The ’90s was one of the most revered decades of pop music. It gave birth to some of the most stellar and eclectic songs we still listen to today and catapulted a new wave of male artists to fame. Here’s a list of some of the most successful and influential pop male stars of the nineties who enjoyed massive success, bringing in a fresher sense in the music industry.
#1 Luther Vandross
Possessing a flawless, elastic tenor voice, Luther Vandross emerged to be one of the most successful male artists in the ’90s. Not only did he sell smash-singles like ‘Evergreen,’ ‘Love The One You’re With,’ and ‘Don’t Want To Be A Fool,’ but he also defined his music by writing most of his records, and producing his songs. Vandross was known for his distinct singing style, captivating, and melting hearts of millions through his romantic music. His influence and impact in the decade were unparalleled, leading to his monumental success.
Usher was known to have one of the best voices in the nineties and lyrical prowess, ranging from club songs to emotional confessionals. His career blossomed in the late nineties through his smash album ‘My Way.’ It brought his first Hot 100 number-one single ‘Nice And Slow,’ and became the R&B anthem at that time. Other hits under his sleeves are ‘U Got It Bad’ and ‘U Remind Me,’ which help his records sell millions of copies worldwide.
Babyface or Kenneth Brian Edmonds was an inevitable force in every aspect of pop music in the nineties. He was renowned for composing and producing records for other big stars in the decade, such as Mariah Carey, Madonna, Eric Clapton, and Boyz II Men. Babyface, himself, was also as successful as an artist, notching numerous hits, including 16 top ten records. He provided a flawless, sensitive, urban crooner vibe, which him a staple in the radios. Sure enough, no one can match the versatility Babyface exuded in the decade.
#4 Rod Stewart
Starting his career in the ’70s, Rod Stewart’s prominence in the music industry shined until the ’90s. He was one of the finest singers of the decade, writing songs and turning them into instant contemporary standards. Sure enough, Stewart was an interpretative artist that created incredible combinations of pop, folk, blues and country records, and forged his artistic value in the decade.
#5 Eric Clapton
Eric Clapton is a rock guitar legend and acclaimed singer-songwriter known for his collaborations with numerous artists and classical bands. His career started in the ’70s and continued to flourish until the ’90s. In 1992, he released the multi million seller album ‘Unplugged,’ which included smash hits like his acoustic cover of ‘Layla’ and the emotional and haunting ‘Tears in Heaven.’ The album helped cement his reputation as a guitarist and artist in the nineties.
Beginning his career as a backup rapper, it didn’t seem that 2PAC was set to become one of the most iconic rappers in the nineties. However, in 1991, his first album ‘2Pacalypse Now’ stormed through the airwaves and earned critical attention. He was influential not only due to his incredible singles but also for the political and social insights he integrated with his music.
#7 George Michael
Thanks to his undeniably catchy pop smash hits, George Michael soared into international stardom in the ’80s. He got the looks, a beautiful voice, and the wit to blend dance melodies and rhythms. With all that, Michael quickly became a teen sensation. However, in the ’90s, he switched to a more mature, sober, and refined style, to showcase his music more than his image.
#8 Snoop Dogg
In the ’80s, hip-hop was starting to be a force in both commercially and culturally. However, the following decade saw it blossomed, giving artists like Snoop Dogg a kick to stardom. Cordozar Calvin Broadus, Jr, in real-life, hit the airwaves in the ’90s with his laid-back, mellow style. He became an instant figure of gangsta rap and a symbol of hip-hop culture through his debut album ‘Doggystyle.’ While his music and lyrics were undoubtedly controversial, it never hindered him from being one of the staple male artists of the decade.
#9 Montell Jordan
Equipped with charm, savvy and talent, Montell Jordan made himself known through the song ‘This Is How We Do It.’ The new jack-swing single topped both the R&B charts and Hot 100 for several weeks. His commanding presence in the ’90s was undeniable, allowing him to release several albums, smash hits, and sell millions of records worldwide.
#10 Michael Bolton
Michael Bolton is another male singer that debuted in the ’70s, but whose popularity and brilliance continued stride in the ’90s. He was renowned for his soulful music, soaring ballads, and airbrushed productions. Bolton dominated the airwaves, getting a series of number one radio hits that also reached the high ranks in the Hot 100. Some of his iconic songs in the decade are ‘Soul of My Soul,’ ‘Once in A Lifetime,’ and ‘Lean On Me.’
#11 Elton John
While he may already have an impressive career, Elton John reached greater heights in the ’90s. This time around, his music was more orchestral and emotional, as heard on his ’90s singles ‘Believe’ and ‘Made In Heaven.’ However, what highlighted Elton John’s career in the decade is when he wrote music for the animated film ‘The Lion King,’ such as ‘Hakuna Matata,’ ‘Circle Of Life,’ and the iconic ‘Can You Feel The Love Tonight?’
#12 Jay Z
Jay Z is an American rapper and entrepreneur that personified his rags-to-riches dream. Debuting in the late ’90s through his hit albums’ Reasonable Doubt’ and ‘In My Lifetime Vol. 1’, he became one of the most prominent, most prosperous and successful male artists in this era. His unparalleled lyrical prowess, industry wit, and immense dedication became his key, and he continued to notch several hits and smash albums even years after.
Bursting out from England’s music scene, Seal quickly became the most renowned British soul singer of the decade. While his first works resembled an acid house, he established himself in the mid-90s centering on a unique blend of soul, pop, folk, dance, and rock. He enjoyed massive success through his hits, ‘Crazy,’ ‘Love’s Divine’ and ‘Kiss From a Rose.’
#14 Brian McKnight
With his effortless expressiveness and smooth persona, Brian McKnight defined pure soulful music in the nineties. He was a singer, songwriter, producer, and arranger, who spent his prominent years centering on pop and R&B. Known to be a multi-instrumentalist, Mcknight’s voice was supported by his incredible talent in playing the guitar, piano, and trumpet. From ‘One Last Cry’ in 1992 to “6, 8, 12,” in 1999, McKnight’s silky style and velvety style captured the heart and soul of millions.
Most people would say that Prince’s musical prime was in the ’90s. However, it was the nineties where he experienced a period of rejuvenation, and his works were still as superior. In 1991, he released the album’ Diamond And Pearls’ which brought several number-one hits, such as ‘Cream’ and ‘Thunder.’ The following year, his stardom continued to soar notching hit after hit through another record ‘Love Symbol Album.’ His biggest score in the decade happened in 1994 when he spawned his second most successful single ‘The Most Beautiful Girl In The World” and topped different charts worldwide.
16 Billy Joel
With a career already spanning almost two decades, Billy Joel remained a significant force in pop music in the nineties, receiving his Grammy Legend Award at the start of the decade. In 1993, he released his pop-rock album ‘River of Dreams,’ which the song of the same name debuted #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart and stayed unabated for weeks. The American singer-songwriter continued to do concerts and a series of shows. And, in 1999, he solidified his status in the pop industry with the worldwide sales of his records passing the 100 million mark.
#17 Ricky Martin
From being the lead singer of the all-boy pop group ‘Menudo,’ Ricky Martin soared into stardom in the late ’90s through his ecstatic Latin-dance rock hits’ Livin’ La Vida Loca’ and ‘She Bangs.” He was blessed with charming looks and a beautiful voice, which helped him become one of the biggest teen idols during the era and star in a few films and soap operas. What’s certain is that Martin started the explosion of Latin pop in American music, and he remained as one of the most prominent male figures by the end of the nineties.
#18 P. Diddy
Puff Diddy, (P. Diddy, or just Diddy) was one of the most prosperous impresarios in the world of hip-hop in the ’90s. The American rapper, actor, entrepreneur, and producer has given the various groups, and solo performers hit after hit through Bad Boy Entertainment while also notching smash records for himself. In 1997, his debut song ‘Can’t Hold Me Down’ earned the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for almost two months and spent another five months on the list. It was followed by another certified hit “ll Be Missing You,” which helped his first album reach multi-platinum status.
#19 R. Kelly
There’s no question that R. Kelly is the leader of the ’90s R&B. The American singer, songwriter, and producer commanded both pop and R&B through his smooth love tracks, melodic hymns, and highly-sexualized records. Kelly was a versatile artist, allowing him to be a crossover icon and the epitome of R&B. With smash hits such as ‘Bump n’ Grind’ in 1994, ‘I Believe I Can Fly’ in 1996, and ‘I’m Your Angel’ in 1998, Kelly toppled all other ’90s male artists by having the most number of songs that reached the Top 40 Billboard singles charts.
#20 Michael Jackson
Nothing beats a legend, right? Michael Jackson, whose global stardom skyrocketed in the ’80s, continued his prominence in the ’90s. While his singles may not have surpassed ‘Thriller,’ his hits in the nineties were still iconic, such as the inspirational ‘Heal The World,’ the groovy ‘Dangerous’ and the catchy ‘Black Or White.’ Today, Jackson remains one of the greatest performers and most influential figures of the 20th century.
These are only a few of the most significant male pop stars that shaped the ’90s music through their distinct style, lyrical prowess, and persona. Who’s your favorite artist of them all?