'90s Pop Stars: Then and Now

August 17, 2023 - Music

Ahead of the new millennium, the music world had a range of artists dominating the radio charts and MTV.

The ‘90s brought fans an influx of boy bands with ‘NSync, The Backstreet Boys and Hanson as well as female power houses such as Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Toni Braxton.

While some of the decade’s biggest acts have since parted ways, others have remained at the forefront of the music industry. Justin Timberlake, for example, has had a successful solo career after ‘NSync split up the band in 2001.

His former bandmate Joey Fatone, however, is hoping for a new album with all the original members down the line. The rest of the boy band was made up of Lance Bass, JC Chasez and Chris Kirkpatrick.

“I can’t speak for anybody else, but for me, it would be fun. Why not? I mean, let’s be real here. It wasn’t broke,” Fatone exclusively told Us Weekly in May 2021. ”Everybody kind of separated to do their own thing and now we’ve done our own thing and still doing our own thing, but you know what, I think it’d be kind of fun to do something like that and get back together.”

The longtime friends have reunited on several occasions since they chose to pursue solo ventures, but they have yet to record another album as a fivesome.

Scroll down to see how time has treated the ‘90s most beloved acts:

Britney Spears
Spears, who entered show business at the tender age of 12 as a cast member on Disney’s The All-New Mickey Mouse Club, shot to superstardom at 17 with the 1998 release of her debut single, “…Baby One More Time,” and her 1999 album of the same name. She had a tumultuous few years beginning in 2006 — during which she got a divorce from Kevin Federline and was placed under a conservatorship — but has since made a major comeback.
The mom of Sean Preston and Jayden James headlined her own megasuccessful Las Vegas residency, Piece of Me, from 2013 to 2017. During its run, she released her most recent album, 2016’s Glory. Spears has been on an indefinite work hiatus since 2019.
The “Womanizer” hitmaker got engaged to longtime boyfriend Sam Asghari in September 2021, and broke free from her 14-year conservatorship two months later. After publicly feuding with her parents and sister, Jamie Lynn Spears, Britney wed Asghari in June 2022. In August 2023, Asghari reportedly filed for divorce after 14 months of marriage. 
The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images; Todd Williamson/Getty Images for dcp
Jennifer Lopez
Lopez, whose first credits included dancing gigs in Janet Jackson’s 1993 music video for “That’s the Way Love Goes” and in the early-‘90s variety show In Living Color, became a household name when she starred in the 1997 biopic Selena. Two years later, she dropped her debut album, On the 6, which spawned hits such as “Waiting for Tonight” and “If You Had My Love.” After taking time to act and focus on starting a family with now-ex-husband Marc Anthony, the mom of twins Max and Emme made a triumphant return to the world of music in 2011, when she lit up the charts again with the Pitbull-assisted dance anthem “On the Floor.” She had a hit Vegas residency, All I Have, from 2016 to 2018 and has executive produced and judged World of Dance since 2017. Lopez, who got engaged to Alex Rodriguez in 2019, also starred in the movie Hustlers and headlined the 2020 Super Bowl halftime show with Shakira. She and the former Yankee called off their engagement in April 2021, and soon after, the “Let’s Get Loud” singer reconciled with ex-fiancé Ben Affleck 17 years after their split in 2004. Lopez and Affleck got engaged in April 2022 and tied the knot in two ceremonies that summer.
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Jessica Simpson
Almost a year after Spears set the precedent for solo female acts in the late ‘90s, Simpson showed off her vocal chops with the release of “I Wanna Love You Forever,” the powerful first single from her 1999 debut album, Sweet Kisses. In the years that followed, she released four more studios albums, including her 2008 country LP, Do You Know, and starred with her now-ex-husband, Nick Lachey, on the MTV reality show Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica. Simpson is now focused on her billion-dollar lifestyle brand, the Jessica Simpson Collection, which she started in 2006. She married Eric Johnson in 2014, and they share three children: Maxwell, Ace and Birdie. In 2020, Simpson released a memoir titled Open Book — in which she revealed she’s sober after battling an alcohol addiction. The former reality star has since been hailed for her business savvy and impressive empire.
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Ricky Martin
Martin got his first taste of fame in the ‘80s as a member of the boy band Menudo. However, his success in the music industry reached a critical peak in 1999 when he released his self-titled fifth solo album, which included hits such as “Livin’ la Vida Loca,” “She’s All I Ever Had” and “Shake Your Bon-Bon.” Since then, the Latin heartthrob has released five albums in English and his native Spanish. He welcomed twin boys Matteo and Valentino via surrogate in 2008 and came out as gay two years later. Martin married Jwan Yosef in 2017 and went on to have two more children, Lucía and Renn. The Puerto Rico native scored an Emmy nomination in 2018 for his portrayal of fashion designer Antonio D’Amico in The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story. He has continued to release music in the 2020s.
The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images; C Flanigan/Getty Image
Spice Girls
Scary, Baby, Ginger, Sporty and Posh Spice burst onto the scene in 1996 with the release of “Wannabe,” the iconic first single from the U.K. group’s debut album, Spice. In 1997, the ladies released their sophomore LP, Spice World, in conjunction with their feature film of the same name. Not long after, Geri Halliwell left the group. As a quartet, the remaining members released one last album together, 2000’s Forever. In 2007, all five women participated in a reunion tour and released a greatest hits album. Halliwell, Mel B, Emma Bunton and Melanie C reunited again in 2019 for a brief tour in the U.K. and Ireland. Victoria Beckham did not participate as she has shifted her focus to the fashion industry. The Spice Girls have also embarked on individual careers since their split, and all have become moms. The members still have love for one another and shout each other out on social media.
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Mariah Carey
Carey made an explosive entry into the world of pop music in 1990 with her self-titled debut album, which included the single “Vision of Love.” Despite a career setback in 2001 (yes, we’e talking about her widely panned acting job in Glitter) and a subsequent breakdown, the Grammy winner has maintained her star power, finding success again with 2005’s The Emancipation of Mimi. Now the mom of twins Monroe and Moroccan (with ex-husband Nick Cannon), Carey has been in a relationship with her backup dancer Bryan Tanaka since 2016. She holds the record for the most No. 1 singles on the Billboard Hot 100 by a solo artist with 19, including her holiday anthem “All I Want for Christmas Is You.” She released a memoir, The Meaning of Mariah Carey, in September 2020. In December 2021, the Queen of Christmas dropped another holiday track, “Fall in Love at Christmas.”
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Justin Timberlake, JC Chasez, Chris Kirkpatrick, Lance Bass and Joey Fatone made an indelible mark in the world of teen pop with their catchy tunes, synchronized dance moves and frosted tips. The boy band released their self-titled debut album in 1997, which climbed the charts thanks to hit singles like “Tearin’ Up My Heart” and “I Want You Back.” They released two more albums, 2000’s No Strings Attached and 2001’s Celebrity, before splitting up as frontman Timberlake pursued a solo career. The group reunited for a performance at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards and again five years later to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Four out of five members have gone on to get married and have children, while Chasez has been dating girlfriend Jennifer HuYoung since 2018, and all have launched their own individual projects, occasionally performing together in various pairings.
The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images; Larry Busacca/Getty Images for MTV
Celine Dion
While she had already made a name for herself in her native Canada, Dion made her American crossover with the release of her 1990 album, Unison, which featured the power ballad “Where Does My Heart Beat Now.” Her biggest hit came a few years albums later, in 1997, when she sang the theme song for Titanic, “My Heart Will Go On.”
Dion was one of the first modern-day artists to have a Las Vegas residency, paving the way for Spears, Lopez, Lady Gaga and other stars. She released her first English album in six years, Courage, in 2019. Dion also stays busy as the mom of son René-Charles and twins Eddy and Nelson, whom she shared with her late husband, René Angélil.
She was forced to cancel her May and April 2022 tour dates due to health issues, she revealed on her website. In December 2022, the “All By Myself” singer revealed that she was diagnosed with the “very rare neurological disorder” stiff-person syndrome and announced that her spring 2023 tour dates were pushed back to spring 2024.
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Christina Aguilera
With the 1999 release of her suggestive first single, “Genie in a Bottle,” Aguilera gave Spears (and her schoolgirl skirt!) a serious run for her money. After winning the Best New Artist Grammy in 2000, she ditched her naughty-but-nice image for a look that was full-on “Dirrty.” Xtina continued to play with her style in later years, most famously channeling old Hollywood glamour for 2006’s Back to Basics. She has released numerous albums over the course of her career. She dropped her Spanish language EP, La Fuerza, in 2022, and is heading out on the road for a U.K. arena tour. In addition to her music career, Aguilera starred in the 2010 film Burlesque and coached six season of The Voice. She shares son Max with ex-husband Jordan Bratman and daughter Summer with fiancé Matthew Rutler.
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Jewel breathed new air into the music industry with her 1995 pop-folk debut record, Pieces of You. The album lit up radio waves with a slew of successful singles including “Who Will Save Your Soul,” “Foolish Games” and “You Were Meant for Me.” She has since released 11 more studio albums, including 1998’s Spirit, the 2003 dance-pop record 0304, 2010’s country-leaning Sweet and Wild and 2015’s Picking Up the Pieces, the follow-up to her first LP. In between all her musical pursuits, Jewel wrote multiple books, hosted Bravo’s 2010 singing competition Platinum Hit and became a wife and mother. She is about to embark on tour in 2022. In 2008, she married Ty Murray, with whom she shares son Kase. The couple divorced in 2014, and she later dated NFL star Charlie Whitehurst.
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Alanis Morissette
The Canada-born singer first found success in her native country as a dance-pop artist before fine-tuning her distinctive rock-inspired sound on her international debut album, 1995’s Jagged Little Pill. The LP, which included epic anthems such as “You Oughta Know,” “Ironic” and “Hand In My Pocket,” catapulted Morissette’s career and helped her win five Grammys. It also became a Broadway musical in 2019. Morissette dropped her ninth studio album, Such Pretty Forks in the Road, in 2020, and is headed on tour in June 2022. She shares three children with her husband, Mario Treadway: Ever, Onyx and Winter.
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The R&B songstress, who got her start on television thanks to her titular role on the UPN sitcom Moesha, made a successful foray into the music industry with the release of her Grammy-nominated self-titled first album, which included several top 10 hits such as “Baby.” The Mississippi native took a three-year break to focus on her acting career (Cinderella, anyone?) and made a triumphant return to music with 1999’s “The Boy Is Mine,” her iconic duet with Monica, for which she won her sole Grammy. In later years, she released more music and tried her hand at reality TV, including stints as a judge on season 1 of America’s Got Talent in 2006 and as a contestant on season 11 of Dancing With the Stars in 2010. The mom of Sy’rai (whom she shares with ex Robert Smith) released her seventh album, the aptly titled B7, in 2020. That same year, Brandy battled her “Boy Is Mine” collaborator Monica on Verzuz.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images; Joshua Blanchard/Getty Images for Republic Records
Backstreet Boys
Nick Carter, Kevin Richardson, Brian Littrell, Howie Dorough and AJ McLean stole hearts of teeny boppers everywhere with their boyish good looks, impeccable harmonies and penchant for matching all-white ensembles. In 1997, they dropped Backstreet Boys, the LP that featured hits such as “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” and “Quit Playing Games (With My Heart).” They continued to dominate teen pop into the new millennium with subsequent albums, including 2000’s Black & Blue, but lost steam in the mid-aughts. Though Richardson quit the band in 2006, they reunited in 2012 and have since released two more albums: 2013’s In a World Like This and 2019’s DNA. The group received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2013 and released a documentary, Show ‘Em What You’re Made Of, in 2015. The Boys are currently performing at their Vegas residency and will embark on a 2022 world tour.
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The Swedish singer made a splash in the U.S. in 1997 with the release of her worldwide dance-pop hit “Do You Know (What It Takes)” from her debut album, Robyn Is Here. She dropped three more albums after that — 1999’s My Truth, 2002’s Don’t Stop the Music and 2005’s Robyn — before taking a break. The pop star made a comeback with her 2010 album, Body Talk, which included smashes such as “Dancing on My Own,” “Call Your Girlfriend” and “Indestructible.” After releasing EPs with Röyksopp and La Bagatelle Magique in 2014 and 2015, respectively, she dropped another hit solo record, Honey, in 2018. Robyn still performs live.
Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage; Dominique Charriau/WireImage
Toni Braxton
Braxton’s meteoric rise to fame came in 1993, when she released her self-titled debut album. The LP, which sold over 10 million copies worldwide, was laced with gems such as “Breathe Again” and “Another Sad Love Song.” In 1996, she dropped her second album, Secrets, which included the megahit “Un-Break My Heart.” Four years later, she released her third effort, 2000’s The Heat, which featured her Grammy-winning song “He Wasn’t Man Enough.” In later years, she experienced financial turmoil, filing for bankruptcy in 1998 and again in 2010, but has since picked herself up. She wrote a memoir in 2011 titled Unbreak My Heart and stars in WE tv’s reality series Braxton Family Values. She divorced her longtime love Keri Lewis in 2013 after 12 years of marriage. The exes share daughter Evelyn and son Michael Conrad. Braxton got engaged to Birdman in 2020, after knowing each other for decades.
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The band’s signature hit, “MMMBop,” dominated airwaves in 1997, reaching No. 1 in 27 countries. The trio of brothers have continued to make music together ever since, maintaining a loyal fan base and releasing numerous albums year after year. They dropped their most recent album, Red Green Blue, in 2022.
The band competed on The Masked Singer in 2020, where they were unmasked as Russian dolls after covering hits like Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s “Shallow” and Shawn Mendes’ “Wonder.”
Husbands and fathers for decades, Isaac, Taylor and Zac Hanson have 15 kids among them.
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Mandy Moore
In 1999, Moore satisfied the music industry’s sweet tooth with the release of her career-launching hit, “Candy,” the first single from her debut album, So Real. She went on to drop two more radio-friendly LPs, 2000’s I Wanna Be With You and 2001’s Mandy Moore. After that, she took time to focus on acting, appearing in movies including A Walk to Remember (based on the Nicholas Sparks book of the same name) and Chasing Liberty. She returned to music with 2007’s Wild Hope, followed by Amanda Leigh in 2009 and Silver Landings in 2020. She has starred on This Is Us since 2016 and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2019. After divorcing Ryan Adams in 2016, Moore married Taylor Goldsmith in 2018. The triple threat and the Dawes musician welcomed son Gus in February 2021 and son Ozzie in October 2022.
Jim Smeal/WireImage; Taylor Hill/FilmMagic
Blaring onto the scene with their 1999 warm-weather hit, “Summer Girls,” LFO — made up of singers Rich Cronin, Devin Lima and Brad Fischetti (and originally Brian “Brizz” Gillis, who was replaced by Lima that year) — soared to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 charts in the late ’90s. Embodying everything about pop culture at the time (including New Kids on the Block and Abercrombie & Fitch), “Summer Girls” peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100, while their second hit, “Girl on TV,” peaked at No. 10. Both tracks were from their self-titled debut album, which was released that same year.
After dropping their sophomore album in 2001, which contained the single “Every Other Time,” the band split in 2002. They reunited in 2009.
Tragically, three out of four LFO members have died since making it big in the late ’90s and early 2000s. In 2010, Cronin died of a stroke after battling leukemia. Lima died in 2018 from adrenal cancer. Gillis passed away in March 2023, Fischetti — the only living member of the band — confirmed at the time.
Between 2019 and 2020, Fischetti toured with O-Town, speaking about his late LFO bandmates on stage and keeping their memory alive for fans.
S Club 7
Created by Spice Girls founder Simon Fuller in 1997, the U.K.-based S Club 7 was made up of Rachel Stevens, Tina Barrett, Jon Lee, Jo O’Meara, Hannah Spearritt, Bradley McIntosh and Paul Cattermole. The group rose to fame in the late ’90s and early 2000s, releasing hits like “Never Had a Dream Come True,” “S Club Party” and “Reach,” and portraying fictionalized versions of themselves on their own S Club sitcoms.
After Cattermole left the group in 2002, the remaining six members continued on as a sextet — renamed S Club — until 2006. All seven members reunited in 2015 and announced a reunion tour in February 2023. Tragically, Cattermole died at age 46 two months later.
“We are truly devastated by the passing of our brother Paul. There are no words to describe the deep sadness and loss we all feel. We were so lucky to have had him in our lives and are thankful for the amazing memories we have,” the group said via Twitter at the time.
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