1991 in Rock & Roll History:

Electronic sales data from Nielsen Soundscan is used for the first time to compile the Billboard charts. Janet Jackson becomes the highest paid female artist when she signs with Virgin. The first Lollapalooza Festival tours the US with Janes Addiction, Nine Inch Nails and others. Alternative rock moves mainstream with REM and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers at the top of the charts. Queen's lead singer Freddie Mercury dies of AIDS. Seattle grunge band Nirvana release their album Nevermind which would top the charts in January 1992.

Top 40 Singles of 1991
Worldwide:

  1   Bryan Adams - (Everything I Do) I Do           it For You
  2   Michael Jackson - Black Or White
  3   Roxette - Joyride
  4   REM - Losing My Religion
  5   Right Said Fred - I'm Too Sexy
  6   Extreme - More Than Words
  7   C&C Music Factory - Gonna Make               You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)
  8   Color Me Badd -I Wanna Sex You Up
  9   The Scorpions - Wind of Change
10   U2 - The Fly
11   EMF - Unbelievable
12   The Simpsons - Do the Bartman
13   Seal - Crazy
14   Paula Abdul - Rush Rush
15   Crystal Waters - Gypsy Woman
16   Amy Grant - Baby Baby
17   Rod Stewart - Rhythm of My Heart
18   U2 - Mysterious Ways
19   PM Dawn
       Set Adrift On a Memory of Bliss
20   KLF - 3am Eternal
21   Bryan Adams
       Can't Stop This Thing We Started
22   Mariah Carey - Someday
23   Cher - The Shoop Shoop Song (It's in         His Kiss)
24   Salt-N-Pepa - Let's Talk About Sex
25   Mariah Carey - Emotions
26   Metallica - Enter Sandman
27   Guns n' Roses - Don't Cry
28   Chris Isaak - Wicked Game
29   Whitney Houston
       All the Man That I Need
30   Natalie Cole & Nat King Cole           Unforgettable
31   Marky Mark & The Funky Bunch        Good Vibrations
32   Janet Jackson
       Love Will Never Do (Without You)
33   Stevie B - Because I Love You
34   John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John       Grease Megamix
35   Guns n' Roses - You Could Be Mine
36   Chesney Hawkes - The One & Only
37   Heavy D & The Boyz
       Now That We Found Love
38   Gloria Estefan
       Coming Out of the Dark
39   Prince - Cream
40   The Clash
       Should I Stay Or Should I Go

Top 50 Albums of 1991
Worldwide:

  1   Nirvana - Nevermind
  2   Metallica - Metallica
  3   U2 - Achtung Baby
  4   REM - Out Of Time
  5   Guns n' Roses - Use Your Illusion II
  6   Pearl Jam - Ten
  7   Michael Jackson - Dangerous
  8   Red Hot Chili Peppers
       Blood Sugar Sex Magik
  9   Bryan Adams
       Waking Up The Neighbours
10   Guns n' Roses - Use Your Illusion I
11   Roxette - Joyride
12   Sting - The Soul Cages
13   Dire Straits - On Every Street
14   Genesis - We Can't Dance
15   Queen - Greatest Hits II
16   The Eurythmics - Greatest Hits
17   Natalie Cole
       Unforgettable, With Love
18   Seal - Seal
19   Simply Red - Stars
20   Queen - Innuendo
21   Prince - Diamonds & Pearls
22   Michael Bolton
       Time, Love & Tenderness
23   Massive Attack - Blue Lines
24   Enigma - MCMXC AD
25   C&C Music Factory
       Gonna Make You Sweat
26   Rod Stewart - Vagabond Heart
27   Bonnie Raitt - Luck Of The Draw
28   Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers        Into The Great Wide Open
29   Enya - Shepherd Moons
30   Chris Rea - Auberge
31   Skid Row - Slave To The Grind
32   The Commitments -The Commitments
33   Extreme - II - Pornograffitti
34   My Bloody Valentine - Loveless
35   Cher - Love Hurts
36   Amy Grant - Heart In Motion
37   Paula Abdul - Spellbound
38   Primal Scream - Screamadelica
39   Crowded House - Woodface
40   Van Halen
       For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge
41   Gloria Estefan - Into The Light
42   Tina Turner - Simply The Best
43   Mariah Carey - Emotions
44   Lenny Kravitz - Mama Said
45   A Tribe Called Quest
       The Low End Theory
46   Public Enemy - Apocalypse '91
47   The Rolling Stones - Flashpoint
48   EMF - Schubert Dip
49   The Pet Shop Boys - The Complete              Singles Collection
50   Simple Minds - Real Life

All chart information above is from Tsort and uses a formula based on splitting the world into four regions based on sales, the USA (about 35%), other English speaking countries (about 20%), the rest of Europe (about 25%) and the rest of the world (about 20%).  We feel this is the best methodology available to show the global impact of a song or album. More detailed chart info is available on the Tsort website. Actual US & UK charts are linked at the bottom of each year timeline on this site.

US and UK #1 Singles and Albums Charts are linked at the bottom of each yearly timeline.
Jan '91
Jan '91
The Divinyls, a Sydney, Australia band, hit #4 US, #10 UK and #1 at home, with their single "I Touch Myself" from their fourth album. (more)
Three fans are crushed to death at an AC/DC concert in Salt Lake City. (more)
Jan '91
Sting's third album, The Soul Cages, is his second UK #1 and second US #2. The single "All This Time" goes to #5 US, #22 UK. (more)
Jan '91
Chicago, IL band Material Issue, release their debut album, which goes on to sell 300,000 copies. (more)
Feb '91
After three independent albums, Massachusetts band Dinosaur Jr. release their fourth album, Green Mind, on major label Sire Records and hit #36 UK, #168 US. (more)
Feb '91
UK acid-house duo The KLF hit #1 UK, #5 US with the single 3 AM Eternal. (more)
Mar '91
Mar '91
Virgin signs Janet Jackson to a $30 million contract, making her the highest paid female recording artist. (more)
R.E.M. release their seventh album, Out of Time, which tops the charts in both the US & UK. The single "Losing My Religion" goes to #4 US, #19 UK. (more)
Mar '91
Swedish duo Roxette hit #1 in the US, #4 UK with "Joyride", the title track from their third album. (more)
Mar '91
Los Angeles rockers Mr. Big hit it big with their second album and #1 US, #3 UK single "To Be With You". (more)
Apr '91
Mar '91
Hanover, Germany metal band Scorpions score a #4 US, #2 UK hit with the single "Wind of Change" from their 11th album. (more) 
Miami Beach singer Gloria Estefan scores her third US #1 single with " Coming Out of the Dark" and performs publicly for the first time since being seriously injured in a tour bus accident. (more)
Apr '91
Contemporary Christian artist Amy Grant crosses over to the pop charts with the #1 US, #2 UK single "Baby, Baby" from her US Top Ten album Heart In Motion. (more)
Apr '91
The Billboard charts begin using Nielsen Soundscan (actual cash register data) to track music sales. (more)
May '91
Former Los Angeles Lakers cheerleader Paula Abdul releases her second album Spellbound and has her fifth US #1 single with "Rush, Rush". The album goes to #1 US, #4 UK. (more)
May '91
West Midlands, UK band, Ned's Atomic Dustbin, release their debut album God Fodder and reach #4 UK, #91 US. (more)
May '91
Ice T releases his fourth album, Original Gangster, which goes on to peak at #15 US, #38 UK. (more)
May '91
Chicago band The Smashing Pumpkins release their debut album,
Gish, on Caroline Records. The album barely cracks the US Top 200. (more)
May '91
Compton, CA hip hop group NWA release their second and final album, Niggaz4Life, which charts at #1 US, #25 UK. (more)
Jun '91
UK soul singer, Seal, releases his self titled debut album charting at #1 UK, #27 US. (more)
Jun '91
Natalie Cole goes to #1 US, #11 UK with her album covering her father, Nat King Cole's, hits. (more)
Jun '91
New Jersey rock band Skid Row's second album, Slave to the Grind, debuts at #1 US, #5 UK and is the first metal album to debut at #1 in the Soundscan era. (more) 
Jun '91
California rock band Van Halen release their 9th studio album, For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge, which is their third album in a row to reach #1 US, #12 UK. (more)
Jul '91
The Geto Boys of Houston, TX release their 4th album, We Can't Be Stopped,
Jul '91
UK dance band, EMF, go to #1 in the US, #3 UK with their debut single "Unbelievable". (more)
which goes to all the way to #24 in the US. (more)
Jul '91
The first annual Lollapalooza music festival is put together by Jane's Addiction lead singer Perry Farrel. Touring North America, the festival features alternative, punk and rap acts. (more)
Jul '91
Wiltshire, UK band, Jesus Jones, hit #2 in the US, #31 UK with the single "Right Here, Right Now" about the fall of the Berlin Wall. (more)
Jul '91
Athens, GA band Widespread Panic release their major label debut on Capricorn Records. (more) 
Aug '91
Bristol, UK trio, Massive Attack release their debut album Blue Lines, which goes to #13 UK. The bands music
would be the foundation for the genre Trip Hop. (more)
Aug '91
Metallica's self titled fifth album is released and is their first album to hit  #1, US & UK. The single "Enter Sandman" goes to #16 US, #5 UK. (more)
Aug '91
Cypress Hill, latino rappers from South Gate, California, release their successful debut album which charts at #31 US, #81 UK. (more)
Aug '91
Paul Simon performs a free concert in New York City's Central Park for 100,000. The concert is released as an album in November 1991. (more)
NYC band Spin Doctors release their debut studio album, which languishes until the summer of '92
Aug '91
when extensive touring propels the single "Two Princes" into the US Top Ten, UK #3 and the album to #3 US, #2 UK. (more)
Aug '91
UK band, Blur, release their debut album, Leisure, and score a UK Top Ten single along with a UK Top Ten album. (more)
Aug '91
Seattle, WA band Pearl Jam release their debut album, Ten. Initial sales are slow but by late '92 the album hits #2 US, #18 UK. (more)
Aug '91
Santa Barbara, CA band, Toad the Wet Sprocket release their third album, Fear,  which generates two Top 20 singles in the US. (more)
Sep '91
East Orange, NJ rappers, Naughty By Nature, score a US Top Ten single with "O.P.P." off their second album which goes to #16 US. (more)
Sep '91
American country artist, Garth Brooks, releases his third album, Ropin' The Wind, which debuts at #1 on both the pop and country charts in the US. (more)
Sep '91
Oklahoma City R&B group, Color Me Badd, have a #3 debut album in both the US and UK. They score one UK and two US #1 singles including "All 4 Love". (more)
American hard rock band Guns n' Roses release the albums Use Your Illusion I & II, which chart at #2 and #1 respectively in both the US and UK. The albums generate two US and five UK Top Ten singles with "November Rain" and "Don't Cry". (more)
Sep '91
Sep '91
Canadian artist, Bryan Adams, has his first worldwide #1 single with "Everything I Do, I Do It For You". It would be the best selling single of 1991. (more)
Sep '91
Los Angeles band, Hole, release their debut album, Pretty On The Inside, #73 US, #59 UK produced by Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon. (more) 
Sep '91
Seattle, WA grunge band Nirvana release their second album, Nevermind, on major label Geffen Records. The album and single "Smells Like Teen Spirit" are suprise hits, reaching #1 in Jan. 1992 (#7 UK). (more)
Sep '91
Blood, Sugar, Sex, Magik, is the fifth album release by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. and the first to bring them  mainstream success
worldwide. The album charts at #3 US, #5 UK and the single "Under The Bridge" goes to #2 in the US. (more)
Oct '91
Oct '91
Seattle, WA grunge band Soundgarden release their third album, Badmotorfinger, which breaks into the Top 40 in both the US and UK. (more)
Prince scores his fifth US #1 single with "Cream" from his ninth album, Diamonds and Pearls #3 US, #2 UK. (more)
Mariah Carey scores her fifth US #1 single in a row with the title track from her second album "Emotions" #4 US and UK. (more)
Oct '91
Oct '91
Boston rapper Marky Mark goes to #1 US, #14 UK with his single "Good Vibrations" produced by his brother Donnie Wahlberg of New Kids On The Block. (more)
Oct '91
Former NWA rapper Ice Cube's second album, Death Certificate, debuts at #2 in the US. (more)
Nov '91
The Scottish band Teenage Fanclub release their third album Bandwagonesque, which goes to #22 UK, #137 US. The album wins Spin magazine's year end Best Album Award. (more)
Nov '91
Irish singer Enya hits #1 UK, #17 US with her third album Sheperd Moons. (more) 
Nov '91
West coast rapper Tupac Shakur releases his debut album, 2Pacalypse Now, which charts at #64 US. (more)
Nov '91
Irish rock band U2 release their seventh album, Achtung Baby. Shifting styles with production by Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois the album hits #1 US, #2 UK. (more)
Nov '91
Freddie Mercury, lead singer of Queen, dies of complications from AIDS on November 24th. (more)
Jersey City, NJ brothers P.M. Dawn score a #1 US, #3 UK single with "Set Adrift on Memory Bliss" sampling the Spandau Ballet hit "True". (more)
Nov '91
Dec '91
Michael Jackson is #1 in the US and UK with the single "Black or White" from his eighth album, Dangerous. (more)
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