Shortage of Big Music Artists in Late 1990's?

It seems that in the 1980’s there were plenty of music artists who made the “A-List” of artists who were so popular, they were larger than life, and the “B-List” of artists who put out consistent hits, but may not have been quite as popular.

The list seems shorter in the 1990’s and early 2000’s, but the list seems very short in the late 1990’s. The 1980’s list is pretty strong for the whole decade.

If you look at the 1990’s list, it seems that most of those folks hit it big by 1995, then kinda fizzled out, and there’s not much going on from 1996 to 1999. For example, I think the only A-Listers in the late 1990’s are Alanis Morissette and perhaps No Doubt.

Am I right in that assessment? If so, why would that be?


A-LIST (Hit the stratosphere at some point)

Michael Jackson
Duran Duran
Van Halen
Bruce Springsteen
George Michael
Bon Jovi
Guns 'n Roses

B-LIST (Had fairly consistent hits)

Thompson Twins
Phil Collins
Huey Lewis & The News
John Cougar-Mellencamp
Billy Idol
Billy Joel
Tina Turner
Hall & Oates
Tears for Fears
Lionel Richie
Peter Gabriel
New Kids on the Block
Paula Abdul
Talking Heads
Elton John
Men at Work
Pat Benatar



Pearl Jam
Red Hot Chili Peppers
No Doubt
Alanis Morissette
Lenny Kravitz


Green Day
Mariah Carey
Matchbox 20
Backstreet Boys
Alice in Chains
En Vogue
Michael Jackson
Janet Jackson
Sheryl Crow
Hootie & The Blowfish
Boyz II Men
Natalie Merchant
Smashing Pumpkins
Shania Twain
Spice Girls



Dixie Chicks
Britney Spears


Gwen Stefani
Christina Aguilera
Jennifer Lopez
Dave Matthews Band

Your lack of knowledge and inability to formulate a list does not connote a trend.

The OP is my observation based upon an admitted lack of knowledge. I don’t pay that close attention to music, but it just seems that nobody was really making big waves in the late 1990’s except maybe Alanis.

You see, people here who lack knowledge tend to ask questions and hope to gain knowledge from those who may have more knowledge.

I thought the whole point of SDMB was to fight ignorance, not just dump on threads.

Man, that list isn’t even close. For example, your 2000’s list left off Eminem, Green Day, and the White Stripes. It’s also interesting that you would put Shania Twain on the ‘B’ list for the 1990’s, given that she sold 31 million cd’s from just two releases. Alanis Morissette sold 16 million copies of “Jagged Little Pill”. You don’t even have Garth Brooks on your 1990’s list at all, and he sold over 30 million CDs in the 1990’s.

Other big releases in the 1990’s:

Hootie and the Blowfish - Cracked Rear View - 16 million units
Santana, Superstitious - 15 million units
Metallica - Metallica - 14 million units
Backstreet Boys - 14 million units
Kenny G. - Breathless - 12 million units
Boyz 2 Men - II - 12 milllion units
Matchbox 20 - Yourself or Someone Like You - 12 million units
TLC - CrazySexyCool - 11 million units
Celine Dion - Falling Into You - 11 million units
Kid Rock - Devil Without a Cause - 11 million units

Then there’s Creed, Hammer,

That’s some good info there. Thanks.

Where do you find those sales figures?

Perhaps I just wasn’t paying attention in the 90’s, but it didn’t seem like those artists ever got the same hype as Madonna and the like in the 1980’s. I think it may be that I was a teen in the 1980’s and paid a lot more attention to this kind of stuff.

Although it doesn’t give the years of release, this site gives total unit sales.

Earlier this year, I started a thread that covered the same subject. It’s interesting that I’m not the only one who’s noticed this trend.

Radiohead has never had a huge smash album, but I think you could say they are or were pretty big. Stone Temple Pilots were either A-List or high B-List for a while.

Yeah. That’s kida what I’m getting at with this thread. The big stars since 1995 just don’t seem to be as big as the big stars of the 80’s. There just seemed to be more musicians that were HUGE in the 80’s that hung around for a good chunk of the decade.

Yes, Hootie & the Blowfish sold a lot, but was the public ever really as intrigued with them as they were with Duran Duran in 1985 or INXS in 1988? I don’t recall STP ever getting the same level of public reaction as Bon Jovi.

Pearl Jam, Van Halen, Madonna, and the other “A-Listers” each had a HUGE media buzz going on… Kenny G, Matchbox 20, Celine Dion, not so much, despite great album sales.

The 80’s artists just seemed larger than life, the public wanted to know all about them, they were media darlings to the point of being almost worshipped, it seemed.

Maybe I’m not really talking about album sales so much as I am about star power.

Look at the artists who formed the original Band-Aid and We Are the World. For the most part, they were a bunch of icons. Try one of those collaborations today, and you may get a few big names plus a bunch of stragglers. The most recent Band-Aid stunk to high heaven and nobody gave a shit.

Maybe we treat celebrities differently now than we did 20 years ago. Maybe it’s some kind of cultural shift. Maybe it’s a corporate thing. Maybe the same kind of stuff is going on today, but I’m just seeing differently now that I’m 20 years older. Maybe I’m just plain wrong.

Part of it has to do with the decline of top 40 radio and the dominance of hip hop.

Back in the 80’s, it wouldn’t have been rare to see someone who has Born in The USA, Like A Virgin, Invisible Touch, Thriller, and Bon Jovi in their music collection. All songs were from the different formats were played together on the radio.

However, when MC Hammer hit with U Can’t Touch This, radio began to splinter. Rap music was something most people either loved or hated, hated, hated.

Many of the big artists of the late 90s were hip hop artists who were only played on hip hop stations. It would be very easy to avoid them. However, they sold millions of albums.

Other stations switched to the Mix format. A somewhat bland presentation of corporate type music designed to offend no one.

Where’s ABBA?