Top 10 90s Grunge Songs

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Top 10 90s Grunge Songs

VOICE OVER: Phoebe de Jeu WRITTEN BY: Matt Klem
Bust out the plaid shirts and ripped jeans and head to Seattle, because we're going grunge! For this list, we'll be looking at the most popular and influential grunge tracks of the 1990s. Our countdown includes Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, and more!
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Top 10 Grunge Songs from the ‘90s


Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Grunge Songs from the ‘90s.

For this list, we’ll be looking at the most popular and influential grunge tracks of the 1990s.

What’s your all time favorite grunge track? Let us know in the comments.

#10: “Would?”

Alice in Chains

This 1992 track was first heard on the soundtrack to the Seattle-based movie “Singles”. Starting with a deep bass intro, the song quickly introduces a subtle touch of guitar. It’s the vocals that really make this song stand out however, with both Jerry Cantrell and the late Layne Staley turning in powerful performances. The lyrics and name of the song were inspired by the lead guitarist Jerry Cantrell’s friendship with the late Andrew Wood of Mother Love Bone. The track is especially memorable because it rides the fine line between melodic rock, and the signature grunge sound of the early 9’0s. Combine that with poignant lyrics about passing judgment, and you’ve got a killer tune.

#9: “Interstate Love Song”

Stone Temple Pilots

If you listened to any rock music station in 1994, you had to have heard this song. Released as the third single from their sophomore album “Purple”, it quickly surpassed their previous Mainstream Rock #1 hit, “Vasoline”. Late lead singer Scott Weiland wrote the lyrics describing his own deception to others about his then struggles with heroin addiction. Despite the heavy themes, the song is extremely catchy and a perfect driving song. Between Scott’s gruff but melodic voice, and the distinctly comforting sound of the guitar, this song easily reminds us of what makes Stone Temple Pilots such an easy listen.

#8: “Hunger Strike”

Temple of the Dog

A supergroup including members of Pearl Jam and Soundgarden (among others), Temple of the Dog was a band born out of tragedy. Similar to the song “Would?”, Temple of the Dog was formed as a tribute to the late Andrew Wood of Mother Love Bone. “Hunger Strike” became the most well-known track from their self-titled debut album. The combination of the highs and lows of Chris Cornell and Eddie Vedder’s vocals make this a truly original tune. Interestingly enough, Vedder’s contribution to the song came only after he happened to be rehearsing at the same space as Temple of the Dog.

#7: “Outshined”

Soundgarden

Released in 1991 as the second single to Soundgarden’s third album Badmotorfinger, this is one of those songs that will be forever associated with the grunge era. Slightly less chaotic than the album’s first single, “Jesus Christ Pose”, this classic track feels more entrenched in what would become the signature Soundgarden sound. Written by vocalist Chris Cornell, the song expresses the late singer’s battle with self-confidence and how he saw himself as incapable of being a hero. Performed in “drop D” tuning, the low end guitar and bass, combined with Chris’ vocals make it a perfect track to groove out to when you’re feeling low.

#6: “Come as You Are”

Nirvana

How do you follow up a song like “Smells Like Teen Spirit”? You do it Nirvana-style: however you want. Released as the second single from the band’s Nevermind album, this was a track that almost never made the air. Kurt Cobain had expressed concerns around the song’s similarity to a track by the Killing Joke called “Eighties”. Despite his reservations, he agreed and the song came out in March of 1992. Since then, the opening few notes of this song have become among the most instantly recognizable to anyone who listened to music in the 1990s. Charting as high as number three on multiple charts, it became another signature song for the legendary band.

#5: “Plush”

Stone Temple Pilots

If the band’s first single “Sex Type Thing” can be considered an appetizer, then “Plush” is the main course. This track reached #1 on Billboard’s US Mainstream Rock chart and earned the band their first Grammy win. Scott Weiland’s soothing melodies mesh perfectly with the easygoing guitar and meandering bass sound. You can’t help but feel yourself groove out as the tune moves along. The unplugged version of the track is arguably even more soothing. It’s no wonder then that “Plush” grew to become one of the most successful hits of the grunge era, and still remains a staple on modern radio.

#4: “Black Hole Sun”

Soundgarden

Cited as being a “huge departure” by drummer Matt Cameron, “Black Hole Sun” is perhaps Soundgarden’s most instantly recognizable song. Sure, the band has a fair collection of pretty quintessential ‘90s era grunge tunes, but this song became one of Soundgarden’s most successful tracks. It has all the makings of a song that could have easily been eclipsed on an album full of more aggressive, rock-driven tracks - like “Spoonman”. But it’s the uniquely melancholic instrumentation and captivating lyrics that make it stand out. Combine that with an acid-trip of a music video, and you’ve got a song that will stand the test of the ages.

#3: “Man in the Box”

Alice in Chains

Who could have predicted that a dinner with vegetarian record execs would inspire one of this band's most memorable songs? Released in January of 1991, this song never broke a top 10 chart during its heyday. However, it would eventually become the second most-played song of the 2010s, proving that grunge had left a lasting impression on listeners. The opening guitar riff blends together perfectly with Layne Staley’s harmonies. What follows is a great mix of Jerry Cantrell’s guitar and Staley’s melodic voice. For a song written about censorship, there’s nothing here you wouldn’t want to listen to.

#2: “Even Flow”

Pearl Jam

It’s a bit of an understatement to say Pearl Jam has been delighting audiences for decades. Songs like “Jeremy”, “Alive”, and “Daughter” have been cited as being among the band’s most noteworthy contributions to music - grunge or otherwise. That list however wouldn’t be complete without the song that best showcased Pearl Jam’s punch. Composed by vocalist Eddie Vedder and guitarist Stone Gossard, the song was inspired by the death of a homeless Vietnam war veteran. You may not always be able to understand Vedder’s lyrics, but the melody of his voice combined with the strong guitar and bass sound, make it a track you can’t help but bob your head to.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

“Heart-Shaped Box”
Nirvana

“Violet”
Hole

“Lithium”
Nirvana

“Lizzy”
Melvins

“Seether”
Veruca Salt


#1: “Smells Like Teen Spirit”

Nirvana

When Nirvana released their second album, Nevermind, the entire music industry experienced a tidal shift. No longer was alternative music relegated to a small, mostly ignored section of the music shop. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was an instant anthem for teens of the early ‘90s. Bringing the grunge movement to the masses, it’s a song that has truly stood the test of time. Even into the 21st century, it’s remained a staple of alternative rock and best of charts. Adding to the song’s legacy, Weird Al actually got Kurt Cobain’s blessing to parody the track in his 1992 single, “Smells Like Nirvana”. There’s really no grunge song that can compare to the incredible pop culture impact of “Smells Like Teen Spirit”.
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