The Greatest Musical Artists of the '90s

Over 65.1K Ranker voters have come together to rank this list of The Greatest Musical Artists of the '90s
Voting Rules
Best musical acts who were active in the 1990s

An incredibly eclectic decade for music, the 1990s saw the rise in popularity of new genres and sounds never heard before (and rarely heard better). Bands of the '90s created a unique sound and catchy lyrics in a way that captured the enthusiasm and disillusionment of the era. The '90s bands and solo artists that populate this list cover all musical categories. If you're still feeling nostalgic, check out the best fictional '90s songs and the greatest one hit wonders of the '90s

From the East Coast/West Coast rap wars, to the grunge era, to low-fi garage rock, to '90s rock bands, the Lilith Fair sound, and the teen pop takeover - 1990s music was rich with experimentation and style. Where else but in the MTV in your head can you find top artists like Nirvana, Wu-Tang Clan, No Doubt, A Tribe Called Quest, Oasis, Bikini Kill and Britney Spears in one place? Whether you were a fan of 90s alternative bands like Blind Melon, you were more dark and brooding and loved grunge music, or you couldn't get enough of popular, mainstream pop names like the Backstreet Boys, take a moment now and give some of your favorite '90s music artists some love! Who are the most famous '90s bands? Which '90s singers led their groups to become the among best of the decade?

Vote up your favorite '90s artists below, and be sure to vote based on the quality of their music rather than just their fame or social following.


Most divisive: U2
Ranked by
  • Nirvana
    Nevermind, In Utero, MTV Unplugged in New York
    26,298 votes

    See: The Best Nirvana Songs\

    Pioneering the grunge movement with raw emotion and heavy guitar distortion, this iconic trio from Seattle pushed alternative rock into mainstream consciousness. Fronted by the enigmatic Kurt Cobain, their angsty lyrics and melancholic melodies resonated with a disenchanted generation, leaving an indelible mark on pop culture. Their groundbreaking sound not only redefined the music landscape but also inspired countless bands to follow in their footsteps.

    Nirvana were an American rock band formed in Aberdeen, Washington, in 1987. Founded by lead singer and guitarist Kurt Cobain and bassist Krist Novoselic, the band went through a succession of drummers, most notably Chad Channing, before recruiting Dave Grohl in 1990. Nirvana's success popularized alternative rock, and they were often referenced as the figurehead band of Generation X. Nirvana are one of the best-selling bands of all time, having sold more than 75 million records worldwide. During their three years as a mainstream act, Nirvana received an American Music Award, Brit Award and Grammy Award, as well as seven MTV Video Music Awards and two NME Awards. They achieved five number-one hits on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart and four number-one albums on the Billboard 200. In 2004, Rolling Stone named Nirvana among the 100 greatest artists of all time. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility in 2014.
  • Soundgarden
    Superunknown, Badmotorfinger, Down on the Upside
    16,517 votes

    See: The Best Soundgarden Songs

    This powerhouse quartet hailing from Seattle played an integral role in shaping the grunge scene, blending heavy metal riffs with psychedelic undertones. Boasting a wide vocal range and powerful stage presence, frontman Chris Cornell's emotive delivery captivated audiences worldwide. With innovative songwriting and dynamic performances, they cemented their status as one of the most influential rock bands of the era.

    Soundgarden were an American rock band formed in Seattle, Washington, in 1984 by singer and drummer Chris Cornell, lead guitarist Kim Thayil (both of whom are the only members to appear in every incarnation of the band), and bassist Hiro Yamamoto; Cornell switched to rhythm guitar in 1985, replaced on drums initially by Scott Sundquist, and later by Matt Cameron in 1986. Yamamoto left in 1990 and was replaced initially by Jason Everman and shortly thereafter by Ben Shepherd. The band dissolved in 1997 and re-formed in 2010. Following Cornell's death in 2017 and a year of uncertainty regarding the band's future, Thayil declared in October 2018 that Soundgarden had disbanded once again, though they did reunite in January 2019 for a one-off concert in tribute to Cornell. The band helped to popularize grunge music, a style of alternative rock that developed in the American Pacific Northwest in the mid-1980s, alongside such Seattle contemporaries as Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, and Nirvana.
  • Alice in Chains
    Dirt, Alice in Chains, Facelift
    17,372 votes

    See: The Best Alice in Chains Songs

    By merging hauntingly dark lyrics with sludgy guitar riffs, this Seattle-based group created a distinctive sound that set them apart from their grunge contemporaries. Led by the chilling harmonies of vocalist Layne Staley and guitarist Jerry Cantrell, their introspective themes struck a chord with fans looking for more depth in hard rock music. Their unique style left a lasting impression on future generations of musicians exploring alternative genres.

    Alice in Chains are an American rock band from Seattle, Washington, formed in 1987 by guitarist and vocalist Jerry Cantrell and drummer Sean Kinney, who later recruited bassist Mike Starr and lead vocalist Layne Staley. Starr was replaced by Mike Inez in 1993. William DuVall joined the band in 2006 as co-lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist, replacing Staley, who had died in 2002. The band took their name from Staley's previous group, the glam metal band Alice N' Chains. Often associated with grunge music, Alice in Chains' sound incorporates heavy metal elements. Alice in Chains are known for their distinctive vocal style, which often included the harmonized vocals between Staley and Cantrell (and later Cantrell and DuVall). Cantrell started to sing lead vocals on the 1992 acoustic EP Sap, and his role continued to grow in the following albums, making Alice in Chains a two-vocal band. Alice in Chains have sold over 30 million records worldwide and over 14 million records in the US alone.
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers
    Californication, Blood Sugar Sex Magik, Stadium Arcadium
    21,671 votes

    See: The Best Red Hot Chili Peppers Songs

    Fusing funk-infused basslines with punk-rock energy, this Los Angeles quartet crafted a signature sound that defied genre boundaries. Known for their electrifying live shows and charismatic frontman Anthony Kiedis, they became a staple of alternative radio stations throughout the decade. Their eclectic mix of styles garnered widespread acclaim and influenced numerous bands seeking to break free from traditional rock norms.

  • Pearl Jam
    Ten, Vs., Vitalogy
    21,846 votes

    See: The Best Pearl Jam Song

    Emerging from the ashes of Mother Love Bone, this Seattle quintet quickly rose to prominence as key players in the grunge movement. Led by Eddie Vedder's impassioned vocals and introspective lyrics, their anthemic sound resonated with fans seeking authenticity in the music scene. Their unwavering commitment to artistic integrity and social activism earned them a devoted fanbase that continues to thrive today.

    Pearl Jam are an American rock band formed in Seattle, Washington, in 1990. The band's lineup consists of founding members Jeff Ament (bass guitar), Stone Gossard (rhythm guitar), Mike McCready (lead guitar), and Eddie Vedder (lead vocals, guitar), as well as Matt Cameron (drums), who joined in 1998. Keyboardist Boom Gaspar has also been a touring/session member with the band since 2002. Drummers Jack Irons, Dave Krusen, Matt Chamberlain, and Dave Abbruzzese are former members of the band. Pearl Jam outsold many of their contemporaries from the early 1990s, and are considered one of the most influential bands of the decade, being dubbed as "the most popular American rock & roll band of the '90s". Pearl Jam sold more than 85 million albums worldwide by 2018, including nearly 32 million albums in the United States by 2012, making them one of the best-selling bands of all time. Pearl Jam were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2017 in their first year of eligibility.
  • Foo Fighters
    Wasting Light, The Colour and the Shape, Foo Fighters
    17,155 votes

    See: The Best Foo Fighters Songs

    Formed by former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl, this post-grunge outfit quickly established themselves as a formidable force in the rock world. With catchy hooks, soaring melodies, and a relentless work ethic, they became one of the most successful bands of the decade. Their versatile sound and enduring popularity have solidified their status as modern rock icons.

    Foo Fighters are an American rock band formed in Seattle, Washington, in 1994. The band was founded by former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl as a one-man project following the dissolution of Nirvana after the suicide of Kurt Cobain. The group took its name from foo fighter, a nickname coined by Allied aircraft pilots for UFOs and other aerial phenomena. Over the course of their career, Foo Fighters have won 12 Grammy Awards, including Best Rock Album four times. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2021, their first year of eligibility. Prior to the release of Foo Fighters' 1995 debut album Foo Fighters, which featured Grohl as the only official member, Grohl recruited bassist Nate Mendel and drummer William Goldsmith, both formerly of Sunny Day Real Estate, as well as Nirvana touring guitarist Pat Smear. The band began with performances in Portland, Oregon. Goldsmith quit during the recording of their second album The Colour and the Shape (1997).