1991 – The Greatest Year in Music?

Is 1991 the greatest year in music?  Who knows.  I do know it is one of the most influential years in music.  I know it was the death of 80’s rock and the start of a new style of music called Grunge.  There were so many great albums that came out in that year, some that changed the landscape of music and some that were mostly ignored but were great just the same.

I have asked this question a couple other times…one for 1983 and one for 1987.  I think both years were exceptional and now that I have picked 1991 as another year, I am noticing a pattern of great years coming every 4 years.  I am definitely going to explore to look into that possible trend more.  For now, I will keep focusing on the year that was…1991.

Grunge/Alternative Music

We will start off with the introduction of the new genre of music called Grunge.  This subgenre of alternative music actually started in the mid-80’s mostly around the great city of Seattle. It was 1991 that saw this music go mainstream.  This music killed off the Hair Bands of the 80’s and the music I grew up with and loved.  What were those influential albums that changed the music landscape?  Easy…

71ScD5gRleL._SX425_NIRVANA – Nevermind:  On September 24th, 1991, Nirvana release their second album and change music forever.  With one song and one video, “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, Nirvana singlehandedly put an end to the late 80’s rock sound.  You know it is popular when Weird Al Yankovic goes on to parody one of its songs.  The album would go on to sale well over 30 million copies and Kurt Cobain would be come the songwriter of a generation.  Sadly, less than 3 years later, Kurt would take his own life.  Dave Grohl, the drummer, would go on and form the Foo Fighters and have great success with his own band, but now as a lead singer.

81eaKFGNhSL._SX425_Pearl Jam – Ten: Another successful band during the year in the Grunge movement was Pearl Jam.  They released their debut album, Ten, on August 27, 1991.  The album would be certified platinum over 13x and has been listed in many people’s and magazine’s list as one of the greatest rock albums of all time.  It was one of their most successful albums still and gave us such hits as “Alive”, “Even Flow” and “Jeremy”.

71rRNAnVW6L._SX425_Soundgarden – Badmotorfinger:  On September 24th, the same day as Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’, Soundgarden release their third album, the great ‘Badmotorfinger’.  The album has gone multiplatinum and gave us such great songs as “Jesus Christ Pose”, “Rusty Cage” and “Outshined”.  Soundgarden was the heaviest of these bands and the late Chris Cornell probably had the best voice of all the singers.  He was amazing.  Chris took his life just this past year on May 18th, 2017.

Other Important Releases

71z4zm5yohL._SX425_Metallica – Metallica (or The Black Album):  One of the greatest Metal albums of all time was released on August 12, 1991.  Metallica were already the king of thrash metal, but this album took them to a whole different level.  They had become mainstream.  The album has sold well over 16 million copies in the U.S. alone.  One of my favorite songs, “Enter Sandman” was off this album and even kids today are discovering this song and loving it.  The album also brought us “The Unforgiven”, “Nothing Else Matters” and “Wherever I May Roam”.

61nNewMb74L._AC_US218_Michael Jackson – Dangerous:  Michael Jackson released ‘Dangerous’ on November 26th, 1991. Michael was still the King of Pop so the release of the first single was huge and broadcast on MTV, VH1, BET and Fox.  The video which starred MaCauley Culkin and its ratings were huge.  Over 500 million viewers in over 27 countries.  The album gave us such great songs as “Remember The Time”, “Heal the World”, “In the Closet” and “Jam”.  The album would go on to sale over 32 million copies.

Guns ‘N Roses – Use Your Illusion I & II: On September 17th, 1991, Guns ‘N Roses released two separate albums.  Not a double album, but actually two individual releases called Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illuision II.  Both albums have sold over 5 million copies each and some think are the crown achievement of the band.  It brought us some great songs including “November Rain”, “Don’t Cry”, “You Could Be Mine”, “Civil War” and some great covers of “Live and Let Die” and “Knockin’ On Heavens Door”.

220px-GnR--UseYourIllusion1 220px-GunsnRosesUseYourIllusionII

Achtung_BabyU2 – Achtung Baby: On November 18th, 1991, U2 bring a new musical direction with ‘Achtung Baby’.  The band almost broke up while recording this album as the struggled with musical direction.  They pulled it together and gave us a completely different sound that both shocked and awed us.  With such great songs as “One”, “Mysterious Ways” and my personal favorite “Who’s Going To Ride Your Wild Horses”, it is one of their finest releases selling well over 10 million copies worldwide.

TempleOfTheDogTemple of the Dog – Temple of the Dog:  The album was a tribute to Mother Love Bone’s lead singer Andrew Wood, who died of a heroin overdose.  It was released on April 16th, 1991 and brought together various artists from both Soundgarden & Pearl Jam.  We have Jeff Ament, Chris Cornell, Mike McCready, Stone Gossard and Matt Cameron.  The biggest hit off the album was the classic “Hunger Strike”.  The band recently got back together and performed before Chris took his own life.

220px-RHCP-BSSMRed Hot Chili Peppers – Blood, Sugar, Sex, Magic:  On September 24th, 1991, The Red Hot Chili Peppers were about to break it huge.  Their popularity was already growing with their last release “Mother’s Milk”, but it was Blood, Sugar, Sex Magic that catapulted them to the superstars they were to become.  Hits like “Give It Away”, “Under the Bridge”, “Breaking the Girl” and “Suck My Kiss” made alternative music king for the 90’s.  They helped bring it mainstream.


There were several artist and bands that had their debut during 1991 that went on to some great success thoughout the 90’s and beyond.  The album might not have done anything for some, but their impact was felt shortly their after.

2pacalypse_now2Pac – 2Pacalypse Now:  November 21st, 1991, the rap world was introduced to what would become one of the most influential rap artists of his generation.  2Pac was very controversial as his songs were thought to promote violence against the police.  His commentary on social issues stirred people up and sometimes that is what is needed.  Good or bad, he made a massive impact in the Rap world and even beyond.  He would be gunned down and killed just five years later and ended a very promising career.

220px-LiveMentalJewelryLive – Mental Jewelry:  Before the end of the year, Live released their debut album ‘Mental Jewelry’ on December 31st.  So they really had no impact on 1991, but their popularity would rise throughout the decade and become one of my favorite bands from the 90’s. This album gave us some great songs such as “Operation Spirit” and “The Beauty of Grey”, but it was the albums ‘Throwing Copper’ and ‘Secret Samadhi’ that made them stars.

220px-SmashingPumpkins-GishSmashing Pumpkins – Gish:  On May 28th, 1991, Smashing Pumpkins came on to the scene with their debut ‘Gish’.  The album would go on to be certified platinum and gave us some classic songs such as “Siva”, “Rhinoceros” and “I Am One”.  Billy Corgan and crew would help legitimize alternative music and show that being different is good.  These new rock stars looked nothing like the rock stars I grew up with.  These new rock stars were kind of nerdy and very different.  They were not the larger than life figures that came before them.

BrandNewManBrooks & Dunn – Brand New Man:  Country music saw the introduction to what would become one of the greatest Country duos of all time.  Brooks & Dunn released their debut on August 13, 1991.  The album would produce 4 #1 hits including “Brand New Man” and “Boot Scootin’ Boogie”.  They started out with a bang selling over 6 million copies and they never slowed down.  At least not until they retired as a duo back in 2009.

220px-Alanis1991coverAlanis Morissette – Alanis:  Okay, this album did absolutely nothing here in the States as this album was only released in Canada.  No one had ever heard of this Canadian pop artist.  That would soon change in 1995 when Alanis completely revamped her style and turned into an angry young woman and released ‘Jagged Little Pill’.  But on April 6th, 1991, ‘Alanis’ was released and no one knew what angst was to come.

Boyziimencooleyhighharmony1Boys II Men – Cooleyhighharmony:  On February 14, 1991, Boys II Men exploded on to the scene with the major cross-over hit album ‘Cooleyhighharmony’.  The album would race up both the R&B charts as well as the pop charts and go on to sell over 10 million copies.  Hits like “Motownphilly” and “End of the Road” and the harmonies they could produced were unmatched at the time.  And who would have thought that in 2017, the group would wind up on a TV commercial singing about side effects of a medicine causing gas problems (I don’t think that is a step up).

220px-Seal_-_Seal_(1991_first_album)_CD_album_coverSeal – Seal: On June 7, 1991, one of my favorite albums of the year was released.  Seal brought us his debut album simply titled Seal.  The future ex-Mr. Heidi Klum soulfully brought us such great songs as “Killer”, “Future Love Paradise” and “Crazy”.  I remember getting this on CD and playing it to death.  There was something about that voice that was special.  The album would sell over 2 million copies worldwide and he would go on to have quite a fantastic career, thankfully!

220px-Harem_Scarem_-_Harem_Scarem_-_FrontHarem Scarem – Harem Scarem:  On August 6, 1991, the Canadian rock band would debut an album that was virtually unheard of here in the States.  In fact, it was an 80’s melodic rock sounding band that was completely overshadowed by the alternative/grunge music of the time.  Actually, I wouldn’t discover them until sometime in the 2000’s.  So, why are they on my list?  Because they were awesome and should have been bigger than they were.  They have gone on to do 15 studio album and numerous live albums and should not be overlooked.

Hip-Hop / Rap

Hip-Hop was also huge in 1991 with some of the greatest artist releasing albums.  Not only do you have 2Pac you have the following:

220px-Ice-T-O.G._Original_Gangster_(album_cover_with_matt)  Ice-T – O.G. (Original Gangster) – May 14th

220px-NWA-Efil  NWA – Niggaz4Life – May 28th

220px-Boyz_n_the_hood_poster  Boyz in the Hood Soundtrack – July 9th

220px-NaughtyByNaturealbum  Naughty by Nature – Naughty By Nature – September 3rd

PublicEnemyApocalypse91  Public Enemy – Apocalypse 911..The Enemy Strikes Back – October 1st

Ice_Cube-Death_Certificate_(album_cover)  Ice Cube – Death Certificate – October 29th

220px-ATribeCalledQuestTheLowEndtheory  A Tribe Called Quest – The Low End Theory – September 24th

220px-Peaceful_Journey  Heavy D & the Boyz – Peaceful Journey – July 2nd

220px-Music_for_the_People  Marky Mark & the Funky Bunch – Music for the People – July 23rd (not really an argument for greatest year, but had to include)

Other notable albums (at least to me):

There were also so many other albums that were released that were huge hits or special to me in some way and should be used in the argument of greatest year ever.  Here they are in order of release…

220px-Fly-Me-Courageous  Drivin N Cryin – Fly Me Courageous – January 8th

Thesoulcages  Sting – Soul Cages – January 22nd

220px-DivinylsAlbumcover  Divinyls – Divinyls – January 29th

220px-ALAE_cover  David Lee Roth – A Little Ain’t Enough – January 1991

220px-Queen_Innuendo  Queen – Innuendo – February 5th

220px-R.E.M._-_Out_of_Time  R.E.M. – Out of Time – March 12th

220px-Mr._Big_-_Lean_Into_It  Mr. Big – Lean Into It – March 26th

220px-Lenny_Kravitz-Mama_Said_(album_cover)  Lenny Kravitz – Mama Said – April 2nd

Huey_Lewis_&_the_News_-_Hard_at_Play  Huey Lewis & the News – Hard at Play – May 7th

220px-Dontrockthejukebox  Alan Jackson – Don’t Rock the Jukebox – May 14th

220px-PaulaAbdulSpellbound  Paula Abdul – Spellbound – May 14th

Skidrow-slavecover  Skid Row – Slave to the Grind – June 11th

220px-Van_Halen_-_For_Unlawful_Carnal_Knowledge  Van Halen – For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge – June 18th

Attack_of_the_Killer_B's_(Anthrax_album)_coverart  Anthrax – Attack of the Killer B’s – June 25th

Luck_Of_The_Draw_(Official_Album_Cover)_by_Bonnie_Raitt  Bonnie Raitt – Luck of the Draw – June 25th

220px-Acstoo  Alice Cooper – Hey Stoopid – July 2nd

220px-Tom_Petty_ITGWO  Tom Petty – Into the Great Wide Open – July 2nd

220px-Rush_roll_the_bones  Rush – Roll the Bones – September 3rd


Tesla_Psychoticsupper  Tesla – Psychotic Supper – September 10th

220px-Garth_Brooks-Ropin'_the_Wind_(album_cover)  Garth Brooks – Ropin’ the Wind – September 10th

Emotions_Mariah_Carey  Mariah Carey – Emotions – September 17th

220px-Ozzy_Osbourne_-_No_More_Tears  Ozzy Osbourne – No More Tears – September 17th

220px-Europe-prisoners_in_paradise  Europe – Prisoners in Paradise – September 24th

220px-Bryan_Adams_WUTN  Bryan Adams – Waking up the Neighbors – September 24th

Prince_Diamonds  Prince & NPG – Diamonds and Pearls – October 1st


220px-Whenever_We_Wanted  John Mellencamp – Whenever We Wanted – October 8th

Girlfriendmatthewsweet  Matthew Sweet – Girlfriend – October 22nd

220px-Marxrush  Richard Marx – Rush Street – October 28th

220px-SRVtheskyiscrying  Stevie Ray Vaughn – The Sky is Crying – November 6th

Genesis_-_We_Can't_Dance  Genesis – We Can’t Dance – November 11th

There you have the albums I think help make an argument for Greatest Year in Music.  Is it better than 1983 or 1987, I don’t know.  It is just a matter of opinion.  If it is not the Greatest, it is one of the most influential years in music.  That I think is a true statement.

As I mentioned earlier, there seems to be a trend with great music years every 4 years.  Since I have now looked at 1983, 1987 and 1991.  Next I need to explore 1979 and 1995 and see if that trend continues.  What do you think?


58 thoughts on “1991 – The Greatest Year in Music?

    1. I don’t really think it is the greatest year, that is why i have the ? at the end. I think there are definitely arguments to be made for or against. It definitely was a pivot year though. I don’t know of another year that came along and a new style of music so quickly killed off another genre (at least on the radio).

      Liked by 1 person

  1. There is no doubt that 1991.has been the great year for music. It is interesting pattern with every four years repeating the same, but in my opinion, there is a whole bunch of great albums coming out every year, whether debut or not.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. That Mellancamp record is a album I love as he found the volume knob on his amp and smashed the fiddle to smithereens!
    This was a great researched post John….
    1991 was indeed a music changeover thats for sure in respect to genres changing …
    The death knell was when CC unplugged his guitar on that live performance on the MTV video awards…
    Poison singlehandely ushered out that type of poodle metal and in came Cobain and his ripped up Cardigan!
    Seattle Musical Tsunami…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It was a hell of a year and for me personally it’s probably my favourite year for music, because both Blood Sugar Sex Magik and Ten I’d put in my top 5 albums of all time, and I also absolutely love Nevermind, Badmotorfinger and Temple of the Dog. The Black Album wasn’t half bad either. Great and interesting article!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great year in music, but you could take virtually any year from 1969-1979 and blow this one away. The grunge onslaught killed worthy albums. Me personally, I could happily live in a world where Nevermind didn’t exist. Or Ten. But don’t touch my Led Zeppelin, Sabbath, Purple, Beatles…

    Liked by 2 people

  5. ’91 was a good year, for sure. Definitely ushered in the style that would dominate for nearly the entire decade. For my money, Badmotorfinger was the best album of that year, and possibly of the entire ’90’s. I remember thinking how brilliant it was, and how much of Zeppelin vibe there was in the variety of songs. Soundgarden is still in heavy rotation for me.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. May I suggest 1980 get a closer look?

    AC/DC – Back In Black
    Ozzy – Blizzard of Ozz (solo debut)
    British Steel – Judas Priest
    Permanent Waves – Rush
    Ace of Spades – Motorhead
    Woman and Children First – Van Halen
    China Town – Thin Lizzy
    Iron Maiden – (debut)
    Heaven and Hell – Sabbath
    The Game – Queen
    Duke – Genesis
    Glass Houses – Billy joel
    Wild Planet – B 52s
    Emotional Rescue – The Rolling Stones
    Joan Jett – (solo debut)
    On Through the Night – Def Leppard (debut)
    Loverboy – (debut)
    Both McCartney and Lennon released solo ablums…. many, many more….

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I think you’re on to something with that every 4 year sequence, as 1995 (and rewinding to 1971 for that matter) would be right near the top of my list.
    September 24/91 is surely one of the biggest release dates of all time in any event!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I have a fair few of the albums mentioned here! I think 95 is the first in a 3 year run – 96 and 97 also being great (in my opinion). Anyhoo, I’m looking forward to seeing the results of your 4 year theory.


  9. 1991 was indeed a great year for music. If someone pointed a gun at my head and asked me the question “Nirvana’s Nevermind or Pearl Jam’s Ten?” I’d have to go with Ten everytime.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. 1991 was a decent year for music, but nowhere near the best. It is the beginning of music going downhill because of the overrated Grunge movement and the overrated band (Nirvana).

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for an engaging article series (would like to see one for 1975 – Physical Graffiti, A Night at the Opera, Kiss Alive). 1991 was definitely a seismic year, a massive change of the guard and the endgame for rock which had been the art form du jour since the time of The Beatles. I hope you don’t mind me sharing my thoughts courtesy of a link, which I think you would find interesting.
        View at Medium.com

        Liked by 1 person

          1. I mean for the time, yes they were groundbreaking. I guess I can say the same about the Beatles. I don’t find them amazing, but what they were doing at the time was different, if that makes sense.

            Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s