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 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.
Michael Jackson earned 13 Grammy Awards, including the Grammy Legend Award and Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. He received 6 Brit Awards, 5 Billboard Music Awards, and 24 American Music Awards.
He holds an impressive 20 Guinness World Records. On top of that, he was recognized as the world’s most successful entertainer in 2006 by the Guinness World Records organization.
Jackson was also a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, being inducted twice (in 1997 as a member of The Jackson 5 and in 2001 as a solo artist). He was also inducted into the National Museum of Dance and Hall of Fame, making him the first and only recording artist to receive this honor.
#2 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.
Luther Vandross won several awards for his exceptional songs that truly made him one of the best pop male stars of the 90s.
- Grammy Awards: Luther Vandross won a total of eight Grammy Awards. Popular wins include Best Male R&B Vocal Performance for “Here and Now” (1990), “Power of Love/Love Power” (1991) and “Your Secret Love” (1997).
- American Music Awards: Vandross also earned several American Music Awards during his career. He won Favorite Soul/R&B Male Artist and Favorite Soul/R&B Album for “Power of Love” (1992) and “Dance with My Father” (2003).
NAACP Image Awards: Vandross received multiple NAACP Image Awards for his contributions to the music industry.
Usher was known to have one of the best albums in the nineties and lyrical prowess, ranging from club songs to emotional confessionals. His career boomed 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.
If there’s one 90’s singer who has racked up tons of awards, it would be usher.
- Grammy Awards: Usher has won several Grammy Awards throughout his career. In 2002, he won his first Grammy for “U Remind Me” in the category of Best Male R&B Vocal Performance. Moreover, Usher’s single “Yeah!” featuring Lil Jon and Ludacris, released in 2004, also won the Grammy Award for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration.
- Billboard Music Awards: The Billboard Music Awards also recognized Usher’s chart-topping success. In 2004, “Yeah!” earned him the Hot 100 Sales Single of the Year. On top of that, his acclaimed album “Confessions” brought home two Billboard Music Awards, including Male Artist of the Year in 2004 and Album of the Year in 2005.
World Music Awards: Usher also received World’s Best Selling R&B Male Artist in 2005 and 2008.
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 popular R&B bands as well as 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 made him a staple in the radios. Sure enough, no one can match the versatility Babyface exuded in the decade.
Among the notable achievements of Babyface, the following standout.
- Grammy Awards: Babyface is a 12-time Grammy Award winner. In 1990, Babyface won the Grammy Award for Best R&B Song for “It’s No Crime”. In 1991, he received the Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group.
- American Music Awards: Babyface has been recognized at the American Music Awards as well. In 1997, he won the AMA for Favorite Soul/R&B Male Artist.
Billboard Music Awards: Babyface has also earned several Billboard Music Awards, including the Special Hot 100 Award of the Year in 1997.
#5 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. “Maggie May” (1971), “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?” (1978), and “Forever Young” (1988) are some of Rod Stewart’s famous songs.
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.
Stewart also won several awards during his career that highlight him as one of the best pop male stars of the 90s.
- Grammy Awards: Rod Stewart won a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album for his album “Stardust… The Great American Songbook, Volume III” in 2005.
- Brit Awards: Stewart received the Outstanding Contribution to Music Award at the Brit Awards in 1993.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: Rod Stewart was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice: once as a solo artist in 1994 and again as a member of Faces in 2012.
#6 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.
Eric Clapton has also won numerous accolades and awards throughout his career, mainly because of his exceptional guitar skills. The most famous ones include
- Rolling Stone’s List: Clapton ranked 2nd among the Top 100 Guitarists of all Time.
- Grammy Awards: Eric Clapton has won a whopping 18 Grammy Awards. Some of the winning songs include “”My Father’s Eyes” and “Tears in Heaven”.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: Eric Clapton is the only singer who has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame three times: First, as a member of The Yardbirds in 1992, Second, as a member of Cream in 1993, and finally, for his solo career in 2000.
Beginning his career as a backup rapper, it didn’t seem that 2PAC (Real name Tupac Shakur) 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. On top of that, the singer remained controversial and was involved in East Coast–West Coast hip hop rivalry, which ultimately led to his murder too.
The world still listens to 2PAC today, and that’s mainly because of his award-winning songs.
- American Music Awards: In 1997, 2PAC won the American Music Award for Favorite Soul/R&B Album for “All Eyez on Me“.
- Soul Train Music Awards: Tupac received the Soul Train Music Award for Best Rap Album in 1997 for “All Eyez on Me“.
- NAACP Image Awards: In 1997, Tupac received a posthumous nomination for Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture at the NAACP Image Awards for his role in “Gridlock’d“.
Hip-Hop Hall of Fame: In 2002, 2PAC was inducted into the Hip-Hop Hall of Fame as well.
#8 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.
Songs that made him one of the most popular male pop stars of the 90s include “Freedom! ’90,” a soulful anthem of self-expression, and the poignant ballad “Jesus to a Child”.
George Micheal has a huge list of awards, but to sum it down, take a look at the following:
- Micheal won numerous music awards, including two Grammy Awards, three Brit Awards, twelve Billboard Music Awards, and four MTV Video Music Awards.
- Listed among Billboard’s “Greatest Hot 100 Artists of All Time” and Rolling Stone’s “200 Greatest Singers of All Time.”
- The Radio Academy named him the most played artist on British radio during the period 1984–2004.
- Achieved 13 number-one songs on the UK Singles Chart and 10 number-one songs on the US Billboard Hot 100.
#9 Snoop Dogg
In the ’80s, hip-hop was starting to be a force 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 90s.
Snoop Dogg has received several awards throughout his career, and here are a few to name:
- In 1995, Snoop Dogg was honored at the American Music Awards, winning Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Artist.
- In 1994, at the Billboard Music Awards, Snoop Dogg, known as Himself, achieved the title of #1 Male Artist.
- In 2018, Snoop Dogg received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, recognized for his contributions to the music industry.
In 1994, at the Source Awards, Snoop Dogg, was recognized in multiple categories, winning New Artist of the Year (Solo), Lyricist of the Year, and Artist of the Year (Solo).
#10 Michael Bolton
Michael Bolton is another male singer that debuted in the ’70s, but whose popularity and brilliance continued 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”.
Bolton has contributed much to the world of singing, and some of his performances were so moving that the audience felt as if they would start tearing up. Following are a few awards he achieved.
- American Music Awards: Michael Bolton won Favorite Pop/Rock Male Artist in 1991, Favorite Pop/Rock Album for “Time, Love & Tenderness” in 1992, and Favorite Adult Contemporary Artist as well as Favorite Pop/Rock Male Artist in 1993.
- Grammy Awards: Michael Bolton secured Grammy wins in 1990 for “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You” and in 1992 for “When a Man Loves a Woman,” both earning him the title of Best Male Pop Vocal Performance.
- Bolton has racked up several other awards during the 1990s, including the BMI Awards, and ASCAP Pop Music Awards.
#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?”
Elton John has also received numerous awards giving popularity to the star. He has won “The Best Original Song” under Academy Awards for “Can You Feel the Love Tonight”. Other than that, he got more than 30 nominations at the Grammy Awards and managed to secure 6 of them. John has also won 9 ASCAP Pop Music Awards which showcase the utmost level of perfection this man had to his singing career.
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”.
Seal went big in the 1990s and got several accomplishments in this era.
- Seal won Record of the Year and Song of the Year at the 1996 Grammy Awards for “Kiss from a Rose”.
- He also won British Male Solo Artist and British Album of the Year (Seal) in 1992 at Brit Awards.
- In 1993 and 1996, Seal also won the BMI Pop Awards for his songs “Crazy”, “Kiss from a Rose” and “Prayer for the Dying”.
Most people would say that Prince’s musical prime was in the ’80s. However, it was the nineties where he experienced a period of rejuvenation, and his works were still 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.
Being one of the greatest musicians of all time, Prince was nominated 163 times and won 32 times.
- Prince won Best Original Song Score for “Purple Rain” at the Academy Awards in 1985.
- In the ASCAP Pop Music Awards, Prince won for “”Nothing Compares 2 U”, “Kiss”, “Round and Round”, and “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” for Most Performed Songs category. All of these songs are from the 1990s.
- Other than the above-mentioned awards, Prince has also won several Billboard Music Awards, Brit Awards, and Golden Globe Award.
#14 Billy Joel
With a career already spanning more than 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.
- Produced 33 self-written Top 40 hits in the U.S. during his solo career.
- Three songs (“It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me”, “Tell Her About It” and “We Didn’t Start the Fire”) reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100 charts.
- Nominated for 23 Grammy Awards, winning 6, including Album of the Year for “52nd Street.”
- Inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame (1992), Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1999), and Long Island Music Hall of Fame (2006).
#15 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 90s.
Ricky Martin has been nominated for 526 awards and won a total of 228.
- Billboard Music Awards: Martin won Top New Latin Artist, Male in 1993, Male Artist of the Year and Hot 100 Singles Male Artist of the Year in 1999.
- Billboard Latin Music Awards: In 1999, his album Vuelve was a huge hit and won him Pop Album of the Year, Male and Latin Pop Track of the Year.
Blockbuster Entertainment Awards: Martin was able to secure Favorite Latino Artist and Favorite Pop Male Artist in 1999.
#16 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. Combs has secured three Grammy Awards and two MTV Video Music Awards.
#17 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.
Kelly has been nominated for a total of 274 awards of which he secured 110 to his name.
- Billboard Awards: During the 90s, he won Number One R&B Producer, R&B Artist of the Year and Top R&B Artist as well.
- Billboard End Of Year Chart Awards: Kelly won Top Hot 100 Singles Artist – Male, Top R&B/Hip Artist, and several other awards.
Grammy Awards: For his song, “I believe I can fly”, Kelly was able to secure Best Male R&B Vocal Performance, Best R&B Song, and Best Song Written for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media in 1998.
’90s music highly influenced the pop culture of the era! These male pop stars left an indelible mark with their unique styles and chart-topping hits. From Luther Vandross’s soulful melodies to Michael Jackson’s legendary reign, each artist contributed to the era’s musical richness.
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?