The 1990s were a great decade in country music, bringing the genre to a new level with record-breaking album sales and sold out arena tours. Two names that helped? Garth Brooks and Shania Twain. You'll find both on this list of the 10 best country songs of the '90s.
Brooks and Twain were fresh, new superstars that attracted many pop and rock fans to country, while mainstays like George Strait and Reba McEntire continued to deliver one great hit after another. For the most part, flash-in-the-pan artists don't make the decade's top songs list. No, it's '90s mainstays like Alan Jackson and Toby Keith that help round out the best of the best.
The era is in many ways making a comeback, with a new generation raised on that classic sound finding ways to weave those artists into today's music. At the end of this 10 Best Country Songs of the '90s list, you'll find a video that reveals which '90s country artists we think need to make a comeback like now! But we're getting ahead of ourselves. From classic love songs to line dance smashes, we hope you enjoy the tunes that make up our 10 Best Country Songs of the '90s list!
"Should've Been a Cowboy"Toby Keith
"Should've Been a Cowboy" introduced country music fans to Toby Keith. The No. 1 hit from 1993 hinted at the superstar's outlaw style, but stayed true to the greats he followed. Many of those legends make this best '90s songs list.
"Is There Life Out There"Reba McEntire
By 1992, Reba McEntire was 16 years into the country music charts. However, '90s songs like "Fancy," "Why Haven't I Heard From You" and "Is There Life Out There" lifted her to headliner status. "Is There Life Out There" was complemented by a groundbreaking video that showcased McEntire's acting talents, lead to a made-for-TV movie and was one of the elaborate centerpieces of her huge concert productions — not to mention the song inspired many women and single mothers to go back to school.
"I Cross My Heart"George Strait
George Strait saw his star rise a decade earlier, and by the time the '90s rolled in, he was a superstar with one consistent hit after another. In 1992, the movie Pure Country helped bring Strait one of his most popular recordings, "I Cross My Heart." This '90s song was co-written by Steve Dorff — the same man who co-wrote the Kenny Rogers classic "Through the Years," and it was an instant smash. The Country Music Hall of Famer delivered one of the best '90s country songs, and it was — and is — a popular choice for many first dances at weddings.
"Any Man of Mine"Shania Twain
Country music was shaken into a new life by a new sound in 1995, thanks to this lady and her then-husband. Shania Twain and producer Robert John "Mutt" Lange wrote, recorded and produced all of Twain's biggest and best songs with a cutting-edge sound that stood apart from anything else on country radio. "Love Gets Me Every Time," "Honey, I'm Home" and "You're Still the One" dominated country playlists in the 1990s, but it was "Any Man of Mine" that gave Twain her first No. 1 and first gold-selling single.
"Strawberry Wine"Deana Carter
Deana Carter's debut single was her biggest song. "Strawberry Wine" won the CMA for Single of the Year in 1997, but it lives on in every karaoke bar in America. The longing country ballad aches for an old love in a way too many country fans are familiar with.
After having success with No. 1 hits like "Don't Rock the Jukebox" and "I'd Love You All Over Again," Alan Jackson brought his career to the next level with the 1993 smash "Chattahoochee." The gold-selling '90s song set the stage for Jackson to capture the 1995 Entertainer of the Year award and became an instant summer hit as a younger fanbase began blasting country songs like this at graduation and college parties. This Georgia native could have easily had three or four songs on our list of the best '90s country songs, but we wanted to give others a fair shake.
Tracy Lawrence is one of the signature voices of the '90s, and "Alibis" is his biggest hit. A catchy melody paired with the Texan's sturdy country tones made this song one to depend on. It's a classic and one of the best from the decade.
"Wide Open Spaces"Dixie Chicks
The Dixie Chicks brought a new, fresh acoustic sound to country music in the late 1990s. Throughout most of the decade, the banjo and the fiddle had pretty much disappeared from the genre until Emily and Martie Maguire made them cool again. Powered by Natalie Maines, the Dixie Chicks broke through with "I Can Love You Better" and "There's Your Trouble." In 1998, "Wide Open Spaces" took them to a higher place by hitting No. 1 for four weeks and winning the Country Music Association's Single of the Year award. This trio is a sure fit on our 10 Best Country Songs of the '90s list.
"It's Your Love"Tim McGraw and Faith Hill
Tim McGraw and Faith Hill both debuted on the country music charts around 1993. Hill had her first No. 1 in 1993 with "Wild One," then came her later-to-be husband with "Don't Take the Girl" in 1994. As their stars began to rise separately, they began to tour together, which led to a relationship that would eventually become a two decade (and counting!) marriage. In 1996, the year they wed, they teamed up for the smash hit "It's Your Love," a platinum-selling single that was named the CMA's Vocal Event of the Year.
In 1990, Garth Brooks was named the CMA's Horizon award winner as country music's best newcomer. Brooks immediately lived up to the honor with outstanding live performances and hits like 'Friends In Low Places,' 'Unanswered Prayers' and 'The Thunder Rolls.' Thanks to a powerful video, 'The Dance' became one of the most popular songs in his catalog of hits. Filled with compelling lyrics and a timeless tale that applies to those in of all walks of life, the song is an obvious choice to top our list of the best '90s songs. By the way, Brooks claimed the CMA's Entertainer of the Year award in '91, '92, '97 and '98.
'90s Stars Who Need to Come Back Now!