Which of These Was Common in Grunge Music?

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

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Grunge music is one of the most iconic genres of the past few decades. But what made it so special? In this blog post, we take a look at some of the defining characteristics of grunge music.

Grunge Music

Grunge music is a genre of rock music that emerged in the mid-1980s in the American state of Washington, particularly in Seattle. It became commercially successful in the early 1990s, due in part to the release of Nirvana’s Nevermind album, which was released on DGC Records in 1991.

What is grunge music?

Grunge is a subgenre of alternative rock that emerged during the mid-1980s in the American state of Washington, particularly in the Seattle area. The early grunge movement revolved around Seattle’s independent record label Sub Pop and the region’s underground music scene. By the early 1990s its popularity had spread, with grunge bands appearing in California, then emerging in other parts of the United States and finally internationally.

Grunge music is characterized by its Dirty sound, sometimes Referred to as “sludge”, which is created by distortion, fuzz and feedback. Grunge also incorporates elements of punk rock and heavy metal, such as distorted electric guitars, powerful drumming, and aggressive vocals. Lyrics are often angst-filled, dealing with subjects such as social alienation, apathy, despair, self-doubt, and a general dislike for society.

Where did grunge music come from?

Grunge music is a genre of alternative rock that began in the Seattle, Washington area in the late 1980s and became mainstream in the early 1990s. Grunge music is characterized by its heavy use of distorted electric guitars, grungy vocals, and a DIY ethic. Common themes in grunge music include anxiety, apathy, social alienation, and disaffection.

Grunge music emerged from the American punk rock scene of the early 1980s, when bands such as the Melvins and Mudhoney began to play fast, loud, and distorted music. These bands were inspired by British punk rock bands such as the Sex Pistols and The Clash. In 1985, Green River released their debut album, Dry As a Bone, which is considered to be one of the first grunge albums. In 1986, another Seattle band, Soundgarden, released their debut album, Ultramega OK.

Grunge music rose to mainstream popularity in the early 1990s with the release of Nirvana’s album Nevermind in 1991. Nirvana’s success brought attention to other grunge bands such as Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, and Stone Temple Pilots. Grunge music became a commercial success because it was Authentic and down to earth compared to the polished pop music that was popular at the time. Grunge fashion also became popular among young people during this time.

In 1992, Nirvana performed “Smells Like Teen Spirit” on Saturday Night Live. This performance helped to make Nevermind one of the best-selling albums of all time. However, grunge music’s popularity was short-lived; by 1994 Nirvana’s frontman Kurt Cobain had died by suicide and Pearl Jam had stopped touring due to ticket scalping issues. By 1995 grunge music had largely disappeared from radio airplay and MTV rotation. While some grunge bands continued to release new music throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s (such as Foo Fighters and Stone Temple Pilots), grunge as a musical movement largely faded from public consciousness.

What are the characteristics of grunge music?

Grunge is a subgenre of alternative rock that emerged during the mid-1980s in the American state of Washington, particularly in Seattle. Named after the dirty, soiled aesthetic of Seattle’s grungy music scene, grunge is characterized by its heavy guitar sound and angsty lyrics. Common themes in grunge music include dissatisfaction with society, teenage angst, and disaffection.

Grunge music is often considered to be a reaction against the commercialism and consumerism of mainstream 1980s pop music. Grunge musicians were often inspired by punk rock and hardcore punk, but they also drew influence from heavy metal and indie rock. The genre became mainstream in the early 1990s with the success of Nirvana’s 1991 album Nevermind.

Some of the most popular grunge bands include Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, and Stone Temple Pilots. Grunge music was also a major force in the development of the Seattle music scene, which gave rise to other genres such as indie rock and hip hop.

Grunge Bands

There are many different grunge bands, each with their own unique sound. Some common grunge bands include Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden. All of these bands helped to define the grunge sound.


Nirvana was an American rock band formed by singer and guitarist Kurt Cobain and bassist Krist Novoselic in Aberdeen, Washington, in 1987. Drummer Dave Grohl joined the band in 1990. Nirvana went through a succession of drummers, the longest-lasting and best-known being Dave Grohl, who joined in 1990. Though much of the band’s earlier material was initially inspired by and rooted in punk rock and grunge, they later diversified their sound considerably, incorporating pop, heavy metal, and acoustic rock influences into their music.

Nirvana was commercially successful during the early to mid-1990s: They achieved global popularity with their second album Nevermind (1991), which has sold over 30 million copies worldwide to date; reached number one on the Billboard 200 chart with In Utero (1993); and became one of the best-selling bands of all time with estimated sales of over 75 million records worldwide. Their debut album Bleach (1989) was also a critical success. Since their break-up following Cobain’s death in 1994, all members of the band have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as “artists” and “members”.

Pearl Jam

Pearl Jam is an American rock band, formed in Seattle, Washington, in 1990.The band’s lineup comprises founding members Jeff Ament (bass guitar), Stone Gossard (rhythm guitar), Mike McCready (lead guitar), and Eddie Vedder (lead vocals, guitar), as well as Matt Cameron (drums), who joined in 1998. Since its inception, the band’s line-up has included Bassist Jeff Ament, Stone Gossard on rhythm guitar and Mike McCready on lead guitar.


Soundgarden was one of the most successful grunge bands of all time. The band’s breakthrough hit, “Black Hole Sun,” topped the Billboard Mainstream Rock charts for seven weeks in a row in 1994. Soundgarden’s other hits include “Spoonman,” “Fell on Black Days,” and “My Wave.” The band won two Grammy Awards for Best Metal Performance, one for “Spoonman” and one for “Black Hole Sun.”

Grunge Songs

Grunge is a subgenre of alternative rock that emerged in the mid-1980s. Grunge music is typically characterized by a heavy, distorted sound, grungy lyrics, and a sludgy or slow tempo. Some of the most popular grunge bands include Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden. Let’s take a look at some of the most common elements in grunge songs.

Smells Like Teen Spirit

“Smells Like Teen Spirit” is a song by American rock band Nirvana. It is the opening track and lead single from the band’s second album, Nevermind (1991), released on DGC Records. The unexpected success propelled Nevermind to the top of several albums charts at the start of 1992, as well as establishing Nirvana as a pop culture phenomenon. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was Nirvana’s biggest hit in most countries, reaching number one in Australia, Belgium, France, New Zealand, Spain and the United Kingdom,[1][2] while peaking at number two in Canada and the United States.

In January 1992, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” became Nirvana’s first single to enter the Billboard Hot 100 chart, peaking at number six within seven weeks; it was also their highest-charting single on that chart until “Heart-Shaped Box” reached number one in 1993. The single was accompanied by a popular music video directed by Samuel Bayer. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked it ninth on their list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”.[3] ticketmaster.com placed “Smells Like Teen Spirit” as the greatest song of all time.[4] In 2010,”Smells Like Teen Spirit” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.[5]

Come As You Are

Come As You Are is a song by American grunge band Nirvana. It was released in March 1992 as the second single from their second album, Nevermind. The song was written by frontman Kurt Cobain and produced by Butch Vig.

The song’s lyrics are directed to someone Cobain was close to at the time, but the subject has never been identified. The song became Nirvana’s second breakthrough hit, reaching number 32 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number one on both the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart and Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. The success of “Come As You Are” helped Nevermind achieve commercial success; it topped the charts in several countries, including Australia, Canada and New Zealand.


“Lithium” is a song by American rock band Nirvana. It is the fourth track and second single from the band’s second album, Nevermind (1991),released on DGC Records. Written by frontman Kurt Cobain, the song concerns a man who turns to religion amid feelings of suicide.

Despite receiving mixed reviews at the time, “Lithium” has been praised by music critics in retrospect as one of Nirvana’s strongest songs both compositionally and lyrically. As a result, it has appeared on numerous year-end lists ranking the greatest songs of all time. Rolling Stone ranked it at number 52 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and Pitchfork Media placed it at number 42 on their list of The 200 Greatest Songs of the 1990s.

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