Top 10 Country Artists of the 1990s

The Decade's Best of the Best

Garth Brooks performs at CBS' Teachers Rock Special. Kevin Winter / GettyImages

The 1990s was a defining decade in country music. It's a decade that kicked off with a slew of neotraditional movers and shakers, and closed with contemporary, pop-friendly artists that achieved crossover success and introduced country music to an entirely new audience.

Country music's explosion can be attributed to the FCC. The FCC expanded FM radio in the late '80s, adding countless FM signals to suburban and rural areas.

Up until then, country music could be early mostly on rural AM stations. With the expansion, country music migrated from AM to FM radio, and easy listening stations in rural areas began adopting the genre.

Now country music was available to an audience bigger than ever before, so producers sought to create a more polished, listenable sound that appealed to the masses. Country music had finally made its mark on the mainstream, and artists who weren't afraid to step outside the traditional limits of country helped keep it compelling. The pioneering artists of this decade are ultimately what have kept country music alive and relevant.

The decade had been primed for success after the late '80s debuts of several profound performers, most notably Garth Brooks, who sold millions of albums and set the bar for those who followed. Brooks didn't put limits on his creative ability. Although his sound was rooted in honky tonk, it often included influences of soft rock and arena rock, which made him appeal to even more listeners.

A stream of new artists emerged in the '90s, and while many of these new artists were mere blips on the radar, a handful went on to enjoy enduring, profitable careers. Neotraditional artists Alan Jackson, George Strait and Clint Black pushed the creative boundaries and enjoyed great success. 

The '90s were also a great time to be a female country artist.

The decade produced some of the most legendary female artists of all time. Shania Twain's ​Come on Over became the best-selling album released by a female in any genre. Trisha Yearwood's single, "She's in Love with the Boy," made her the first woman in more than 25 years to reach No. 1 on the Billboard country charts. Other artists, like Reba McEntire, continued their success streak. McEntire became one of the most successful female artists of the decade, selling more than 30 million albums and scoring a whopping eight No. 1 singles.

This list includes the ten artists who made the biggest impact on the 1990s, based on No. 1 records, Top 40 singles, album sales and tours:

  1. Garth Brooks
  2. George Strait
  3. Alan Jackson
  4. Clint Black
  5. Alabama
  6. Reba McEntire
  7. Brooks & Dunn
  8. Vince Gill
  9. Trisha Yearwood
  10. Shania Twain