Upon being sent a copy of the song by Billboard, Diffie said, "What else can you say but what an honor it is to have the larger part of a song reference songs of mine. To think all of Jason's fans will be chanting my name… pretty dang cool." He also praised Aldean's overall musical styles, saying that Aldean is "pushing the envelope."
The song has been met with mixed reception. Tammy Ragusa of Country Weekly gave it a B+, saying that it "serves to further his penchant for upping the musical ante," also praising the musical arrangement and calling the song "pure fun." In her review of Night Train, Jewly Hight of American Songwriter said that the song was "as ridiculous, and fun, a song as Aldean’s ever done."
Billy Dukes of Taste of Country gave "1994" a one-star review, saying that "Aldean’s recording would lead one to believe 1994 was a watershed year in country music. It wasn't." Ben Foster of Country Universe gave the song an F, saying that its lyrics "comprise little more than a hodgepodge of radio-baiting backwoods clichés" and "are so haphazardly thrown together that’s it’s hard to tell what the song is even meant to be about."
"1994" debuted at number 42 on the BillboardCountry Songs for the week ending March 9, 2013. On the Country Airplay chart for the week ending March 2, 2013, it debuted at number 60. It also debuted at number 93 on the U.S. BillboardHot 100 chart for the week of March 30, 2013. It also debuted at number 100 on the Canadian Hot 100 chart for the week of April 13, 2013. It peaked at number 14 on the Country Airplay chart dated May 4, 2013, making it Aldean's first single to miss the top 10 since 2008's "Relentless" and the second-lowest-peaking single of his career.