The “Unplugged” trend was all the rage in the ‘90s thanks to MTV Unplugged, which featured some of music’s biggest names going acoustic.
The series aired on a regular basis from 1989-1999. From 2000-2009, the show was billed as MTV Unplugged No. 2.0 and aired less frequently. There have only been limited Unplugged specials that have aired since 2009.
The very first episode of MTV Unplugged featured Squeeze, Syd Straw and Elliot Easton. In the years that followed, some of the biggest names in music took to the Unplugged stage to wow fans with their stripped-down performance. These artists included Aerosmith, Elton John, Paul McCartney, R.E.M. Eric Clapton, Nirvana, Annie Lennox and more. (Frankly, that small list of artists doesn’t even scratch the surface of some of the icons that went “Unplugged.”)
MTV Unplugged performances were often released as albums. Including recordings from MTV Brasil, there have been over 100 MTV Unplugged albums released from 1991-2020.
The ’90s truly saw a boom of artists taking part in the show. On top of that, many of the albums released from MTV Unplugged episodes went on to be platinum hits. Among the artists to score a platinum album from their MTV Unplugged performances include Mariah Carey, Tony Bennett, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, Shakira, Lauryn Hill and more. Carey even had a No. 1 hit from her special thanks to her cover of The Jackson 5’s “I’ll Be There.”
Additionally, the show received a Peabody Award in 1994. In a synopsis about why the series earned the honor, the Peabody Awards noted, “‘MTV Unplugged’ has brought the unique talents of some of our finest contemporary artists to center stage. Recordings of these sessions have become influential in their own right.”
With all of this in mind, here’s our list of 10 unplugged albums everyone should own.