The 90s was a time of a lot of bad music. From the Backstreet Boys to Britney Spears, it is a wonder that we haven’t blocked it out from our memories altogether, but there is a reason for that. The saving grace of the 90s was the alternative rock/grunge scene that has inspired so many artists since. We picked what we think are the best 10 rock songs of the 90s. Give them a listen and then maybe you will have a new perspective on the decade.
The 10th song on our list is “Santeria” by Sublime. Sublime is a rock band with reggae and hip hop influences. “Santeria” is one of Sublime’s most famous songs and with good reason. When it comes on, my initial reaction is to close my eyes and start swaying from side to side. Not to mention, the guitar solo is great.
“‘Santeria’ is my favorite song by Sublime. It kinda sounds like ‘D’yer Maker’ by Led Zeppelin because of its chill, beachy vibes,” said junior Ava Prohaska
9)”Bulls on Parade”-Rage Against the Machine
You can’t have a list of best 90s songs without at least one by Rage Against the Machine. “Bulls on Parade,” off of their 1996 album “Evil Empire,” is our favorite RATM song because of its lyrics and message. The band has the ability to spread the message of peace while creating music that is anything but peaceful. Rage Against the Machine crowds were always full of mosh pits, crowd surfers, and thousands of angry young people looking for a way to let out their frustrations while chanting the words “Rally round tha family! With a pocket full of shells.”
8) “Everlong”-Foo Fighters
Dave Grohl, who started off as the drummer of Nirvana, proved that he is more than just the guy in the background. Since forming the Foo Fighters, Grohl showed us that he can write, sing, and play guitar.
“Everlong” is probably the most well-known song by the Foo Fighters, and with good reason. “Everlong” brings back feelings of falling in love for the first time with Grohl’s lovesick vocals and lyrics like “If everything could ever feel this real forever/If anything could ever be this good again…”
Not to mention, Dave’s hair is A+ in the music video:
7) “Man In The Box”- Alice In Chains
Alice In Chains was also a very popular grunge band in the 90s, and is well-known for their song “Man In The Box.” It is the second track on their debut album “Facelift,” and the song is known for its warped guitar and the gruff vocals of lead singer Jerry Cantrell.
“I do not know much about Alice in Chains or even the grunge genre, but this song is just HELLA good. SO good that it makes me want to listen to a lot more grunge music to see what it’s all about,” said junior Raymond Garcia.
There is no other way to put this: “Man In The Box”
6)” Celebrity Skin”- Hole
“Celebrity Skin” is the first song off of Hole’s sensational pop album “Celebrity Skin.” While Hole was previously known for their aggressive sound and the loud screams of their lead singer, Courtney Love, “Celebrity Skin” took a different approach in 1998 with a new wave pop album.
From the guitar riff that gets stuck in your head to Love’s super cool voice, it’s a super cute, bubble gum pop song about fame and Hollywood that makes you feel like a million bucks. To prove our point, here are some of our favorite lyrics:
“When I wake up in my make up/ have you ever felt so used up as this?/it’s all so sugarless, hooker/waitress, model/actress/ oh just go nameless”
“Celebrity Skin” is A+ start to finish, no matter what kind of music you are into.
“A lot of people give Courtney Love a bad reputation because of her drug addiction and the theories surrounding Kurt Cobain’s death. They overlook the fact that she was the lead of a great band and was a strong woman in an industry mostly dominated by men. ‘Celebrity Skin’ shows the pressures that comes with being famous and constantly scrutinized by the press,” said junior PJ Zicaro.
5) “Aneurysm”- Nirvana
“Aneurysm” is the 15th track off of Nirvana’s little known compilation album titled “Incesticide.” Known for having a catchy, headbanging tune, “Aneurysm” is an angst-filled tune about loving someone so much that it makes you sick.
Is this not very much relatable?
From the rapid guitar to the tearing screams, Cobain once again delivers a sick jam that truly sounds like he is suffering from a (cool sounding) aneurysm.
4) “The Day I Tried to Live”-Soundgarden
Soundgarden is essential to this list as they are one of the most popular, and one of the best, bands of the nineties. Chris Cornell’s strong, raspy voice is enough to make any song sound good, and with the band’s impressive instrumentation and lyrics and catchy tunes, it makes it easy to like them.
Normally, Soundgarden is remembered for “Black Hole Sun,” but we personally think that it is not their best song. “The Day I Tried to Live” is our favorite Soundgarden song because it is the perfect display of Cornell’s wide vocal range. The song starts off with low, eerily calm vocals and a heavy bassline that builds up suspense until the chorus. Then Cornell proceeds to belt out the words at the top of his range.
3) “Drain You”- Nirvana
“Drain You,” the eighth track off of Nirvana’s best-selling album “Nevermind” is our favorite song on the album. Despite “Nevermind” being famous for “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” “Drain You” is much better. From the super catchy guitar riffs, to 45 seconds of duck sounds and sloppy guitar feedback with Cobain’s odd lyrics, what is there not to like? Here are a few lines from the song:
“One baby to another says I’m lucky to have met you/ I don’t care what you think unless it is about me/it is now my duty to completely drain you.”
What is the message? Abortion? Insecurity? You can never know which one it is, but it adds to the greatness of this song.
“The Concept”- Teenage Fanclub Teenage Fanclub is one of the lesser-known bands of the nineties, but a great one nonetheless. “The Concept” is our runner-up for best song because it is an all-around great tune filled with the immense passion and angst that made alternative rock in that decade so unique. If the tone of the song doesn’t bring you back to the era of grunge, the lyrics will.
The song begins with the words “She wears denim wherever she goes/She says she’s gonna get some records by the Status Quo…” and transitions right into a beautiful chord progression that can spark nostalgia in any listener. “The Concept” is the type of song that you want to belt out as loud as you can while driving on the highway with your windows rolled down.
If you have never listened to “The Concept” or Teenage Fanclub, give them a listen and you will not be let down.
1) “Rape Me”-Nirvana:
The best, yet most controversial song of the 90s: “Rape Me.”
“Rape Me” is the fourth song off of Nirvana’s third and final studio album, “In Utero.” Nirvana was the biggest band in the 90s, and known for their grunge sound, distorted guitar, Cobain’s powerful vocals, and being very daring with their music and lyrics.
The distortion of the guitar, the bold lyrics about rape culture and assault, and Cobain’s rough voice make this a phenomenal song from start to finish. It sends chills down your back and really captures the ugly aggression of rape.
Now we know what you are thinking – this is a hella offensive song promoting rape culture. However, it is the exact opposite.
In a 1993 MTV interview, Cobain says, “It’s an anti, let me repeat that, ANTI rape song… I got tired of people putting too much meaning into my lyrics.. so I decided to be really blunt and bold.”
The strong drums combined with Cobain’s ragged voice, distortion and meaningful message make this a powerful and amazing tune, and the best of the 90s.
“When I first heard ‘Rape Me,’ I was confused because I thought the message was supporting rape culture. I was upset because I did not think Nirvana would advocate for such a horrible practice. But once I realized what the song was actually saying, I realized how genius Kurt Cobain is with his lyrics,” said freshman Hugh McCabe.
Here’s Nirvana’s live performance of “Rape Me” at the Paramount Theater in 1991:
The 90s was definitely a time of music experimentation. From crappy bubblegum pop to hard rock to the aggressive vibes of grunge, the 90s had it all.
So the question remains: Which one of these 90s songs is your favorite?