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1990s Music History

The 1990s was truly the electronic age. The World Wide Web was born in 1992, changing the way we communicate (email), spend our money (online gambling, stores), and do business (e-commerce). In 1989, 15% of American households had a computer.

The 1990s were a decade of many diverse scenes in music, however they are perhaps best known for grunge, teen pop, Euro dance and electronic dance music, and for being the decade that hip hop and alternative rock became mainstream.

U2 were one of the most popular 90s bands, their groundbreaking Zoo TV and Pop Mart tours were the top selling tours of 1992 and 1997. Celine Dion is the biggest female selling artist of all time, becoming the best-selling music artists of all-time, with sales of over 200 million albums.


There were more music choices available than ever, although radio stations tended to find a niche and stick to it rather than playing a mix. Latino music grew in popularity. Country became more mainstream, and Grunge and Gansta appeared. R&B and hip-hop remained popular, as did movie soundtracks.

Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men led the charts with "One Sweet Day." Selena was the top Latin singer until her untimely death in 1995. Other popular artists included Hootie & the Blowfish, Alanis Morisette, Janet Jackson, Garth Brooks, Celine Dion and Madonna. The Spice Girls were a group created by the music industry for their diversity and sex appeal.


Grunge music, and the culture marketed around it, born out of the Pacific Northwest American states of Washington and Oregon, becomes a fad in 1991 with the success of Nirvana and similar groups following. The style would come to be strongly associated with the 1990s by the 2000s.

Parallel to American Grunge, in the UK the uniquely British alternative rock Britpop genre emerged as part of the more general Cool Britannia culture, with Oasis, Blur, The Verve, Super grass, Pulp, Radiohead, Manic Street Preachers, Suede, Elastica, Ride, Shed Seven.

Female pop icons "Spice Girls" manage to break America, taking the world by storm and becoming the most commercially successful British Group since The Beatles.[12][13] Their impact brings about a widespread invasion of teen pop acts around the world[14][15] such as Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, 'N Sync, Backstreet Boys and Hanson who come to prominence into the new millennium.

1994 became a breakthrough year for punk rock in California, with the success of bands like Bad Religion, Blink-182, Green Day, The Offspring, Rancid, and similar groups following.

The 1990s also became the most important decade for ska punk/reggae rock, with the success of many bands like Buck-O-Nine, Gold finger, Less Than Jake, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Murphy's Law, No Doubt, Reel Big Fish, Save Ferris, Sublime and Sugar Ray. Sleepy Hollow wrote about the era in their pop punk hit 90s "Child".

The Rise of industrial music, somewhat a fusion of synthpop and heavy metal, to worldwide popularity with bands like Nine Inch Nails, Ministry and Marilyn Manson. Groove metal was born through the efforts of Pantera whose album, Far Beyond Driven (1994), was the first metal album to go number one on Billboard.

The recording industry faced severe tribulation as CD burners became commonplace. It was easy to make a high quality copy of a CD. Napster, Morpheus and Kazaa offered online file sharisng, in effect offering free downloads of music to anyone wanting to copy it.

The recording industry, seeing falling sales, fought back with lawsuits. In 1993, Gordon Shaw published a study on the Mozart Effect, a correlation between classical music and mathematical aptitude. He discovered that college students and rats improve test scores by as much as 30% after listening to the music.

Article about: Music history of the 1990s

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