Who Was the First to Start Grunge Music: Pearl Jam or Nirvana?

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

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Many people think that Pearl Jam was the first band to start the grunge music movement. However, Nirvana was actually the first band to release a grunge album.

The Start of Grunge Music

The grunge music scene began in the mid-1980s in Seattle, Washington. There were a number of different bands that contributed to the development of grunge music. These include Green River, Mudhoney, and Mother Love Bone. Pearl Jam and Nirvana are two of the most well-known grunge bands.

Pearl Jam

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the grunge movement was born in Seattle. The music was characterized by its raw, unpolished sound, as well as its focus on personal subjects like depression and anxiety. While there are many bands that are considered to be part of the grunge scene, Pearl Jam and Nirvana are two of the most well-known and influential. But who was the first to start grunge music?

While there is no clear answer, many people believe that Pearl Jam was the first band to start grunge music. The band was formed in 1990, and their debut album, Ten, was released in 1991. Nirvana’s debut album, Bleach, was not released until 1989. However, it is worth noting that Nirvana’s sound began to change after they signed with a major label in 1991 and released their second album, Nevermind. This album contained their most well-known song, “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” which helped to propel Nirvana into the mainstream.

So while there is no clear answer as to who was the first to start grunge music, Pearl Jam and Nirvana are both considered to be key players in the grunge movement.


Nirvana was a Seattle-based rock band formed by singer and guitarist Kurt Cobain and bassist Krist Novoselic in 1987, with drummer Dave Grohl joining the band in 1990. Cobain and Novoselic met while attending Aberdeen High School, although they never connected, according to Cobain. The pair eventually became friends while frequenting the practice space of the Melvins. Nirvana released its first single, a cover of Shocking Blue’s “Love Buzz”, in November 1988 on the Seattle independent record label Sub Pop. They did their first interview with John Peel shortly thereafter. The following year, Sub Pop released Nirvana’s debut album Bleach, recorded in Seattle with local producer Jack Endino.

The Sound of Grunge Music

Grunge music is a type of rock that developed in the late 1980s and early 1990s. It was made popular by bands such as Nirvana and Pearl Jam. Grunge music is characterised by its raw, unpolished sound and its focus on personal, often dark, topics.

Pearl Jam

Many people say that grunge music started with Nirvana and their album “Nevermind,” but the roots of grunge go back much further. While Nirvana may have popularized the genre, Pearl Jam was the first band to really define what grunge would become.

Grunge music is characterized by its heavy, distorted sound and its dark, personal lyrics. Pearl Jam’s debut album, “Ten,” perfectly encapsulated these elements, and it quickly became one of the most popular albums of the early ’90s. With hits like “Alive” and “Jeremy,” Pearl Jam introduced a new generation to the sounds of Seattle.

While Nirvana would later eclipse Pearl Jam in popularity, it’s important to remember that without Pearl Jam’s groundbreaking work, grunge might never have become as popular as it did.


There are a few grunge bands that can lay claim to being the first to break through to the mainstream, but Nirvana is generally considered to be the most influential and important band of the genre. Kurt Cobain and his bandmates created a sound that was both aggressive and melodic, with catchy hooks and anguished lyrics. Nirvana’s music was a force to be reckoned with, and their 1991 album Nevermind changed the course of popular music.

The Influence of Grunge Music

Grunge music was a major force in the early 1990s. The genre was characterized by its raw, aggressive sound and angsty lyrics. Grunge music was started by a few different bands, but the two most influential were Pearl Jam and Nirvana.

Pearl Jam

Grunge is a subgenre of alternative rock that emerged in the mid-1980s. It was initially characterized by heavy guitar riffs, distorted sound, and vocals that were often shouted or screamed. Grunge music was an underground phenomenon that gained popularity in the early 1990s, when grunge bands such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden broke into the mainstream.

Grunge music was influenced by a number of other genres, including punk rock, metal, and classic rock. Grunge bands often used distorted guitars and aggressi


Nirvana was a rock band formed in Aberdeen, Washington, in 1987. Founded by lead singer and guitarist Kurt Cobain and bassist Krist Novoselic, the band went through a succession of drummers before recruiting Dave Grohl in 1990. Nirvana’s sudden success popularized alternative rock and grunge music in the mainstream media. It has been ranked as one of the greatest albums of all time.

Nirvana was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in its first year of eligibility in 2014, with Cobain and Novoselic attending the ceremony; Grohl did not attend but sent a video message saying that he considered himself “fortunate” to have been part of Nirvana.

The End of Grunge Music

Grunge music was a subgenre of alternative rock that emerged in the late 1980s. Grunge music was characterized by its dark and angst-filled lyrics, as well as its heavy guitar sound. The genre became popular in the early 1990s with bands such as Nirvana and Pearl Jam. However, by the mid-1990s, grunge music had begun to lose its popularity.

Pearl Jam

To trace the origins of grunge, we first have to take a step back and look at the Seattle music scene in the 1980s. At that time, there were two distinct camps in the city’s music community: the punks and the metalheads. The punks were more inclined towards underground DIY culture, while the metalheads were more interested in hair bands and hard rock.

In 1987, a group of friends who were part of the punk scene started a band called Mother Love Bone. The band quickly gained a following in Seattle and soon signed with a major label. However, tragedy struck when lead singer Andrew Wood overdosed on heroin and died just before the release of their debut album.

The remaining members of Mother Love Bone went on to form Pearl Jam, while Wood’s old roommate Chris Cornell started a band called Soundgarden. These two bands would go on to become two of the biggest grunge bands in the world.

So who was really the first grunge band? That’s hard to say. Both Pearl Jam and Nirvana had elements of punk and metal in their sound, but they also blended in other genres like folk and alternative rock. In many ways, grunge was a reaction against the polished sound of mainstream 80s rock, so it’s hard to pinpoint where it really started.


Nirvana was a highly influential American rock band that helped to shape the sound and style of grunge music. The band was formed in 1987 by singer/guitarist Kurt Cobain and bassist Krist Novoselic, and drummer Dave Grohl joined the band in 1990. Nirvana released their debut album, Bleach, in 1989, but it was their 1991 album Nevermind that propelled them to international superstardom. The album’s first single, “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” became a huge hit, and Nirvana became the leading exponents of the grunge movement. Nirvana’s follow-up album, In Utero, was also highly successful, and the band toured extensively to support it. Unfortunately, Kurt Cobain died by suicide in 1994, and Nirvana disbanded shortly thereafter. Although they were only active for a few years, Nirvana had a profound impact on the course of popular music, and they are widely considered to be one of the greatest rock bands of all time.

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