Selecting the ten best grunge songs is like flipping through an old photo album. Lots of things are familiar and a lot of things are lost. This offshoot genre of mainstream rock lasted for less than a decade but was influential nonetheless. The sound of a generation, it will no doubt recruit more fans after they listen to this list.
- “Smells Like Teen Spirit” Nirvana. From Kurt Cobain’s scratchy raw guitar opening to Dave Grohl’s solid drumming, everyone knows this tune. Most of us lucky enough to be around when the song was released can probably recall where we were when we first heard it. This is definitely one of the ten best grunge rock songs ever and belongs in the rock and roll hall of fame.
- “Evenflow” Pearl Jam. This party starter became an anthem for Generation X in a way that was more palatable than Nirvana’s dark entry. Still, this bass driven grunge song from the Seattle fab five(well, one from San Diego) ruled the rock charts and sounds equally amazing in a small club or in a arena.
- “Black Hole Sun” Sound Garden. This grunge rock/hard rock ballad highlights the talents of each and every Soundgarden member. A Grammy winning piece of material, this song represents some of the original Seattle grunge band’s best work.
- “I Stay Away” Alice in Chains. This blasting ballad off of Alice in Chains’ third album is a soul searching call to self-discipline at a time when the band, and particularly frontman Layne Staley, were dealing with personal demons. One of the titans of grunge, their music is one of the best examples of what rock can be without labels; encompassing hard rock, acoustic and country style.
- “Jeremy” Pearl Jam. This ballad about the little boy who walked into class and blew his brains out signified what grunge rock was all about. It reveled in the things no one wanted to talk about, and Eddie Vedder was one of the best at putting a voice to adolescent angst.
- “Come as You Are” Nirvana. The haunting opening of this song gives way to Kurt Cobain’s equally haunting vocal rendition. The chorus of this song is memorable if not catchy, and that’s the beauty of Nirvana. You have to like them at their ugliest. This is one of the finest songs off their debut album.
- “Say Hello to Heaven” Temple of the Dog. This group features two of the best grunge vocalists in Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell and Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder. A tribute to deceased Mother Love Bone singer Andrew Wood, this amazing duet between Cornell and Vedder showcases the talents of all the Pearl Jam guitarist and then-Soundgarden drummer.
- “River of Deceit” Mad Season. A true mash-up in the age before mash up’s, this song is the result of members of Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam and The Screaming Tree’s coming together. It stands out as an amazing single and one of the best songs of the grunge era.
- ”Bullet with Butterfly Wings” Smashing Pumpkins. One of the true supergroups of the time, the “Pumpkins” are sometimes overlooked due to their glam style and the fact that they weren’t from Seattle. Still, at a time when corporate music was paying close attention to the grunge phenomenon, the Smashing Pumpkins delivered with their own brand of adolescent angst driven music. This song was one of their darkest, hard rocking and outright best.
- “Vasoline” Stone Temple Pilots. Another corporate induced group, STP, as they came to be known, shot to the top of the charts with a catchy, manic style, lead by singer Scott Weiland. Pushing grunge closer to the fringes and almost over into mainstream rock, this song has to be counted as one of the best of the era because of its accessibility.
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