Top Grunge and Alternative Music of the 90s

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

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,

A look at the top grunge and alternative music of the 90s. Featuring Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots, and more.

Nirvana- Smells Like Teen Spirit

Nirvana was one of the most popular grunge bands of the early 90s. Their album, Nevermind, catapulted them to stardom and their single, Smells Like Teen Spirit, became an anthem for a whole generation. Nirvana was influential in bringing alternative music into the mainstream and their unique sound continues to inspire musicians today.

Pearl Jam- Even Flow

Released in 1992, “Even Flow” was the second single off of Pearl Jam’s debut album, Ten. The song was written by lead singer Eddie Vedder and lead guitarist Mike McCready. Vedder’s lyrics are based on a true story about a homeless man he once saw in San Diego. The man was living under a pier and Vedder was so moved by his story that he decided to write a song about him. “Even Flow” is one of Pearl Jam’s most popular songs and is still played regularly on rock radio stations today.

Soundgarden- Black Hole Sun

Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” was one of the biggest hits of the 90s. It spent 7 weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and won a Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance. The song was written by frontman Chris Cornell and was inspired by a book of photographs called “Not Fade Away”.

Alice in Chains- Would?

Alice in Chains is an American rock band formed in Seattle, Washington, in 1987 by guitarist and songwriter Jerry Cantrell and original lead vocalist Layne Staley. The initial lineup was rounded out by drummer Sean Kinney and bassist Mike Starr, who was replaced in 1993 by bassist Mike Inez. Despite having little radio or television exposure, the band became well known for the strength and quality of their songwriting and vocal harmonies.

The band reached its mainstream peak with the release of their second album, Dirt (1992). The album was well received by critics and debuted at number six on the Billboard 200 chart, going on to be certified quadruple-platinum by the RIAA. Their third album, Alice in Chains (1995), managed to outsell Dirt and peaked at number three on the charts. It has been certified double platinum and has gone on to sell five million copies worldwide. The band has had five successful singles with “Would?”, “Rooster”, “Down in a Hole”, “No Excuses”, and “I Stay Away”.

Since its formation, Alice in Chains has released six studio albums, three EPs, two live albums, four compilations, 33 music videos, 32 singles and 31 music videos. The band is known for its distinctive vocal style which often included the harmonized vocals of Staley and Cantrell.

Stone Temple Pilots- Interstate Love Song

Stone Temple Pilots were one of the most successful American rock bands of the 1990s. Their 1993 debut album, Core, went double platinum and their singles “Sex Type Thing,” “Plush,” and “Creep” all cracked the top 10 of Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. Five more STP albums would follow over the next two decades, including two more No. 1s on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart (“Trippin’ on a Hole in a Paper Heart” and “Down”) and another top 10 hit, “Between the Lines.”

Green Day- Basket Case

“Basket Case” is a song by the American punk rock band Green Day. It is the seventh track off of their third studio album, Dookie (1994). The song was released as a single in May 1994. The song’s title is taken from frontman Billie Joe Armstrong’s experience with anxiety and panic attacks.

The song’s success propelled Green Day and Dookie to mainstream popularity. “Basket Case” peaked at number two on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart and number eight on the Billboard Hot 100. The song was nominated for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal and Best Rock Song at the 1996 Grammy Awards.

Offspring- Self Esteem

Offspring is an American rock band from Garden Grove, California, formed in 1984. Originally consisting of lead vocalist and guitarist Bryan “Dexter” Holland, bassist Greg K., lead guitarist Kevin “Noodles” Wasserman and drummer Ron Welty, The Offspring went through several lineup changes before releasing their debut album, Smash (1994), which established them as one of the most popular punk rock bands of the 1990s.

Weezer- Buddy Holly

Weezer’s “Buddy Holly” was one of the most popular songs of the ’90s. The song was released in 1994 as part of the band’s debut album, “The Blue Album.” The song is a power pop anthem with a catchy hook that helped make it a top 40 hit. “Buddy Holly” remains one of Weezer’s most popular songs and is often considered one of the best songs of the ’90s.

Bush- Glycerine

“Glycerine” is a song by the British rock band Bush. It was released in November 1995 as the fourth single from their debut album, Sixteen Stone. The song is in the key of F major. The verses follow a ii-V-I progression. “Glycerine” was recorded on 7 November 1995 at Air Studios in Montserrat, a recording studio located in the West Indies. The song was edited at Master Rock studios prior to release.

The song’s music video was directed by Kevin Kerslake, who previously directed the video for Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. “Glycerine” remains one of Bush’s biggest hits to date, charting at number one on both Mainstream Rock Tracks for eleven weeks and Modern Rock Tracks for eight weeks. Glycerine was nominated for Best Single at the 1996 Brit Awards.

The song’s success made it widely recognizable and remains one of Bush’s signature songs from their early period.”Glycerine” was voted number five in Triple J Hottest 100 in Australia in 1995. In October 2011, NME placed it at number 29 on its list “150 Best Tracks of the Past 15 Years”.

Smashing Pumpkins- Bullet with Butterfly Wings

“Bullet with Butterfly Wings” is a song by American alternative rock band the Smashing Pumpkins. It was the second single from their fourth studio album, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, released on October 24, 1995. The song peaked at number 22 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, becoming the band’s third top-forty single, following “Cherub Rock” and “Tonight, Tonight”. The song won a Song of the Year award at the 1996 MTV Video Music Awards.

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