The Best Grunge Music of All Time

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


We countdown our picks for the best grunge music of all time, including Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and more.

What is Grunge?

Grunge is a subgenre of alternative rock that emerged in the mid-1980s. Grunge music is typically characterized by its raw, distorted sound and its disdain for the mainstream music industry. These days, grunge is often thought of as a nostalgia act, but there are still a few great grunge bands out there making music.

The history of grunge

Grunge is a subgenre of alternative rock that emerged during the mid-1980s in the American state of Washington, particularly in Seattle. It is characterized by a dirty, low-fi sound and outsider attitude. Grunge fashion often featured plaid shirts, ripped jeans, and Doc Martens boots.

Theterm “grunge” was first used to describe the music of Seattle-based bands such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden. These bands were influenced by punk rock and heavy metal, but they also incorporated elements of folk, pop, and jazz into their music. Grunge became a national phenomenon in the early 1990s with the release of Nirvana’s album Nevermind.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, grunge lost some of its momentum due to the deaths of Kurt Cobain and Layne Staley (of Alice in Chains), as well as the retirement of Soundgarden. However, many grunge bands have continued to enjoy success in the 2000s and 2010s, including Pearl Jam, Foo Fighters (fronted by former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl), Stone Temple Pilots (fronted by Scott Weiland), and Nickelback.

The sound of grunge

The grunge sound is typified by heavy guitar riffs and a strong sense of rhythm. The guitars are often overdriven or distorted, giving them a raw, aggressive sound. The drums are also typically very loud and work to create a sense of momentum. Grunge songs often have dark, depressing lyrics that reflect the hardships of life.

The Best Grunge Albums of All Time

Grunge music became popular in the early 1990s with bands such as Nirvana and Pearl Jam leading the way. Grunge music is a mix of punk and metal and is known for its raw, distorted sound. If you’re a fan of grunge music, check out our list of the best grunge albums of all time.

Nirvana – Nevermind

Nirvana’s second album is not only one of the best grunge albums of all time, but one of the best albums period. Nevermind is a perfect storm of pop, punk and grunge that made Kurt Cobain a generational icon and cemented Nirvana as one of the most important rock bands of all time. The album features some of Nirvana’s most popular songs like “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” “Come As You Are” and “Lithium,” as well as the classic rock radio staple “In Bloom.” Nevermind was a game-changer when it was released in 1991, and its influence can still be felt today.

Pearl Jam – Ten

Grunge music became mainstream in the early 1990s with the help of Seattle-based bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden. The genre is characterized by its simple, distorted guitar sounds and dark, melancholic lyrics. While grunge music only had a few short years in the spotlight, it left a lasting impression on the world of rock music.

Pearl Jam’s debut album, Ten, is often considered one of the best grunge albums of all time. Released in 1991, the album features some of Pearl Jam’s most iconic songs, including “Alive,” “Jeremy,” and “Even Flow.” Ten was a massive commercial success, selling more than 13 million copies in the United States alone. It is one of the few grunge albums to achieve true classic status.

Soundgarden – Badmotorfinger

Soundgarden’s second album elevated them from being “the best band of Seattle’s burgeoning grunge scene” to one of the biggest rock bands in the world. It also firmly established Chris Cornell as one of the preeminent vocalists and songwriters of his generation. The singles “Jesus Christ Pose,” “Rusty Cage,” and “Outshined” remain rock radio staples to this day, while the album tracks “Searching With My Good Eye Closed,” “Face Pollution,” and “Slaves & Bulldozers” are among the band’s most beloved deep cuts. Badmotorfinger is not only a quintessential grunge album, it’s one of the best hard rock albums of all time.

Alice in Chains – Dirt

Dirt is the second studio album by the American rock band Alice in Chains, released on September 29, 1992, through Columbia Records. Peaking at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 chart, the album was certified quadruple-platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). It is the band’s most successful album to date and remains one of the defining works of the grunge movement of the early 1990s. The singles “Would?”, “Them Bones”, “Angry Chair”, “Rooster”, and “Down in a Hole” were included on the greatest hits album Music Bank (1999). The album has been ranked on many publications’ best album lists. In 2003, it was ranked No. 36 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time, and No. 2 on Blender’s 2003 list of 25 Greatest Albums Ever Made.

Stone Temple Pilots – Core

Stone Temple Pilots’ debut album, Core, was released on September 29th, 1992. The album was an instant success, peaking at number three on the Billboard 200 and spending more than a year in the top forty. It eventually sold more than eight million copies in the United States alone. Core was praised for its tight songwriting, powerful vocals, and aggressive guitar work. Stone Temple Pilots would go on to become one of the most successful grunge bands of all time, selling over thirty million records worldwide.

The Best Grunge Songs of All Time

Grunge music is a style of rock that emerged in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Grunge music is characterized by its raw, distorted sound and its dark, angsty lyrics. Grunge bands became popular in the early 1990s with the rise of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden.

Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit

Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was the anthem for a generation of kids who were fed up with the status quo. It was a song that gave voice to their frustration and anger, and it perfectly captured the feeling of being misunderstood. The song also introduced the world to grunge, a new musical genre that combined elements of punk and metal. Grunge would go on to become one of the most popular genres of the 1990s.

Pearl Jam – Jeremy

“Jeremy” is a song by the American rock band Pearl Jam, with lyrics written by vocalist Eddie Vedder and music written by bassist Jeff Ament. “Jeremy” was released in 1992 as the third single from Pearl Jam’s debut album Ten (1991). The song was included on Pearl Jam’s 2004 greatest hits album, rearviewmirror (Greatest Hits 1991–2003). Despite the song only reaching number 16 on Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks chart, “Jeremy” became one of Pearl Jam’s best-known songs. The video Featuring a disturbed schoolboy who shoots himself in front of his classmates, it was stirring stuff, made all the more potent thanks to Vedder’s impassioned delivery.”

The song is told from the point of view of a troubled teenager named Jeremy Delle from Richardson, Texas. On January 8, 1991, 16-year-old Jeremy shot himself in front of his English class at Richardson High School. His suicide note simply read: “I hate myself”.

The video features Vedder’s real-life wife Beth Liebling as one of the classroom students.

Alice in Chains – Would?

Alice in Chains – Would?
From the album “Dirt”
Released: September 29, 1992
Would? is a song by Alice in Chains, released as the third single from their second studio album, Dirt (1992). The song was released in August 1992 as the album’s third single. It peaked at number eight on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Tracks chart and number 34 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song appeared in the Cameron Crowe film Singles (1992).

The song was written by Jerry Cantrell as an ode to his friend Andrew Wood, former frontman of Mother Love Bone. Wood died of a heroin overdose in 1990.

Soundgarden – Rusty Cage

“Rusty Cage” is a song by American rock band Soundgarden. Written by frontman Chris Cornell, “Rusty Cage” was released as the fourth single from the band’s fourth studio album, Badmotorfinger (1991). The song peaked at number three on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks chart and number nine on the UK Singles Chart. The song was included on Soundgarden’s 1997 compilation album, A-Sides.

In 2009, “Rusty Cage” was ranked number 216 on VH1’s list of the “100 Greatest Hard Rock Songs”. In October 2011, NME placed it at number 149 on its list of “150 Best Tracks of the Past 15 Years”.

Stone Temple Pilots – Plush

Stone Temple Pilots – Plush

Released: March 16, 1993

From the album: Core

Length: 5:13

Label: Atlantic Records

Achieving mainstream success with their debut album, Core, Stone Temple Pilots became one of the defining grunge bands of the early ‘90s. The popularity of their first single, “Sex Type Thing,” led to accusations of sexism, but the band shrugged off the criticism and continued to find success with songs like “Creep” and “Plush.” The latter track ultimately won a Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance in 1994.

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