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Top 10 Greatest Nirvana Songs

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Formed in 1987, Nirvana initially consisted of Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic. After a rotating lineup of drummers, Dave Grohl was finally recruited in 1990. With their alternative rock style, the band became instrumental in the Seattle scene where they originated. They broke out with their sophomore effort, “Nevermind,” in 1991 and have since become one of the most important grunge acts ever. For this list, we’ve chosen our entries based on a combination of the artist’s fan favorites and their most commercially successful songs. Join as we count down our picks for the top 10 Nirvana Songs. Special thanks to our users Deathmatch1959, Jack Morris, Brett Staats, Al Bebak, HowlinGames, simeon anderson, iamnotarobot and Nerita Kairevičiūtė for submitting the idea on our Suggestions Page at WatchMojo.comsuggest.

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They want you to come as you are. Welcome to and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 Nirvana Songs.

For this list, we’ve chosen our entries based on a combination of the artist’s fan favorites and their most commercially successful songs.

#10: “Rape Me”
In Utero (1993)

With a title like that, is it any wonder In Utero’s second single raised a few eyebrows? Though Nirvana was no stranger to controversy, “Rape Me” was still a daring choice following the public’s reaction to “Heart-Shaped Box’s” strange music video. Written by Kurt Cobain on an acoustic guitar, the four-and-a-half-minute grunge number still managed to chart in Europe thanks to its simple but memorable riff, Cobain’s impassioned vocals and a powerful climax.

#9: “Something in the Way”
Nevermind (1991)

If we ignore the secret track, it’s actually this moody piece that closes Nirvana’s second album. Centered around Cobain’s singing and guitar, this song’s slow timing is quite a change of pace from the band’s typically heavier sound. But it also expertly shows their softer side. Though the story that he wrote it while sleeping under a bridge might not be true, that doesn’t take anything away from “Something in the Way”’s impact.

#8: “Aneurysm”
Incesticide (1992)

After first being released as the B-Side to the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” single, “Aneurysm” was released and recorded for numerous Nirvana sets and compilations. Featuring lyrics about Cobain’s ex-girlfriend, “Aneurysm” is a fast-paced track that bursts with energy. With its hard-hitting lyrics, thumping drums, blasting bass and guitar, it’s not surprising that it quickly became a live staple.

#7: “In Bloom”
Nevermind (1991)

The poppier version of “In Bloom” found on Nevermind couldn’t be more different than the punk rock original recorded the year before. Fortunately, it still had its grunge edge: in fact, Cobain’s vocals and its contrasting song dynamics were so well-received that the song landed on the British charts and American rock radio. Let’s not forget its memorable music video that poked fun at old TV variety shows.

#6: “About a Girl”
Bleach (1989)

Cobain put his grunge rocker rep on the line by including this more “poppier”-sounding track on Nirvana’s debut. While the ballad stood out among the album’s harder songs, it showcased Cobain’s varied songwriting talents. Five years later, the live acoustic version off MTV Unplugged in New York gave it a new lease on life: “About a Girl” topped Billboard’s Modern Rock Tracks chart and continues to be highly regarded among fans.

#5: “All Apologies”
In Utero (1993)

In Utero’s second single was another Modern Rock chart-topper for Nirvana. With its thoughtful lyrics and Cobain’s plaintive but poignant vocals, the grunge number really knows how to take you on an emotional musical journey. But it’s the stripped back version from the band’s MTV Unplugged in New York performance that became a rock radio staple and is most remembered today.

#4: “Lithium”
Nevermind (1991)

Featuring the quiet verses and loud choruses technique that they were quickly becoming known for, Nevermind’s third single is classic Nirvana all the way through. With Cobain’s growling vocals, distorted electric guitars, Krist Novoselic’s steady bass and Dave Grohl’s pounding drums, “Lithium” found a home on the Billboard Hot 100 and strengthened the band’s place at the top of the grunge movement.

#3: “Heart-Shaped Box”
In Utero (1993)

The first single off In Utero starts off slowly but surely, but it’s the loud and intense chorus that really makes “Heart-Shaped Box” so unforgettable. Add in some haunting lyrics and you’ve got a Modern Rock Tracks chart-topper. The tune’s music video also caused quite a stir with its weird imagery, which included influences from “The Wizard of Oz,” a shot of an old man being crucified and a little girl in Ku Klux Klan-inspired attire.

#2: “Come as You Are”
Nevermind (1991)

Thanks to its standout guitar riff, Nevermind’s second single became Nirvana’s second top forty smash on the Billboard Hot 100. Starting off moody and restrained, “Come As You Are” really gets loud during the chorus, and is filled with lyrical contradictions, which in turn reflect the contradictory nature of human beings. The song wasn’t only a radio hit, but also contained one of Cobain’s lengthiest and most melodious solos.

Honorable Mentions

“Drain You”
“The Man Who Sold the World”
“Pennyroyal Tea”
“You Know You’re Right”
“Territorial Pissings”

#1: “Smells Like Teen Spirit”
Nevermind (1991)

Alternative rock and music in general were never the same after Nirvana burst onto the scene with this anthem of adolescent indifference. Thanks to its Pixies-inspired loud-quiet-loud formula and angst-filled vocals, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” introduced the mainstream to the Seattle sound and its blend of heavy music with pop tendencies. No other musicians spoke to a generation quite like Nirvana: Nevermind’s sales and musical legacy - which are inextricable from this top ten smash - prove it.

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