Top 5 Country Artists of the 1990s

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 movers and shakers and closed with contemporary, pop-friendly artists that achieved crossover success and introduced country music to an entirely new audience.

The Rise of Country Music in the 1990s

Country music's explosion can be attributed to the FCC which expanded FM radio in the late '80s, adding many FM signals to suburban and rural areas. With the expansion, country music migrated from AM to FM radio, and easy listening stations in rural areas began adopting the genre.

With country music was available to an audience bigger than ever before, 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 have ultimately kept country music alive and relevant.

New Country Artists of the 1990s

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 honkytonk, 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. 

Female Country Singers of the 1990s

The '90s were also a great time to be a female country artist. Shania Twain's album "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 number one 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 eight number one singles.

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

Garth Brooks

With the release of his second album "No Fences" in 1990, Brooks became a breakout country star during the 90s. That album had four hit singles, including "The Thunder Rolls," and what became his signature song "Friends in Low Places." 

Reba McEntire

Reba began her climb to stardom in the 1980s, and by the 90s she was a household name. Her 1991 album "For My Broken Heart," was a breakthrough success, and was dedicated to the members of her band killed in a plane crash. She had continued success throughout the decade, with albums including "It's Your Call" and "Read My Mind."

Vince Gill

His musical career started when he was the lead singer from the band Pure Prairie League during the 1970s, and Gill launched a successful solo career in the early 1980s. But he saw his biggest commercial successes in the 1990s with albums like "Pocket Full of Gold," "When Love Finds You" and "High Lonesome Sound."

Trisha Yearwood

Her first single in 1991 was the hit song "She's in Love with the Boy." Other songs included "I Would've Loved You Anyway" and "I'll Still Love You More," but it was the 1997 smash hit "How Do I Live" that pushed Yearwood into the mainstream, earning her a Grammy Award. 

Shania Twain

A native of Ontario, Canada, Twain wasn't exactly the typical country singer. She had two mildly successful albums before the 1997 smash "Come on Over" catapulted her into pop country stardom. It produced several hit singles, including "Man I Feel Like a Woman," "That Don't Impress Me Much," and her signature song "Still the One."