The 90’s was a fantastic decade full of neon colored apparel, roller blading as a legitimate recreational activity, and pants so baggy they were practically ankle accessories. Bill “Slick Willy” Clinton ran America for most of the decade, supermodels like Cindy Crawford told us what soda to drink, and 95 million Americans put their workday on pause to watch a judge tell former NFL star O.J. Simpson that he was a free man. But the best thing about the 90’s was the music. I’m not talking about Nirvana or Tupac — I’m talking about the awesomely terrible pop music you heard on repeat that got stuck in your head for days at a time during the final decade of the 20th century.
Some of the artists who created these musical masterpieces have survived the test of time. Singers like Britney Spears and Mariah Carey had huge success in the 90’s and were able to continue that success in later decades, hysterical mental breakdowns aside. Some artists who got their start with a group in the 90’s, like Beyoncé and Justin Timberlake, went on to have wildly successful solo careers and are considered some of the biggest names in music today.
However, there are many other 90’s artists who weren’t so lucky. Some even seemed destined for greatness, but slowly faded into the background over time and have hardly been seen or heard from since. Whether by choice or because we decided they just couldn’t hack it, these 90’s pop stars have all disappeared from Hollywood, one way or another.
15. Chris Kirkpatrick – Bye Bye Bye
While Justin may have skyrocketed to fame shortly after N*SYNC split, the other members of the popular 90’s / early 2000’s boy band were not quite so fortunate, none more so than Chris Kirkpatrick. His white boy dreads and gigantic goggles may have been weirdly hot at the time, but they didn’t do much for his career. Since leaving N*SYNC, Chris has dabbled in a number of ventures including a clothing line, cartoon voice over work, and appearing on VH1’s Mission Man Band, a show that follows established artists as they form new bands. The group he started on the show, Nigels 11, released an EP in 2010 and did some touring, but they haven’t been active since 2013.
14. Mandy Moore – A Walk To Nowhere
At only 15 years old, Mandy Moore was one of the youngest late 90’s pop stars to come on the scene in the same sexy, teeny-bopper category as Britney Spears, Jessica Simpson, and Christina Aguilera. Mandy had a lot of success with her first few albums and eventually transitioned to acting as well, winning an MTV movie award for her role in the film adaptation of Nicholas Sparks‘ tearjerker A Walk to Remember.
Mandy hasn’t exactly disappeared from Hollywood altogether but she hasn’t released an album since 2009 and her acting career has dwindled to voicing animated characters in kids’ movies and a role in the now-cancelled Amazon series Red Band Society. These days the only time she seems to appear in headlines is when a tabloid is gossiping about her and soon to be ex-husband, musician Ryan Adams.
Mandy has said she’s been working on new music for the past few years and that 2016 will be her musical “re-emergence.” Hopefully her music comeback will be better received than her last few acting roles.
13. Emma Bunton – Lack Of Spice
While none of the Spice Girls went on to have real Hollywood longevity with their solo careers, Emma Bunton is probably the most elusive of the 90’s British girl group. After the Spice Girls split, Emma released a few solo albums that did well in the U.K. but didn’t achieve much mainstream success. Other than the Spice Girls reunion shows in 2007 and 2008, and the Olympics closing ceremonies in 2012, Emma hasn’t really seen the limelight since her Spice Girls fame.
12. Fiona Apple – Failed Comeback
Fiona Apple was hugely popular but also hugely controversial in the mid-90’s. Her song “Criminal” reached number 21 on the pop charts, but at the same time she was speaking publicly about being raped at age 12. She appeared in the video for “Criminal” wearing only her underwear, yet openly criticized the music industry for the damaging influence they have on young people.
Fiona’s 2012 comeback album of sorts, The Idler Wheel, was received well by critics but ultimately failed to keep her relevant in Hollywood.
11. Hanson – MmmBop-ed Out Of Hollywood
If you grew up in the 90’s you know all the words to Hanson’s infamous 1997 hit single “MmmBop,” but not many people know where the blonde trio of brothers ended up after. Unbeknownst to many, Hanson has released five studio albums since 2000 as well as a string of live recordings and EP’s. They continue to tour internationally where only their most devoted fans (now late 20s to early 40s fangirls with their pissed off husbands in tow) attend the shows and scream until they lose their voice.
Suffice it to say, Hanson effectively disappeared from the mainstream music industry after the 90’s, but in addition to doing an immense amount of charity work for HIV/AIDS in Africa, they continue to write, record, and perform their music, which is pretty admirable.
10. Sinéad O’Connor – 15 Minutes Of Fame
Irish singer-songwriter Sinéad O’Connor‘s 1990 single “Nothing Compares 2 U” (written by Prince) shot to number 1 on the charts and earned her international fame. But Sinéad’s outspoken personality and struggles with mental health (she revealed to Oprah in 2007 that she has bipolar disorder) ultimately forced her to step away from music for a while.
While she did release several albums after the height of her career, none have seen mainstream success. Very recently, in November 2015, Sinéad posted a possible suicide note on her Facebook saying she was unwell and had taken an overdose. Thankfully she was found safe and was able to receive medical help, although she says she has no plans to ever return to music.
9. Seal – Where’s Heidi When You Need Her
We all remember Seal’s 1994 adult contemporary love ballad “Kiss From a Rose,” as it was quite the musical masterpiece and earned him two Grammys. But sadly, Seal’s stardom was fairly short lived. He’s released seven studio albums since Seal in 1994, but none have compared to the original hit. Seal has managed to stay in the spotlight over the years, not for his music but because of his marriage to supermodel Heidi Klum. The couple divorced in 2012.
8. Chumbawamba – “Tubthumping” Into Oblivion
Another one hit wonder of the decade, most of us 90’s kids can sing every lyric of “Tubthumping” by Chumbawamba, but haven’t heard a thing about the band since. The anarchist pop band from Leeds, England was an unlikely success story to begin with, particularly because they had spent much of their career fighting the establishment. Although the band continued to release albums into the 2000’s, “Tubthumping” turned out to be their one and only mainstream success. The band officially split in 2012 after 30 years performing together.
7. Kriss Kross – One Hit Mediocrity
The Atlanta rap duo, Chris Kelly and Chris Smith, made wearing clothes backwards look cool. They were only 13 years old when their song “Jump” became the first rap single to top the Billboard Hot 100 for eight weeks. The Chrises released three studio albums in total but ultimately called it quits in 1996. Sadly, Chris Kelly passed away from a drug overdose at his Atlanta home in 2013.
6. Aqua – Barbie Has Seen Better Days
The best and most annoying song ever award goes to Danish-Norwegian electro-pop group Aqua. They brought Barbie and Ken to life in their 1997 hit single “Barbie Girl,” which also earned their record label MCA a lawsuit from Barbie’s maker Mattel. After a five-year battle, the case made it all the way to the Supreme Court who ruled in MCA’s favor. Several of the Aqua members attempted solo music careers afterwards, which ultimately flopped (hard). The group reunited a few years ago and released their third studio album in 2011, featuring the single “Playmate to Jesus.” Neither the single, nor the album, made the charts in the U.S.
5. Coolio – Gangster Without A Paradise
With his goofy, spiky dreadlocks and gritty voice, Coolio made a name for himself in the West-Coast rap scene, as well as commercially, with the 1995 single “Gangster’s Paradise.” He was also popular with younger audiences, appearing on Nickelodeon shows like Kenan and Kel. Subsequent albums disappointed and after several run-ins with the law, Coolio’s music career was ultimately over.
4. Ace of Base – No Base For Success
Swedish pop band Ace of Base took over our radios in 1993. Their album The Sign sold over 9 million copies in the U.S. alone and was nine times certified platinum. Today, band member Ulf Ekberg spends his time developing tech companies in Stockholm, helping music and tech work together. He doesn’t know if the band will ever reunite, but he knows if they do it will not include former lead singer Malin Berggren, as she always found fame very difficult to deal with. The band even promised they would never ask her to return for a reunion.
3. New Kids On The Block – From Concerts To Cruise Ships
NKOTB were the ultimate teen heartthrobs of the late 80’s and early 90’s, enjoying over a decade of album successes, sold-out tours, and a merchandise empire that included exact replicas of each boy band member as a plastic doll. The group split in 1995 and we didn’t hear anything of the group for 13 years. But in 2008, NKOTB reunited to begin recording and touring again. They continue to perform today and most recently started a NKOTB cruise that allows die-hard fans to sail on a ship with the band for four days from New Orleans to Cozumel, Mexico.
2. Savage Garden – “Truly Madly Deeply” Irrelevant
“Truly Madly Deeply” was the anthem of 90’s teen romance. Aussie band Savage Garden always knew how to write lyrics that could speak right to your soul. Twenty years after they topped the charts, former lead singer Darren Hayes says that the band’s split wasn’t his decision, but he’s come to terms with it after all this time. Darren now resides in L.A. where he studies improv comedy and says he has no intention of putting out another album.
1. Sir Mix-A-Lot – Sir Mixes No More
Known primarily for his fierce tribute to women with large, round butts, Sir Mix-A-Lot transitioned from rap to some pop success with “Baby Got Back.” He stirred up quite the controversy with the song’s raunchy lyrics, but ultimately this was his only popular song. Sir Mix-A-Lot has had a number of small projects since his 90’s success, but has primarily stayed under the radar. He briefly made headlines once again in 2014 when Nicki Minaj sampled “Baby Got Back” in her song and video “Anaconda.”