The Best Grunge Music of the ’90s

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

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


The ’90s were a great decade for music, especially grunge. In this blog post, we’ll take a look at some of the best grunge music of the ’90s.


Grunge music first surfaced in the mid-’80s, but it didn’t reach its commercial peak until the early ’90s. Grunge was a product of the Seattle music scene, and it mixed elements of punk and metal to create a new sound that was both aggressive and melodic. The genre’s popularity exploded in 1991 with the release of Nirvana’s “Nevermind” album, and other grunge bands like Pearl Jam and Soundgarden soon followed suit.

The grunge sound dominated rock music for much of the ’90s, but by the end of the decade, it had begun to wane in popularity. Nevertheless, grunge remains an influential force in rock music, and many of its key players continue to make relevant and innovative music today.


Nirvana was an American rock band formed in Aberdeen, Washington, in 1987. Nirvana went through a succession of drummers, the longest-lasting and best-known being Dave Grohl, who joined the band in 1990. While recording their debut album Bleach (1989) with local producer Jack Endino, the band had a box of cassettes that included music by the Melvins, Mudhoney and Lead Belly. Cobain was particularly influenced by Lead Belly’s version of “In the Pines”, a song later covered by Nirvana.

Pearl Jam

No grunge band was more successful than Pearl Jam. The group’s 1991 debut album, “Ten”, quickly went multi-platinum and produced hits like “Alive,” “Even Flow” and “Jeremy.” Pearl Jam’s follow-up albums, “Vs.” and “Vitalogy”, were also huge hits, cementing the band’s place as one of the biggest rock bands of the ’90s. While Pearl Jam’s success was undeniable, the band was also known for its principled stance against Ticketmaster and the mainstream music industry. Inmany ways, Pearl Jam came to represent the best of ’90s grunge: huge commercial success coupled with a DIY ethic and a rebellious streak.

Alice in Chains

Alice in Chains is an American rock band from Seattle, formed in 1987 by guitarist/singer Jerry Cantrell and drummer Sean Kinney, who then recruited bassist Mike Starr and singer Layne Staley. The band rose to international fame as part of the grunge movement of the early 1990s.

The band’s classic lineup, which included Cantrell, Kinney, Starr and Staley, was dissolved in 1996 due to Staley’s drug addiction. William DuVall joined the band in 2006 as co-lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist following Staley’s death.

The band released six studio albums, one live album, two compilations, 22 music videos and three box sets. They have sold over 30 million records worldwide,[1] and garnered several awards and nominations including four Grammy nominations.


Grunge music first became popular in the early 1990s and is often associated with the Seattle music scene. Grunge is a subgenre of alternative rock that emerged as a fusion of punk rock and heavy metal. soundgarden was one of the most successful grunge bands of the ’90s, selling more than 10 million albums worldwide. The band’s third album, “Badmotorfinger,” was released in 1991 and debuted at number 39 on the Billboard 200 chart. The album’s first single, “Rusty Cage,” peaked at number 52 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Temple of the Dog

Temple of the Dog was an American rock band that was formed in 1990 in Seattle, Washington. The band was created by singer Chris Cornell of Soundgarden and guitarist Stone Gossard of Pearl Jam, to honor the late Andrew Wood, lead singer of Malfunkshun and Mother Love Bone. The line-up included Matt Cameron of Pearl Jam on drums, and Mike McCready and Jeff Ament of Pearl Jam on guitar and bass, respectively.

The band’s only album, Temple of the Dog (1991), was recorded in just two weeks during a lull in activity for both Soundgarden and Pearl Jam. The album is considered a classic of the grunge genre and achieved platinum status with no advertising or touring support. It is also notable for spawning the hit single “Hunger Strike”, which charted at number four on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Tracks chart in 1992.

Stone Temple Pilots

Stone Temple Pilots were one of the most successful grunge bands of the ’90s, releasing five studio albums between 1992 and 2001. The band’s debut album, Core, was a huge success, selling more than eight million copies in the United States. Stone Temple Pilots’ follow-up albums, Purple and Tiny Music… Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop, were also huge successes, selling more than six million copies each. Stone Temple Pilots’ final album, Shangri-La Dee Da, was a moderate success, selling more than two million copies in the United States.

Smashing Pumpkins

The Smashing Pumpkins were one of the most successful grunge bands of the ’90s. Formed in Chicago in 1988, the band’s original lineup consisted of lead singer and guitarist Billy Corgan, drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, bassist D’arcy Wretzky, and guitarist James Iha. The band’s 1991 debut album, Gish, was a critical and commercial success, and their 1993 follow-up, Siamese Dream, was even more successful. The Smashing Pumpkins were one of the few grunge bands to achieve mainstream success without signing to a major label; their 1996 album, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 chart.

The band’s success came to an abrupt halt in 1996 when Chamberlin was fired from the band and Wretzky left soon afterwards. The Smashing Pumpkins continued as a three-piece with Corgan handling all instrumentation himself. The band’s 1998 album, Adore, was a commercial disappointment, but they bounced back with their 2000 album Machina/The Machines of God. Chamberlin rejoined the band in 1999 and Wretzky made a brief return in 2000 before leaving again shortly afterwards. The Smashing Pumpkins officially disbanded in 2000, but reformed in 2005 with Chamberlin and Iha rejoining Corgan and bassist Ginger Reyes. The band has released two albums since reuniting: 2007’s Zeitgeist and 2018’s Shiny and Oh So Bright Vol. 1 / LP: No Past. No Future. No Sun


Bush was one of the most successful grunge bands of the ’90s. Their debut album, Sixteen Stone, was a massive hit, going platinum six times in the US. The album featured the singles “Glycerine” and “Comedown,” both of which topped the US Alternative Songs chart. Bush followed up with the equally successful album Razorblade Suitcase in 1996, which featured the hit singles “Swallowed” and “Greedy Fly.”


Of course, there are many other great grunge bands worth mentioning. Alice in Chains, Bush, Candlebox, Dinosaur Jr., L7, Mudhoney, Oleander, Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins, Stone Temple Pilots, Temple of the Dog, and Soundgarden all released top-notch albums in the ’90s.

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