The Best Alternative Songs Of The 90s
The Best Alternative Songs Of The 90s must contain 1. Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana 2. Creep by Radiohead 3. Wonderwall by Oasis.
The 90s were a haven for Alt music. Coming across as a reaction to the pomp and pretension of the Hair and Glam Metal of the 80s from bands like Van Halen and Poison, Rock music in the 90s favored simple, Punk-inspired riffs and direct lyrics that talked about more intellectual things.
Though Grunge is the subgenre of Alt Rock many associates with the decade, various Alternative music as a whole saw a widespread boom due to the major label success of Nirvana showcasing that groups a bit left off the dial could rake in a lot of money too.
As such, Alternative music thrived and produced some very influential bands, artists, and most importantly, songs.
The 10 Best Alternative Songs Of The 90s
|Song Name:||Artist Name:|
|Smells Like Teen Spirit||Nirvana|
|Say It Ain't So||Weezer|
|Venus As A Boy||Bjork|
|Where Is My Mind||Pixies|
|Black Hole Sun||Soundgarden|
10. Alive by Pearl Jam
Alive by Pearl Jam begins our list of the best 90s Alternative Rock songs. Alongside Nirvana and Soundgarden, Pearl Jam was one of the big Grunge bands.
Coming at the heels of Nirvana's success, the group quickly solidified their status as Rock royalty with the runaway success of their first album, Ten. Alive was the first single released from the album on July 7, 1991.
It immediately caught the public's attention for three reasons. First, Eddie Vedder's iconic voice would be much copied in the decades after.
Second, the song's insane subject matter dealt with various taboo subjects. And Third, for the heavy yet Pop friendly guitars that would become a staple in Pearl Jam's songwriting.
Even now, the song has over 452 million streams on Spotify, and remains the most streamed song from its parent album.
9. Black Hole Sun by Soundgarden
Black Hole Sun by Soundgarden is this Grunge band's most famous song. As mentioned above, they were one of the prominent bands of the era.
As with Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam, Soundgarden was known for its own famous singer and frontman, Chris Cornell. With an even deeper and baritone voice than Vedder and growling, doom-filled riffs courtesy of guitarist Kim Thayil, this group quickly rose among the ranks of Grunge Royalty in the 90s.
The third single of their fourth and most successful album, Superunknown, topped the Album Rock Charts on Billboard and even reached #12 on the UK Singles chart. It still remains the group's signature song.
As of 2023, the song has amassed over 546 million streams on Spotify, and as with the previous track, is the most streamed song on its parent album.
8. Doll Parts by Hole
Doll Parts by Hole is an underrated Top Alternative Song of the 90s. This dour feminist anthem is more downtempo than the previous two tracks.
Dealing with themes of depression, derision, and devastation stemming from a world that looks down on you for simply being a woman, Courtney Love, singer and frontwoman of Hole, became a feminist idol through this song.
Though not as successful chart-wise as many other songs on this list, Doll Parts is an essential track for understanding that 90s Alternative was much more than angry men flaunting their guitars and long hair.
Never afraid to court controversy because she never apologized for being herself, Courtney Love, and Hole's legacy is secure with this song. It has over 46 million streams on Spotify.
7. 1979 by Smashing Pumpkins
1979 by Smashing Pumpkins shows that 90s Alternative music wasn't all angst. This wistful tune is packed with the powers of nostalgia and reminiscing.
Sung by the veritable Billy Corgan, singer and band leader of Smashing Pumpkins, 1979, like much of their music, stands in stark contrast to much of 90's Alt Rock and Grunge in general. Here, Corgan is singing about the beauty of youth and life in general, which was a topic not much covered in 90s Rock.
Though the band could growl and be dour like the best of them, in this beautiful piece, from their magnum opus Melon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, Corgan and co proved that there was more to 90s Rock than being sad for the sake of being sad, and that sadness could be beautiful too.
His message still remains as the song has over 473 Million plays on Spotify.
6. Where Is My Mind by Pixies
Where Is My Mind by Pixies is the Top Alternative Song of All Time purely in terms of influence. The Pixies influenced everyone on this list.
In fact, they might be one of the most influential artists in all of Alternative Rock. Though they never scaled the heights of contemporaries like REM and U2, their legacy looms large in every single band that has ever listened to their songs.
Hearing Where Is My Mind makes one understand how they could have reached such a stature. The song is ethereal, in a way, not many songs, Rock or otherwise, can be, and makes one feel truly alive in the strangest of ways.
Be it the haunting vocals, powerful bass, or the bizarreness of having, not an out-of-body, but an out-of-mind experience, no one can do Alt Rock quite like Pixies. Even now, the song has over 682 million plays on Spotify.
5. Venus As A Boy by Bjork
Venus As A Boy by Bjork is one of the most beautiful songs ever. In this masterpiece of found sounds, the Icelandic singer regales beauty.
Out of all the songs on this list, this is the only one that can be truly called Alternative with a capital A because the rest are, at their core, Rock songs. Venus As A Boy cannot be contained like that because there truly isn't anything like it.
With twinkling windchime percussion to the sweet stringing of Indian instruments, Bjork and her session musicians manage to make a song that is as unique as she is. Listening to this track is a heavenly experience because one feels, not only through her words but the music itself, that the boy she is singing of might actually be Venus, the goddess of love.
As such, the song as over 40 million plays on Spotify. People are still enraptured.
4. Say It Aint So by Weezer
Say It Aint So by Weezer is a heartfelt song about the dangers of alcoholism. However, first and foremost, it is a powerful Alt Rock song.
Heavier on Rock than Alternative, singer Rivers Cuomo and company let slip their Heavy Metal origins on this track. With powerful guitar riffs interspersed between smooth tunes and melodies.
Weezer has since become one of the most controversial and maligned bands known for delivering some of the highest highs and lowest lows in modern Rock music, but their debut self-titled album, known among fans as The Blue album, remains undefeated.
And Say It Ain't So is the crown jewel in that album and the most popular track on the record. Even now, it has amassed over 394 million streams on Spotify.
3. Wonderwall by Oasis
Wonderwall by Oasis may not be representative of their sound but it is their most popular track. This Britpop classic bleeds Rock Royalty too.
While Grunge and Alt Rock reigned supreme in America, across the pond, the Brits had grown tired of the depressing music the Yanks were producing. So, Oasis and co started making a brand of bright Pop Rock music in the vein of The Beatles, their biggest influence.
So, it's a work of almost holy irony that the most famous Britpop song in existence is this sad tune that the Gallagher brothers, singer Liam and guitarist/songwriter Noel, wrote as a joke, and became their biggest hit in America and then the world.
The song has since taken a life of its own as it has over 1.6 billion streams on Spotify. It is the most popular song on their entire profile.
2. Creep by Radiohead
Creep by Radiohead is another case of popular song being unrepresentative of the band's larger music. However, it is a much larger example than Oasis.
Radiohead is now known for many things, chief among them is pushing the boundaries of Rock, and music in general, further than any other musical act in existence. They have created some of the most acclaimed albums in all of Pop music and are regarded as one of the best bands of all time.
So, it's a bit sad that their biggest hit, at least in the mainstream, is a cloying love song from their much-hated debut studio album, Pablo Honey. Even the band themselves don't have much respect for this track.
Still, it has over 1.2 billion streams, and an acoustic version of it was featured in the new Guardians of the Galaxy movie.
1. Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana
Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana is the best Alternative Rock song. This song is one of the few that can be said to have changed the world.
The impact of this track is unprecedented and if one looks at the 1990s, the release of this single, in 1991, showcases the exact moment that the 1980s died. With the release of Teen Spirit, all the excess and embarrassment of the preceding decade wiped off, and the 90s as we now know it began.
Kurt Cobain, the beautiful and tortured singer and frontman of Nirvana became the voice of a generation. Though he would take his own life in three years, for those years he was King.
When it comes to the 90s, when it comes to Alternative Music, and even when it comes to Rock as a whole, Smells Like Teen Spirit is one of the greatest songs ever made. It too has over 1.6 billion plays on Spotify.
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