Pop music and dance music became popular throughout the 1990s. Popular European pop artists of the 1990s included Seal, M People, 2 Unlimited, and Ace of Base. During the 1990s, some European managers created their own boy band acts, beginning with Nigel Martin-Smith’s Take That and East 17, which competed with Louis Walsh’s Irish bands Westlife and Boyzone. In 1996, the male saturated market was turned on its head by one of the most successful and influential pop acts of the decade, the Spice Girls. The group achieve nine number 1 singles in the UK and US, including “Wannabe”, “2 Become 1” and “Spice Up Your Life”. The group, unlike their British boy band predecessors, manage to break America and achieve the best-selling album of 1997 in the USA. More Girl Groups begin to emerge such as All Saints, who had five number 1 hits in the UK and two multi-platinum albums. By the end of the century the grip of boy bands on the charts was faltering but proved the basis for solo careers like that of Robbie Williams, formerly of Take That, who achieved six number one singles in the UK between 1998 and 2004. Additional popular European teen pop acts of the 1990s included Ace of Base, Aqua and A*Teens.
Ballad songs were popular during this decade, and popular European artists included George Michael, Robert Palmer, Sade, Sinéad O’Connor, The Cranberries, Lisa Stansfield and Roxette. Danish pop/soft rock band Michael Learns to Rock, fronted by singer/songwriter/keyboardist Jascha Richter, were well known for their ballads, particularly in Asia with songs such as “The Actor”, “Sleeping Child”, “That’s Why (You Go Away)”, and “Paint My Love”.
In the summer of 1996, the Spanish music duo Los del Río popularized the dance craze “Macarena” with their summer hit “Macarena”. The song was featured prominently in many other countries during the mid-1990s.
The Dutch Eurodance act 2 Unlimited was one of the most successful electronic music artists of the 1990s. With the explosive growth of computers music technology and consequent reduction in the cost of equipment in the early 1990s, it became possible for a wider number of musicians to produce electronic music.
The English electronic dance music group The Prodigy was one of the most successful electronic music groups of the 1990s. The popularity of house, techno and rave in the early part of the decade lead to the boom of the more commercial Eurodance genre. Popular European Eurodance acts of the decade included Toy-Box, Daze, Jonny Jakobsen, Alexia, Alice Deejay, Haddaway, Captain Jack, Captain Hollywood Project, Basic Element, Solid Base, Daze, Gigi D’Agostino, Vengaboys, 2 Unlimited, Cappella, Corona, Culture Beat, DJ Bobo, Dr. Alban, Ice MC, La Bouche, 2 Brothers on the 4th Floor, Twenty 4 Seven, Leila K, Fun Factory, Masterboy, Mr. President, Pandora, Magic Affair, Maxx, Loft, Sash!, BKS, Snap!, Playahitty, Love Inc., Real McCoy, Urban Cookie Collective, Scatman John, Paradisio and Whigfield. Eventually the popularity of the Eurodance genre led to the huge popularity of the trance genre in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
The 1990s also saw the development and refinement of IDM (intelligent dance music), which borrowed from forms such as techno, drum and bass and acid house music and introduced more abstract elements, including heavy use of digital signal processing.
In the United Kingdom, popular electronic genres of the 1990s included breakbeat hardcore, drum and bass/jungle, big beat and UK garage. Among the most commercially successful electronic acts in the 1990s of these scenes were artists such as the Prodigy, the Chemical Brothers, Fatboy Slim, Aphex Twin, Autechre, Boards of Canada, Squarepusher, Leftfield, LFO, Massive Attack, Portishead, Underworld and Faithless. Notable 1990s UK garage acts included the Dreem Teem, Tuff Jam, Grant Nelson, 187 Lockdown, R.I.P. Productions/Double 99, Dem 2 and Sunship.
The arrival of Massive Attack in the early 1990s lead to a fresh style of slow electronic music dubbed trip hop and influenced groups such as Portishead, Björk, Tricky, Morcheeba and Thievery Corporation.