The 10 Greatest Grunge Music Songs of All Time

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

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Find out which grunge songs made our list of the 10 greatest of all time. From Nirvana to Pearl Jam, these are the hits that defined the genre.

Smells Like Teen Spirit- Nirvana

Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was the anthem for a generation of teenagers who were tired of being told what to do. With its mix of heavy metal and punk rock, the song became a symbol of defiance for a whole generation of kids. The song is still just as popular today as it was when it was first released.

Come As You Are- Nirvana

Nirvana’s second single from Nevermind quickly became one of the most iconic songs of the ’90s. The track earned Nirvana their first Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance in 1992. “Come As You Are” features a catchy melody and relatable lyrics that made it an instant hit with fans. The song also helped to popularize the grunge music genre.

Lithium- Nirvana

“Lithium” is a song by American rock band Nirvana. It is the fourth track and second single from the band’s second studio album, Nevermind (1991). Written by frontman Kurt Cobain, the song is about a man who turns to religion after the woman he loves leaves him.

The song was released as a single in July 1992 and peaked at number 32 on the Billboard Hot 100, making it Nirvana’s highest-charting single in the United States at that time. The single also reached number three on the Alternative Songs chart and number seven on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. “Lithium” was included on Nirvana’s best-selling album, MTV Unplugged in New York (1994), which won a Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album in 1996.

In Bloom- Nirvana

“In Bloom” is a song by American rock band Nirvana. It is the fourth song on their second album, Nevermind (1991), released on DGC Records. Written by frontman Kurt Cobain, the song was developed after he wrote the riff during sound checks while touring prior to the recording of Nevermind. The song was initially offered to Tad, who rejected it.

The song features a clean guitar intro and verse followed by a loud chorus. Cobain has said that he wrote the music before developing the lyrics, which deal with people who are misunderstood. “In Bloom” was one of the last songs recorded for Nevermind and was included at producer Butch Vig’s request.

Nirvana first performed “In Bloom” live on January 9, 1992, in Seattle, Washington. The song became a staple of the band’s live performances until their dissolution in 1994. It has been included on several of Nirvana’s live albums and compilations, including From the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah (1996) and Live at Reading (2009). Following Cobain’s death in April 1994, MTV placed “In Bloom” at number eight on its countdown of Nirvana’s greatest hits. In 2002,”In Bloom” was ranked number 386 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list; it rose to number 295 in 2010 and number 258 in 2020.”

Heart-Shaped Box- Nirvana

“Heart-Shaped Box” is a song by American rock band Nirvana, written by vocalist and guitarist Kurt Cobain. It was released as the first single from the band’s third and final studio album, In Utero, in 1993. The song topped the Billboard Alternative Songs chart and reached number 35 on the Billboard Hot 100.

The music video for “Heart-Shaped Box” was directed by Anton Corbijn and was shot in January 1993. It features Cobain in a hospital room, throwing bricks through a window at views of other patients or doctors. The video was nominated for several MTV Video Music Awards, winning one for Best Alternative Video.

All Apologies- Nirvana

Nirvana was one of the most popular grunge bands of all time and “All Apologies” is one of their most iconic songs. The song was written by Kurt Cobain and released as a single in 1993. It was included on the band’s final studio album, In Utero, which was released shortly before Cobain’s death in 1994. “All Apologies” is a melancholy and introspective song that reflects on the difficulties of relationships and the pain of addiction. The song was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rock Song in 1995.

Black Hole Sun- Soundgarden

Black Hole Sun is a song by American rock band Soundgarden. Written by frontman Chris Cornell, the song was released in May 1994 as the third single from the band’s fourth studio album, Superunknown (1994). It is one of the band’s most popular and well-known songs. The music video, directed by an up-and-coming Dave Meyers, won the Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance at the 1996 Grammy Awards. Black Hole Sun topped Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Tracks chart for eight consecutive weeks, and peaked at number six on the Billboard Hot 100. The song was included on Soundgarden’s greatest hits album A-Sides (1997) and received a nomination for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal at the 37th Annual Grammy Awards.

In 2010, Rolling Stone readers voted Black Hole Sunthe fourth-best song of all time; Pitchfork Media named it fifth on their list of “The 200 Greatest Songs of the 90s”; NME named it 21st on their list of “150 Best Tracks of the Nineties”; and VH1 placed it 67th on their list of “100 Greatest Songs of the ’90s”.

Spoonman- Soundgarden

Spoonman was the first single off of Soundgarden’s fourth studio album Superunknown. The song was written by Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell and released in 1994. The song is about a man who plays the spoons for a living. The spoonman in question is real life spoon player Artis the Spoonman who Cornell saw busking on the streets of Seattle. The song was a huge success for Soundgarden, reaching #3 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart and #9 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Fell On Black Days- Soundgarden

Fell On Black Days by Soundgarden is one of the greatest grunge music songs of all time. The song was released in 1994 as a single from the album Superunknown. The song is about depression and how it can make someone feel. The song is considered to be one of Soundgarden’s best songs and is a classic grunge song.

Rusty Cage- Soundgarden

“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 third studio album, Badmotorfinger, in 1992. The song was included on Soundgarden’s 1997 greatest hits album, A-Sides.

The song was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance in 1993. In 2010, it was named the 34th greatest hard rock song of all time by VH1..

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