Top 25 Greatest Bands From The 90s

By M. W. Byrne Oct 4, 2021

Greatness, in this case, was determined largely by the overall cultural impact of the band’s work.

Tupac Shakur

1

The 90’s was a huge time of growth for the rap and hip-hop music, with many artists making a name for themselves in these genres, breaking into the mainstream.

Nirvana

Probably no single band was nearly as influential as the grunge rock of the murky, angsty, disillusioned Nirvana.

2

Garth Brooks

He managed to make country more fun with his stadium appearances and approachable lyrics, and gave city folks a more relatable kind of pickin’ and grinnin’ than the standard twangy steel guitarist.

3

No Doubt

Led by Gwen Stefani’s musical vision, No Doubt was a quiet riot of strong, catchy lyrics with socially conscious overtones, all fronted by the classy yet aggressive Stefani.

4

Pearl Jam

Crooning at times and then switching over to rampant attacks against social injustice, Pearl Jam is a mix of human interest and derisive condemnation.

5

Snoop Dogg

Snoop didn’t always get high and make commentary on internet videos while he cooks with Martha Stewart. He used to get high and make really incredible music that comes from street level reality.

6

Destiny’s Child

Pop was soft and light in the 90’s, with Destiny’s Child and the incomparable Queen Bee Beyoncé Knowles landing in the latter part of the decade.

7

Radiohead

Hate them for being pretentious or adore their bold vision, Radiohead joined with oddity bands like Pink Floyd and Daft Punk as unique outlooks that are often not fully understood by the dominant culture. 

8

Eminem

Though hardly a force these days, the inflammatory Marshall Mathers was the 90’s all over the place, even when we’d rather forget how obnoxious and intolerant we were back then.

9

Insane Clown Posse

ICP rose in the 90’s, and their particular brand of vicious, downtrodden rap and screaming rock still speaks to those who spend their lives scraping along on the forgotten lower end of society.

10

The Offspring

While others were going the route of depression, The Offspring were reveling in simple licks and a sense of wacky that was infectious, then would blindside with insight.

11

Whitney Houston

Celine Dion falls into this category too, but Houston really broke the mold of true, classy diva. Her vibrato singing is still emulated by every warbly-voiced young girl, and her stage power is inspiring.

12

Tool

Weirdness personified, the enigmatic Tool gets notice as much for their oddball videos as for their industrial rocking and incisive, cerebral decrying of the establishment.

13

Weezer

Largely considered to be the progenitors of Nerd Rock, Weezer is thought by many to be They Might Be Giants for the everyman, but only because they are.

14

Foo Fighters

Though it wouldn’t appear much in the actual 90’s, the rise of smart, thoughtful rock like Foo would become the norm over the next twenty years.

15

Live

Throwing Copper was a cornerstone album, and the spiritual, thoughtful, sometimes explosive band Live was one of the few groups who could make the human condition both so soft and so powerful.

16

REM

Though they came from the 80’s, REM defined the alt-rock segment of the community, leaving many to consider whether they were with or against this reflective rock bastard child.

17

Notorious B.I.G.

Though not as influential as Tupac, Biggie Smalls brought his own sad anthem to the mix, and he did it with a sense of style and swagger that truly made him the king.

18

Sheryl Crow

One of many pejoratively-named “girls with a guitar” that came out of the 90’s, women who were writers, singers, musicians, deadly talents, and stunningly beautiful.

19

Beck

Awkward and odd, Beck was a guy who was playing a rock star who actually became a rock star emulating himself. So strange, only the 90’s could have spawned him.

20

Nine Inch Nails

The angry industrial scene was dying out in the 90’s as the anger of the 80’s gave way to the Weltschmerz of grunge, but NIN was still out there screaming strong.

21

Alanis Morissette

Alanis was one of the first ladies to make a pop/rock crossover that actually worked, and a vanguard who cemented empowerment for women in a new age.

22

Garbage

If you aren’t in love with Shirley Manson, and don’t respect the hard-hitting attitude and pervasive message of Garbage, then you aren’t human. Welcome interstellar traveler!

23

TLC

The R&B, hip-hop trio of Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas brought ghetto existence to life, and gave voice to a community of women largely unheard.

24

Rage Against The Machine

Bob Dylan might have defined a generation with his protest songs about stopping the fall of bombs, but Rage is protest music for the new era.

25