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1991 in music

See also: 1990 in music, other events of 1991, 1992 in music and the list of 'years in music'.

The most important event in music in 1991 is, by far, the popular breakthrough of grunge music. Nirvana's Nevermind, led by the surprise hit single "Smells Like Teen Spirit", became the most popular album of the year. Followed immediately by other grunge bands like Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden, grunge dominated the charts for the next few years. Its success effectively ended pop-oriented hair metal groups like Guns 'n Roses, Poison and Def Leppard, whose sales and critical viability had been declining for years.

A Tribe Called Quest's Low End Theory was released this year; it would go on to be considered one of the best hip hop albums of the 1990s. A Tribe Called Quest, along with De La Soul, Dream Warriors, Gang Starr and the Poor Righteous Teachers, helped define what came to be known as alternative rap with important releases this year.

The massive success of Garth Brooks in this year sets the stage for the mid-1990s influx of pop-oriented country musicians. In addition, several soon-to-be pivotal bands form or release debuts, including future pioneers in riot grrl punk (Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, Huggy Bear), jam bands (moe., Dave Matthews Band, Phish, Spin Doctors) and stoner metal (Kyuss, Sleep, Obsessed). Massive Attack's Blue Lines, while unique at the time, invented the sound that would eventually become known as trip hop. Entombed's Clandestine and Dismember's Like an Ever Flowing Stream are early releases from the Scandinavian metal scene. U2 release their seventh album Achtung Baby, considered by many of their fans to be their best album.

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