long ban on videos with gun images to protest violence in the African-American community.

Cypress Hill, whose album Sunday debuted at number one in July, drew media attention for their pro-marijuana stance.

Michael Jackson’s 1993 started well as he performed the Super Bowl halftime show in January. His overseas tour drew even more attention than usual after the singer was accused of sexually abusing a 13-year-old boy. He canceled the remaining stops on his tour in November, claiming he was addicted to pain medication.

In April, Prince announced his retirement from studio recording and changed his name in June to a symbol for which there is no word, representing male and female unity.

Meat Loaf enjoyed a huge and unexpected comeback in 1993 with his hit song “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)”.

“Alternative” rock bands, whose name comes from not being mainstream, became mainstream. The shift occurred as album rock radio stations shifted from the long ruling 60s and 70s rock mainstays to the younger, harder guitar-based bands.

Bands like Stone Temple Pilots, Blind Melon, Soul Asylum and Alice in Chains led the way along with top dogs Nirvana and Pearl Jam. The latter’s album Vs. debuted at number one and had to be one of the most eagerly anticipated albums in rock history.

Murder was the case that they gave Snoop in 1993

Murder was the case that they gave Snoop in 1993

Garth Brooks returned to his position at the top when his album In Pieces debuted in August at the top of the pop album charts. Other popular country artists in 1993 include Billy Ray Cyrus, Alan Jackson, Brooks & Dunn, Vince Gill and Wynonna.

Softer sounding music received a boost when MTV introduced “MTV Unplugged”, a concert where the musicians use only acoustic instruments.

Hardcore rap enjoyed unprecedented airplay on Top 40 and R&B radio stations in 1993. Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, Onyx and Naughty by Nature all rose to prominence in the music scene.

Rappers were in frequent trouble with the law in 1993. Tupac Shakur was accused of shooting two off-duty police officers. Flavor Flav was arrested and charged with attempted murder after allegedly shooting a neighbor. Snoop Doggy Dogg got into the mix too after he was charged with murder in the August 25th shooting of a Los Angeles man.

And let’s close out 1993 with one of the most horrific songs ever made. Snow’s Informer was just plain terrible, but every middle schooler loved it for a couple weeks.

#1 Songs (1990-1999)


At the beginning of the 1990s, music was tame an unsure of where to go. There was pop everywhere and no one seemed to want to stray too far outside of it.

Sure there were tons of underground acts like Nine Inch Nails and The Melvins in the 80s, but as far as MTV was concerned (and the rest of middle class, suburban America), they didn’t exist.

That all changed when Kurt Cobain wrote that song with those four chords and that yell he does. Everyone went nuts. Including me. Kids everywhere connected with the raw, powerful sound and, as many people don’t give credit, Dave Grohl was also responsible for the massive improvement in Nirvana’s sound on their second album.

Little did we know at the time that Grohl would go on to become one of the greatest musicians of our generation.

First it was called Alternative and there were many bands that fit into this category. It was underground music, but with hooks, lyrics, accessible vocals and good production. Everyone looked at Seattle.

Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, even Green River — people bought whatever they could get their hands on. There was also a short lived punk revival.

At the same time, a massive shift in hip hop music began as a new type of rap called gangsta rap was becoming very popular. Suddenly everyone wanted to say they were from Compton so they would look hard. The movie Boyz N Tha Hood captures the 1991-ish feeling in LA perfectly.

After those explosions, there were several years of copycats. Stone Temple Pilots were huge rip-offs at first, but became pretty sweet in their second album.

Then electronic music started becoming more popular. It invaded all aspects of music, as did the rave culture. Even David Bowie had a mostly electronic album if that tells you anything.

In the late 90s, blending different types of music was a common thing to try and it was becoming difficult to fit bands into genres. Because of this new genres were being created almost as quickly as the albums were coming out.

There was a small British invasion in the 90s also, led by Oasis, Radiohead and Blur. Suddenly, after being shunned for most of the 80s as “music my mom and dad listen to”, The Beatles were cool to like again.

We apologize for the pop charts below. We realize that we will have to add other charts to give a more accurate picture of what music in the 90s was actually like. But yeah, the crap listed below was on the radio a lot.

So were really long Pink Floyd solos on the “Classic Rock” station.

Songs in 1990

What were the most popular songs in 1990?

Dec. 23, 1989 – Jan. 19
Jan. 20 – Feb. 9
Febr. 10 – Mar. 2
Marc. 3 – Mar. 23
Mar. 24 – Apr. 6
Apr. 7 – Apr. 13
Apr. 14 – Apr. 20
Apr. 21 – May 18
May 19 – June 8
June 9 – June 15
June 16 – June 29
June 30 – July 21
July 21 – Aug. 3
Aug. 4 – Aug. 31
Sept. 1 – Sept. 7
Sept. 8 – Sept. 14
Sept. 15 – Sept. 29
Sept. 29 – Oct. 5
Oct. 6 – Oct. 12
Oct. 13 – Oct. 19
Oct. 20 – Oct. 26
Oct. 27 – Nov. 2
Nov. 3 – Nov. 9
Nov. 10 – Nov. 30
Dece. 1 – Dec. 7
Dec. 8 – Jan. 4, 1991
Another Day In Paradise
How Am I Supposed To Live Without You
Opposites Attract
Black Velvet
Love Will Lead You Back
I’ll Be Your Everything
Nothing Compares 2 U
Hold On
It Must Have Been Love
Step by Step
She Ain’t Worth It
Vision of Love
If Wishes Came True
Blaze of Glory
Release Me
(I Can’t Live Without Your) Love & Affection
Close to You
Praying for Time
I Don’t Have the Heart
Black Cat
Ice Ice Baby
Love Takes Time
I’m Your Baby Tonight
Because I Love You (The Postman Song)
Phil Collins
Michael Bolton
Paula Abdul with The Wild Pair
Janet Jackson
Alannah Myles
Taylor Dayne
Tommy Page
Sinead O’Connor
Wilson Phillips
New Kids on the Block
Glenn Medeiros feat. Bobby Brown
Mariah Carey
Sweet Sensation
Bon Jovi
Wilson Phillips
Maxi Priest
George Michael
James Ingram
Janet Jackson
Vanilla Ice
Mariah Carey
Whitney Houston
Stevie B

#1 Songs in 1991

What were the most popular songs in 1991?

Dec. 8, 1990 – Jan. 4
Jan. 5 – Jan. 18
Jan. 19 Jan. 25
Jan. 26 – Feb. 8
Feb. 9 – Feb. 22
Feb. 23 – Mar. 8
Mar. 9 – Mar. 22
Mar. 23 – Mar. 29
Mar. 30 – Apr. 12
Apr. 13 – Apr. 19
Apr. 20 – Apr. 26
Apr. 27 – May 10
May 11 – May 17
May 18 – May 24
May 25 – June 7
June 8 – June 14
June 15 – July 19
July 20 – July 26
July 27 – Sept. 13
Septe. 14 – Sept. 20
Sept. 21 – Oct. 4
Oct. 5 – Oct. 11
Oct. 12 – Nov. 1
Nov. 2 – Nov. 8
Nov. 9 – Nov. 22
Nov. 23 – Nov. 29
Nov. 30 – Dec. 6
Dec. 7 – Jan. 24, 1992
Because I Love You (The Postman Song)
Justify My Love
Love Will Never Do (Without You)
The First Time
Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)
All the Man That I Need
One More Try
Coming out of the Dark
I’ve Been Thinking About You
You’re in Love
Baby Baby
I Like the Way (The Kissing Game)
I Don’t Wanna Cry
More Than Words
Rush, Rush
(Everything I Do) I Do It for You
The Promise of a New Day
I Adore Mi Amor
Good Vibrations
When a Man Loves a Woman
Set Adrift on Memory Bliss
Black Or White
Stevie B
Janet Jackson
C&C Music Factory
Whitney Houston
Mariah Carey
Timmy T.
Gloria Estefan
Wilson Phillips
Amy Grant
Mariah Carey
Paula Abdul
Bryan Adams
Paula Abdul
Color Me Badd
Marky Mark & the Funky Bunch
Mariah Carey
Karyn White
Prince & the New Power Generation
Michael Bolton
PM Dawn
Michael Jackson

#1 Songs in 1992

What were the most popular songs in 1992?

Dec. 7, 1991- Jan. 24
Jan. 25 – Jan. 31
Feb. 1 – Feb. 7
Feb. 8 – Feb. 28
Feb. 29 – Mar. 20
Mar. 21 – Apr. 24
April 25 – June 19
June 20 -July 3
July 4 – Aug. 7
Aug. 8 – Aug. 14
Aug. 15 – Nov. 13
Nov. 14 – Nov. 28
Nov. 29 – Mar. 5, 1993
Black Or White
All 4 Love
Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me
I’m Too Sexy
To Be With You
Save the Best For Last
I’ll Be There
Baby Got Back
This Used To Be My Playground
End of the Road
How Do You Talk To An Angelb
I Will Always Love You
Michael Jackson
Color Me Badd
George Michael/Elton John
Right Said Fred
Mr. Big
Vanessa Williams
Kris Kross
Mariah Carey
Sir Mix-A-Lot
Boyz II Men
The Heights
Whitney Houston

#1 Songs in 1993

What were the most popular songs in 1993?

Nov. 29, 1992 – Mar. 5
Mar. 6 – Mar. 12
Mar. 13 – Apr. 30
May 1 – May 14
May 15 – July 9
July 10 – July 23
July 24 – Sept. 11
Sept. 11 – Nov. 5
Nov. 6 – Dece. 10
Dec. 11 – Dec. 24
Dec. 25 – Jan. 21, 1994
I Will Always Love You
A Whole New World (Aladdin’s Theme)
Freak Me
That’s The Way Love Goes
I Can’t Help Falling In Love
I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)
Whitney Houston
Peabo Bryson & Regina Belle
Janet Jackson
SWV (Sisters With Voices)
Mariah Carey
Meat Loaf
Janet Jackson
Mariah Carey

#1 Songs in 1994

What were the most popular songs in 1994?

Dec. 25, 1993 – Jan. 21
Jan. 22 – Feb. 11
Feb. 12 – Mar. 11
Mar. 12 – Apr. 8
Apr. 9 – May. 6
May 7 – May 20
May 21 – Aug. 5
Aug. 6 – Aug. 26
Aug. 27 – Dec. 2
Dec. 3 – Dec. 16
Dec. 17 – Dec. 30
Dec. 31 – Jan. 27, 1995
All For Love
Power of Love
The Sign
Bump N’ Grind
The Sign
I Swear
Stay (I Missed You)
I’ll Make Love To You
On Bended Knee
Here Comes the Hotstepper
On Bended Knee
Mariah Carey
Bryan Adams/Rod Stewart/Sting
Celine Dion
Ace of Base
R. Kelly
Ace of Base
Lisa Loeb & Nine Stories
Boyz II Men
Boyz II Men
Ini Kamoze
Boyz II Men

#1 Songs in 1995

What were the most popular songs in 1995?

Dec. 3, 1994 – Jan. 27
Jan. 28 – Feb. 24
Feb. 25 – Apr. 14
Apr. 15 – June 2
June 3 – July 7
July 8 – Aug. 25
Aug. 26 – Sept.. 1
Sept. 2 – Sept. 8
Sept. 9 – Sept. 29
Sept. 30 – Nov. 24
Nov. 25 – Dec. 1
Dec. 2 – Mar. 22, 1996
On Bended Knee
Take A Bow
This Is How We Do It
Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman
Kiss From A Rose
You Are Not Alone
Gangsta’s Paradise
Exhale (Shoop Shoop)
One Sweet Day
Boyz II Men
Montell Jordan
Bryan Adams
Michael Jackson
Mariah Carey
Whitney Houston
Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men

#1 Songs in 1996

What were the most popular songs in 1996?

Dec. 2, 1995 – Mar. 22
Mar. 23 – May 3
May 4 – May 17
May 18 – July 12
July 13 – July 26
July 27 – Aug. 2
Aug. 3 – Nov. 9
Nov. 9 – Dec. 6
Dec. 7 – Feb.21, 1997
One Sweet Day
Because You Loved Me
Always Be My Baby
Tha Crossroads
How Do U Want It
You’re Makin’ Me High
Macarena (bayside boys remix)
No Diggity
Un-Break My Heart
Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men
Celine Dion
Mariah Carey
Bone Thugs N Harmony
2Pac feat. K-Ci and JoJo
Toni Braxton
Los Del Rio
Blackstreet feat. Dr. Dre
Toni Braxton

#1 Songs in 1997

What were the most popular songs in 1997?

Dec. 7, 1996 – Feb. 21
Feb. 22 – May 21
March 22 – May 2
May 3 – May 23
May 24 – June 13
June 14 – Aug. 30
Aug. 30 – Sept. 12
Sept. 13 – Oct. 3
Oct. 4 – Oct. 10
Oct. 11 – Jan. 16, 1998
Un-Break My Heart
Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down
I’ll Be Missing You
Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems
4 Seasons of Loneliness
Candle In The Wind 1997
Toni Braxton
Spice Girls
Puff Daddy and Ma$e
The Notorious B.I.G.
Puff Daddy/Faith Evans/112
The Notorious B.I.G. feat. Puff Daddy / Mase
Mariah Carey
Boyz II Men
Elton John

#1 Songs in 1998

What were the most popular songs in 1998?

Oct. 11 – Jan. 16, 1998
Jan. 17 – Jan. 30
Jan. 31 – Feb. 13
Feb. 14 – Feb. 27
Feb. 28 – Mar. 13
Mar. 14 – Apr. 3
Apr. 4 – Apr. 24
Apr. 25 – May 29
May 30 – June 5
June 6 – Sept. 4
Sept. 5 – Oct. 2
Oct. 3 – Nov. 6
Nov. 7 – Nov. 13
Nov. 14 – Nov. 27
Nov. 28- Dec. 4
Dec. 5 – Jan. 15
Candle In The Wind 1997
Truly Madly Deeply
Together Again
Nice & Slow
My Heart Will Go On
Gettin’ Jiggy Wit’ It
All My Life
Too Close
My All
The Boy Is Mine
I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing
The First Night
One Week
Doo Wop (That Thing)
I’m Your Angel
Elton John
Savage Garden
Janet Jackson
Celine Dion
Will Smith
K-ci and JoJo
Mariah Carey
Brandy & Monica
Barenaked Ladies
Lauryn Hill
R. Kelly & Celine Dion

#1 Songs in 1999

What were the most popular songs in 1999?

Dec. 5, 1998 – Jan. 15
Jan. 16 – Jan. 29
Jan. 30 – Feb. 7
Feb. 13 – Mar. 12
Mar. 13 – Apr. 9
Apr. 10 – May 7
May 8 – June 4
June 5 – July 16
July 17 – July 23
July 24 – July 30
July 31 – Sept. 3
Sept.4 – Sept. 17
Sept. 18 – Oct. 8
Oct. 9 – Oct. 22
Oct. 23 – Jan. 14, 2000
I’m Your Angel
Have You Ever
…Baby One More Time
Angel Of Mine
No Scrubs
Livin’ La Vida Loca
If You Had My Love
Bills, Bills, Bills
Wild Wild West
Genie In A Bottle
R. Kelly & Celine Dion
Britney Spears
Ricky Martin
Jennifer Lopez
Destiny’s Child
Will Smith feat. Dru Hill / Kool Moe Dee
Christina Aguilera
Enrique Iglesias
Mariah Carey featuring Jay-Z
Santana feat. Rob Thomas

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