NPR Music: The Best of the 1990s Post-Grunge Major Label

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

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


NPR Music’s staff picks for the best albums of the 1990s from the post-grunge era of major label rock.


It was a decade that saw the rise of Nirvana, Pearl Jam and other Seattle-based grunge bands, as well as the proliferation of post-grunge music from the likes of Stone Temple Pilots, Creed and Bush. And while grunge would eventually fall out of favor with the mainstream, post-grunge would enjoy continued success throughout the ’90s.

On this week’s episode of All Songs Considered, hosts Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton look back at some of the best post-grunge music from the 1990s. You’ll hear tracks from Alice In Chains, Foo Fighters, Live, Smashing Pumpkins, Soundgarden and more.

The Best of the 1990s Post-Grunge Major Label

One of the most interesting genres of the 1990s was post-grunge, a direct result of the popularity of grunge in the early part of the decade. Post-grunge major label music was a blend of grunge, alternative rock, and hard rock, and featured both male and female vocalists. Many of the bands thatburst onto the scene in the mid-1990s went on to have great success, selling millions of records and touring the world.


Sharing the same gritty, do-it-yourself punk rock aesthetic that characterized the Seattle music scene at the time, Nirvana’s breakthrough album Nevermind (1991) brought grunge to the mainstream, ushering in a new era of alternative music and changing the course of popular culture. The band’s follow-up album In Utero (1993), recorded in secret with producer Steve Albini, was equally influential, cementing Nirvana’s status as one of the most important and influential rock bands of all time.

Pearl Jam

Formed in Seattle in 1990, Pearl Jam was one of the leading lights of the post-grunge era. The band’s debut album, Ten, was released in 1991 and became a massive success, thanks in part to the popularity of singles like “Alive” and “Jeremy.” Pearl Jam went on to become one of the most successful rock bands of the ’90s, selling millions of records and headlining arena and stadium tours around the world. The band is also known for its activism, supporting causes like Greenpeace and relief efforts for victims of Hurricane Katrina. Pearl Jam remains active today, with a new album, Lightning Bolt, released in 2013.


formative years in Seattle, Soundgarden was one of the 1990s’ most popular post-grunge bands. The group’s debut album, Louder Than Love (1989), established them as a hard rock force to be reckoned with. The band reached its commercial peak with the release of Superunknown (1994), which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and yielded the hits “Black Hole Sun,” “Spoonman” and “Fell on Black Days.” After a break from recording and touring, Soundgarden returned with Down on the Upside (1996) and its last studio album, King Animal (2012). The group disbanded in 2017 following the death of singer Chris Cornell.

Alice in Chains

Formed in 1987, Alice in Chains was one of the defining bands of the 1990s post-grunge major label era. The group’s dark, heavy sound helped them stand out in a time when guitar-based rock music was starting to fall out of favor with the mainstream.

The band’s breakthrough album, Facelift, was released in 1990 and featured their signature song, “Man in the Box.” The album went on to be certified double platinum by the RIAA. Alice in Chains followed up Facelift with the equally successful album, Dirt, in 1992. The album featured another one of the band’s classic songs, “Would?”, which became a radio staple.

Following the release of Dirt, Alice in Chains’ popularity continued to grow. The band toured extensively throughout the early-1990s and their live performances were highly regarded by fans and critics alike. In 1994, the band released their third studio album, Jar of Flies, which debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 chart. The album was certified platinum by the RIAA and featured the single “I Stay Away,” which received heavy radio play.

Alice in Chains continued to tour and release new music throughout the late-1990s and early-2000s. In 2002, they released their fourth studio album, Black Gives Way to Blue. The album was certified gold by the RIAA and featured the single “Check My Brain,” which became a top ten hit on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart. Following a five-year hiatus, Alice in Chains released their fifth studio album, The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here, in 2013. The album debuted at number two on the Billboard 200 chart and received positive reviews from critics.

Stone Temple Pilots

Stone Temple Pilots were one of the most successful bands of the 1990s post-grunge era. The band’s debut album, Core, was released in 1992 and reached number two on the Billboard charts. The singles “Sex Type Thing” and “Creep” became hits, and the album was certified eight times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Stone Temple Pilots’ follow-up album, Purple, was released in 1994 and debuted at number one on the Billboard 200. The album’s singles “Vasoline” and “Interstate Love Song” were both top ten hits on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. Stone Temple Pilots’ third album, Tiny Music… Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop, was released in 1996 and debuted at number four on the Billboard 200. The album’s lead single, “Big Empty”, won a Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance in 1997.


To sum it up, the 1990s post-grunge major label music scene was a mess. A lot of great bands got signed to major labels and then promptly dropped, while many others had their careers derailed by bad management or label interference. But in spite of all that, there were still some amazing albums released by major label artists during the decade. We hope you enjoyed our list of the best of the best.

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