Are you searching for some fantastic music? Look no further than these top grunge songs from the 1990s. These compositions have earned widespread praise as being some of the greatest works to ever come out of this genre.
Some of the songs included on this list became worldwide hits and became iconic to the band, receiving widespread radio airplay.
1. Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana
Smells Like Teen Spirit is one of the most iconic songs ever recorded, debuting as the lead single from Nevermind in 1991 and quickly becoming a worldwide phenomenon, propelling Nirvana to global stardom.
Smells Like Teen Spirit is a song that captures the feelings of alienation and disenfranchised young people. It helped launch the grunge music scene and its influence on alternative rock culture.
On September 10, 1991, Nirvana released their hit single “Nevermind,” which quickly reached mainstream radio. Featuring an iconic riff that would become their signature sound for two decades, this song is considered one of their all-time greats.
However, the success of this track also caused much controversy. The lyrics remain obscure to this day, leaving its meaning uncertain.
Smells Like Teen Spirit is one of the greatest songs ever to hit the music scene and has had a lasting impact on many other artists. Thus, it fits perfectly into this list of the top grunge songs!
Smells Like Teen Spirit is an iconic classic that continues to resonate 30 years after its original release. Its catchy tune has inspired millions of fans worldwide, and its success remains undiminished today.
Nirvana’s music is renowned for its captivating vocal melodies, which transport you into another dimension when performed. This quality makes the band and their songs such a phenomenon.
2. Heart-Shaped Box by Nirvana
Nirvana’s In Utero album featured the hit single Heart-Shaped Box, directed by Anton Corbijn and winning two awards at the 1994 MTV Video Music Awards.
The song has been interpreted in many ways, but many believe that it is about Cobain’s relationship with Courtney Love. He wed her in February 1992 and credits her as a major influence on his writing.
Some believe the song was inspired by a television report about children with cancer, though some argue its lyrics were actually written about Cobain’s feelings for Love.
No matter your opinion on the song, you can still rock out to this classic grunge classic! Jack White has shared a live rendition of Nirvana’s iconic In Utero classic. Check it out below and shop t-shirts like this one featuring the same In Utero graphics found on the original album!
Though the song may sound darker than expected, it still provides a great listen. This track showcases Kurt Cobain’s signature ambiguity.
Some fans take Cobain’s statement “suicide is an option” with a particularly sinister interpretation. They believe he was acknowledging his past thoughts of self-destruction at some point during his life.
Another interpretation is that the song serves as a metaphor for a heart-shaped vagina. This could represent how love may sometimes make one feel inadequate about oneself, yet ultimately be beneficial in the long run.
3. Ten by Pearl Jam
Fans of Pearl Jam or the Seattle Sound/grunge scene know that their debut album Ten is one of rock music’s classics. This record redefined what was possible and set an iconic milestone in alternative rock that has continued to influence this genre for decades.
This album isn’t a concept album or rock opera like The Who’s Quadrophenia, but it does have an overarching theme: outcasts. This theme runs throughout the entire record, from the opening track “Master” to its concluding song, “Release.”
Ten was recorded over a month at London Bridge Studios with Temple of the Dog producer Rick Parashar. Although initially slow selling, Ten eventually became Pearl Jam’s best-selling studio album and remains an iconic cultural artifact that helped launch grunge music worldwide.
Nirvana had introduced the world to an iconic band that would go on to sell over 10 million records worldwide, heralding an era when alternative music broke free of its punk heritage and found success outside the confines of Nirvana-dominated labels.
Ten wasn’t a huge hit at the radio, but it still reached number two on Billboard charts and sold more copies than any other Pearl Jam record until Vs. was released the following year.
Ten’s music isn’t particularly heavy or aggressive – it’s more laidback and melodic. Stone Gossard and Mike McCready provide some sharp riffs and leads, while Jeff Ament leads the rhythm section through muscular R&B-inspired grooves suitable for both high boils and low summer nights alike.
4. Lizzy by Mother Love Bones
Grunge music is an enjoyable genre to play on the guitar, offering plenty of enjoyable songs for both beginning and advanced players alike. Many of the best grunge tunes boast powerful rock guitar riffs and fast-paced grooves.
One of the most essential things to remember about grunge music is that it’s an alternative rock subculture, meaning the lyrics often address social and emotional isolation, self-doubt, abuse, betrayal, psychological traumas and a yearning for freedom. Some of the best grunge songs address these topics honestly and make them more approachable to listeners.
One of the iconic grunge songs is Lizzy by Mother Love Bones, released in 1993. This track serves as a great example of 90s grunge culture with power chorded verses and choruses as well as some amazing lead guitar licks.
One great song from the ’90s is Violet by Hole. Played with half-step down tuned guitars, it features some basic power chord licks and an excellent lead guitar riff.
Other great grunge tunes include Jessie by Paw, In N Out of Grace by Mudhoney and Vasoline by Stone Temple Pilots. All three songs are relatively easy to play and offer excellent distorted guitar tones.
Mother Love Bones were a major force in the Seattle music scene during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Additionally, they were part of an era that saw hair metal fade away while alternative rock rose to prominence as rock music’s dominant force.
On June 27, 1990, Andrew Wood’s passing was a devastating loss for both the band and their fan base. But this sorrow would soon pass as Seattle experienced an artistic revival sparked by guitarist Stone Gossard and bassist Jeff Ament’s formation of Pearl Jam – one of rock music’s biggest successes during the 1990s.
5. Chloe Dancer by Mother Love Bones
Mother Love Bone’s classic grunge hit “Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns” is one of rock history’s most emotional and brilliant ballads, having been covered countless times over time. This song stands as a testament to an accomplished songwriter and has an underlying message that transcends generations.
This 1989 classic became a classic during the 90s due to its chaotic drums and vocals. It’s an intense listen for anyone looking for an intense song.
This song is an amazingly well-written reflection on drug addiction and its devastating effects. It can be powerfully inspiring, helping the listener reflect on their own situation. If you have ever been addicted to substances in the past and wish to understand how you can move forward with changing that behaviour, this song should definitely be given serious consideration.
Another classic from Seattle’s grunge scene, Screaming Trees’ “Nearly Lost You” is an energetic track with lots of shredding and riffs to keep you engaged.
It is an enchantingly beautiful and emotive song that showcases the strength of love. If you are in a relationship, or have experienced much heartache in it, this would be an ideal song to listen to.
This song is perfect for when you’re feeling down and need something to lift your spirits. It has a powerful message that will make you feel much better, and its well-crafted nature can help get through difficult circumstances.