Best-selling bands of the '90s, then and now
Music in the 1990s spanned a stunning variety of tastes. The decade included chart-topping hits from R&B heavyweights Boyz II Men and En Vogue, grunge rock bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam, and pop legends such as the Backstreet Boys and Spice Girls. A lot has changed in the last several decades, both culturally and musically, which inspired Stacker to mine Billboard chart data and look at the career arcs of 25 of the best-selling bands from the '90s—including what made them so successful and where their band members are today.
Like the music itself, the careers of the bands Stacker chose varied. For some, like rock legends U2 and Aerosmith, the '90s were just another decade making chart-topping music; for others, like SWV and the Spice Girls, the decade represented full career arcs. Many bands on the list have been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Several artists from these groups—from Nirvana's Dave Grohl to Hootie & the Blowfish's Darius Rucker—went on to form other successful bands, lucrative solo careers, or both. And some acts broke up, either due to infighting, drug addiction, or death. Each band is split into two slides: The first looks at some of that group’s notable accomplishments in the '90s, and the other explores bandmates' musical paths since the turn of the century.
Keep reading to see who made the charts as one of the best-selling bands of the '90s, then and now.
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Irish band U2 shifted gears in 1991 with the electronica-infused “Achtung Baby.” The album reached the top spot on the Billboard 200 (spending 101 weeks on the charts altogether), and earned a Grammy nomination for Best Album in 1992. “Zooropa” built on that success, winning a Grammy in 1993 for Best Alternative Album. U2's final album of the decade, “Pop,” in 1997 garnered a nomination for Best Album.
U2 hasn’t slowed since its heyday. The band became the first to hit #1 on the Billboard 200 eight times following the release of 2017’s “Songs of Experience.” U2's members have also stayed politically and socially active throughout their careers.
Backstreet Boys: Then
The Backstreet Boys enjoyed some success in Europe after forming in 1993, but bandmates hit it big in the states with their self-titled 1997 album. Featuring hit singles “Quit Playing Games (With my Heart),” and “As Long as You Love Me,” the LP reached #4 on the Billboard 200 and notched more than 18 million sales to date. The group's follow-up album, “Millenium,” was the best-selling album of 1999.
Backstreet Boys: Now
The Backstreet Boys kicked off the 2000s with another #1 album, “Black and Blue,” which sold 1.6 million copies in its first week alone. The group toured with New Kids on the Block in 2011 and sold out tickets in 50 cities, and enjoyed a successful two-year Las Vegas residency in 2017 and 2018 that brought in more than $23 million in ticket sales. The group reached #1 on the Billboard 200 again in 2019 with the album “DNA.”
Spice Girls: Then
The British girl group, formed during an open casting audition, made it big in 1996 with the smash hit “Wannabe,” which shot to #1 on the Hot 100 in early 1997. The Spice Girls had two more hits reach the top five on the charts in 1997: “2 Become 1,” and “Say You’ll Be There.” The quintet’s follow-up album, “Spiceworld,” reached #3 on the Billboard 200; and the accompanying movie “Spice World” made more than $10 million on opening weekend—the highest ever for a Super Bowl weekend debut despite being considered among the worst movies of all time.
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Spice Girls: Now
Geri Halliwell (Ginger) left the Spice Girls in 1998 in the middle of the “Spiceworld” world tour, with the remaining members touring until disbanding in 2000. Victoria Adams (Posh) married English soccer superstar David Beckham in 1999, and went on to create a fashion empire. The Spice Girls have reunited in various forms since, most recently touring in 2019 without Beckham (Posh), who cited wanting to spend time with her family.
Boston-formed Aerosmith already had two decades making music together when the band hit its stride in the '90s, with 12 songs hitting the Billboard Hot 100. “Janie’s Got a Gun” started Aerosmith’s decade in February 1990 by peaking at #4; the band earned its only #1 hit in 1998 with “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” from the film “Armageddon.” Aerosmith earned its two #1 albums in the '90s, too: 1993’s “Get a Grip” and 1997's “Nine Lives.”
The quartet of Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, Tom Hamilton, and Joey Kramer were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2001, while Tyler and Perry joined the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2013. Aerosmith has scored a top-five album on the Billboard 200 in every decade since the ‘70s, with “Just Push Play” hitting #2 in 2001 and “Music From Another Dimension!” reaching #5 in 2012.
Hootie & the Blowfish: Then
Hootie & the Blowfish debuted with “Cracked Rear View,” an album that reached #1 in 1995 and stayed on the charts for 129 weeks. Three singles—“Hold My Hand,” “Only Wanna Be With You,” and “Let Her Cry”—reached the top 10 and helped the album become the ninth best-selling of all time. The group’s 1996 follow up, “Fairweather Johnson,” also hit #1. Hootie & the Blowfish closed the decade with “Musical Chairs” reaching #4 in 1998.
Hootie & the Blowfish: Now
The group released four albums in the early 2000s to modest reception before amicably disbanding in 2008. Lead singer Darius Rucker went on to a highly successful country music career, recording five top-10 albums and winning a Grammy for Best Solo Performance in 2013 for “Wagon Wheel.” “Hootie & The Blowfish” reunited in 2019 to play a 44-city tour and record the album “Imperfect Circle,” which reached #26 on the Billboard 200.
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