With so much good quality 1990s Christian Music, it is super hard to narrow down the best or most influential bands. There are however, some Christian musicians who are just too relevant not to mention. Names like The W’s, Relient K, and Jars of Clay come to mind.
1990s Christian Music – The Most Influential Bands
The Most Influential Bands of 1990s Christian Music
A Little Background on 1990’s Christian Music
Before we jump into my personal list of the best of Christian music in the 90’s. it’s important to understand exactly what made this era so iconic. Was it the baggy jeans, skateboards and bandanas, or was it the rainbow hair, WWJD wristbands, and high gain guitar? Well, yes.
Although the music itself was iconic and impressive, Christian music in the 90’s was really about the culture. At the same time, the garage-punk scene was taking off with acts like Nirvana taking center-stage.
Embracing the messy, loud, highly expressive culture of the alternative scene, Christian music came to the fore in the Christian world.
Whilst it was indeed messy, loud, and highly expressive, the message of the gospel was still shining through. People everywhere, young and old, were being brought together by this fresh, liberating Jesus movement.
Ask anyone about the 1990’s and listen for hours as they share about boy bands, girl bands, ska bands, punk rock revival, and endless more things which were going on. Well, the same thing was happening in the Christian scene.
Now to the bands themselves. I had to limit the list otherwise we would be here all day but here is my entry-level list of the best 1990’s Christian music. Read it, re-live it, and rate for yourself which 1990’s Christian music was the best back in the day.
Christian Ska Band - The W’s
Although overlooked by some, The W’s were at the forefront of Christian ska and swing revival. Forming out of Oregon, the group went on to tour with the likes of DC Talk (who we’ll get to later).
Their release The Devil is Bad made its way around the 1990’s Christian music scene and into people’s heads very quickly.
Unfortunately for the band, their name didn’t stick, which meant a lot of their other songs went under the radar. Their first album was iconic, gifting the world with some of the best vibes on the Christian Ska scene.
Unfortunately, their second release went out and tanked in the ratings.
In the wake of their unsuccessful record, The W’s took off and headed their separate ways. Some of the highlights of their short career include touring with DC Talk and performing before the Pope
Relient K - Rocking the pop rock culture in the late 90's
With hits like Be My Escape, Who I Am Hates Who I’ve Been, and Sadie Hawkins Dance, Relient K comfortably secure a spot on my list despite entering the scene in 1998.
This band impacted the Christian pop-rock scene like no other. Their first two studio releases Relient K and The Anatomy of the Tongue in Cheek shifted the trajectory of not only the music of that era, but the popular culture too.
Suddenly, every other Christian pop-rock group were wearing baggy jeans, skateboarding, and living out the message of Jesus.
If you are wondering why people today are still wearing fanny-packs, these guys were doing it first. Even their 2016 release Air For Free contained multiple hits, making them one of the few bands from 1990’s music to still crush it today.
One of the original Worship Bands - Jars of Clay
I still remember hearing Jars of Clay on compilation CD’s like Elevation and WOW Hits when I was in youth group.
The group survived for a long time after their debut, solidifying the fact that their music was high quality and relevant for the lives of many.
Since they came into the scene in 1993, the band has been releasing hit after hit with songs such as Flood and Love Song for a Savior coming to mind.
Flood even impacted the secular world featuring in the popular movie A Walk to Remember, starring Mandy Moore.
In 1997, the band landed themselves a Grammy nomination, a significant achievement for a band belonging to the 1990s Christian Music scene.
DC talk - Bringing Christian Music to Mainstream Media
DC Talk were absolutely everywhere in the 1990’s. It was extremely difficult to find a Christian in that era who hadn’t heard of these guys.
Releasing tracks such as Jesus Freak, Jesus Is Just Alright, and Colored People, DC Talk were a big Christian voice in many mainstream conversations around morality and justice.
The group was honest, upfront, and wasn’t afraid to take a stand for the Gospel. From the get-go, their heated lyrics and political presence drew a large gathering with fans all over the world. In a list of the best acts of 1990s Christian Music, DC Talk are a no-brainer.
“People everywhere, young and old, were being brought together by this fresh, liberating Jesus movement.”
Life House - The makings of "Hanging By a Moment" in the late 90's
I’d be surprised to find you weren’t touched by this band’s number one hit Hanging by a Moment.
Although the band’s first album wasn’t released until 2000, Lifehouse hit the scene running in the late 1990’s and quickly gathered a reputation for themselves.
Michael W. Smith
Mainstream pop sensation Michael W. Smith was famous back in the day alongside artists like Amy Grant and Steven Curtis Chapman for being Christian artists who broke out into mainstream.
Smith’s 1990 release Place in This World welcomed Christian music into the 1990’s. He continued to smash the charts throughout the decade and is still writing worship hits today.
Switchfoot - Secular Cross Over Muso's
Switchfoot are at the top of my list and for good reason. The group are still releasing hits today and for the last three decades have been an important presence in the Christian-secular crossover genre.
With incredibly popular tunes like Dare You to Move, Meant to Live, and more recently I Won’t Let You Go, the band made a large footprint in 1990’s Christian music.