A Grunge Music Primer for Beginners

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

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


It can be hard to get into grunge music if you’re not sure where to start. This primer for beginners will give you a crash course in all things grunge so you can start enjoying this amazing genre of music!

What is grunge music?

Grunge music is a genre of rock music that emerged in the early 1990s. It is characterized by a heavy, distorted sound and lyrics that often deal with dark subjects such as depression, drug addiction, and suicide. Grunge music was popularized by bands such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden.

Origins of grunge music

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the grunge music scene exploded out of Seattle. Grunge music was a fusion of punk rock and heavy metal, and it was characterized by its raw, unpolished sound. Lyrics were often dark and angsty, dealing with topics like depression, addiction, and betrayal. The grunge look was also unique: flannel shirts, ripped jeans, Doc Martens boots, and messy hair.

While grunge music had been around for a few years before it became mainstream, it wasn’t until the early 1990s that it really took off. This was due in part to the release of Nirvana’s album Nevermind in 1991. The album’s lead single, “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” became a huge hit, and instantly made Nirvana one of the biggest bands in the world. With its popularity came increased exposure for other grunge bands like Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, and Soundgarden.

Grunge music’s popularity was short-lived, however. By the mid-1990s, the scene had begun to fade away. Grunge bands ceased to be as popular as they once were, and many of them disbanded or went on hiatus. While grunge music is no longer as popular as it once was, its influence can still be heard in today’s music.

Key artists in grunge music

Grunge is a subgenre of alternative rock that emerged in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The word “grunge” was first used in print in the Seattle weekly newspaper The Rocket in June 1991, to describe Green River’s Dry as a Bone EP. Sub Pop cofounder Bruce Pavitt was the first to use the term “grunge” to describe theSeattle music scene in a column he wrote for Maximumrocknroll magazine in September 1991.

Some key artists associated with grunge music are:
-Pearl Jam
-Alice in Chains

The grunge music scene

The grunge music scene was a musical movement that emerged in the early 1990s in the Pacific Northwest US, particularly in Seattle and Olympia, Washington. Grunge music is characterized by its distorted guitars, angsty lyrics, and raw, driving sound. It was a reaction against the polished pop music of the 1980s.

Grunge music became commercially successful in the early 1990s with bands such as Nirvana and Pearl Jam. Grunge fashion also became popular around this time, characterized by its plaid shirts, ripped jeans, and Doc Martens boots.

If you’re interested in getting into grunge music, start with some of the bands listed below. You can also check out our spotify playlist for a taste of what grunge sounds like.

Nirvana – One of the most iconic grunge bands, Nirvana was fronted by Kurt Cobain. They are responsible for popularizing grunge with their 1991 album Nevermind. Some of their most popular songs include “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “Come As You Are.”

Pearl Jam – Pearl Jam is another highly successful grunge band that rose to prominence in the early 1990s. They are known for their deeply personal lyrics and explosive live performances. Some of their most popular songs include “Alive” and “Jeremy.”

Soundgarden – Soundgarden is a bit heavier than Nirvana and Pearl Jam, but they are still considered one of the seminal grunge bands. They are known for their dark subject matter and unique sound. Some of their most popular songs include “Black Hole Sun” and “Rusty Cage.”

Grunge music today

Grunge music is often associated with the dark and angst-ridden lyrics of the early 1990s, but the genre is still alive and well today. While the original grunge bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam may have disbanded, there are plenty of new artists keeping the grunge sound alive.

If you’re interested in checking out some contemporary grunge music, here are a few bands to get you started:

-The Dirty Nil: This Canadian punk rock band infuses elements of grunge and garage rock into their music. Their 2016 album Higher Power was nominated for a Juno Award (the Canadian equivalent of the Grammy Awards).

-Radiation City: Hailing from Portland, Oregon, Radiation City’s music has been described as “dream pop with a touch of ’90s nostalgia.” Their 2013 album Animals in the Median was included on Pitchfork’s list of the best new music.

-DEATH: Although they formed in Detroit in 2009, this hardcore punk band takes its name from the influential ’70s punk band Death. DEATH’s music is fast, heavy, and political, with themes ranging from social justice to personal relationships.

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