Point: Heck Yes, ’90s Country Was All That!
Scrunchies, overalls and Clueless-style plaid are trendy again. Musical artists of the decade are linking up for tours. Everything from Rosanne to Double Dare has been rebooted. Yeah, baby, the '90s are back!
Pre-Y2K nostalgia is totally in vogue these days, so it's fine if you're feeling cynical and think that a fondness for '90s country is simply part of the fad -- but it ain't no passing craze. Country music and the lifestyle that surrounds it was at its most popular during the decade, without even trying to be popular; it was a cultural movement, and the stars who were part of the country community during those years got shown the money because of it.
Of the 50 best-selling albums of all time, five of them are country albums from the '90s: Garth Brooks' Double Live (No. 8), Shania Twain's Come on Over (No. 11), Brooks' No Fences (No. 17), Brooks' Ropin' the Wind (No. 32) and the Dixie Chicks' Wide Open Spaces (No. 44). Come on Over is also the best-selling country studio album, best-selling studio album by a female artist and best-selling album by a Canadian; even beyond Twain and her immense pop crossover appeal, country women flourished in the '90s.
In the '90s, country stars were Kennedy Center Honors recipients, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees and additions to the Hollywood Walk of Fame. They starred in movies, hosted Saturday Night Live and played for the pope (and with KISS). In 1994, the entire Super Bowl halftime show was devoted to country music: Clint Black, Tanya Tucker, Travis Tritt and the Judds performed "Tuckered Out," "It's a Little Too Late," "T-R-O-U-B-L-E," "No One Else on Earth" and "Love Can Build a Bridge." We're not worthy!
Top 10 Country Artists of the '90s
And then, of course, there was the line-dancing craze, spurred on by Billy Ray Cyrus' "Achy Breaky Heart" (pretty much the country music "Macarena"). Line-dancing became so mainstream that the Gap debuted a commercial during the 1999 Academy Awards that featured rows of khaki-clad dancers shuffling to Dwight Yoakam's honky-tonk cover of "Crazy Little Thing Called Love."
Yup, pretty much everyone was down with country music in the '90s -- but it wasn't as if the genre's stars were desperately wanting mainstream attention. Faith Hill's "This Kiss" and "Breathe" became crossover smashes without any special guests from the pop world. Brooks kept his cowboy chic style even as he played Central Park live on HBO. Even alt-country was having a moment without worrying "Is it rock or is it country?"
Don't worry, we're not buggin': Not everything about '90s country was perfect. During the decade, Nashville still turned out some one-hit wonders, a few songs that could be considered precursors to bro-country and ... well, an awful lot of big hair. It's still all that (and a bag of chips), though.
The Boot and Taste of Country’s collaborative Point / Counterpoint series features staff members from the two sites debating topics of interest within country music. Check back for new installments.
The 10 Best Country Albums of the '90s