There is just something about the tone of an acoustic guitar that makes it the perfect instrument to accentuate soul wrenching lyrics. While an electric instrument can add elements of distortion to a note and rely on that to add atmosphere to a song, an acoustic guitar in itself is an instrument of sincerity that asks for an artist to pour his heart out. The nature of performing a piece acoustically is lends itself perfectly to letting an artist dig deep into their own pain to express sentiments that would drown under glossier forms of instrumentation. If the 1980's saw sex, drug and rock and roll loving rockers open up in power ballads it should come as no surprise that the grunge movement that followed would also open up the doors for a plethora of sad acoustic songs of the 1990's.
- "Fade Into You" by Mazzy Star. This Santa Monica-based band crafted a 1990's masterpiece when they penned this track. The lyrics address the issue of trusting someone even when you know they are just putting up a facade for you in this psychedelic song that instantly became one of the most memorable sad acoustic songs of the 90's.
- "Motorcycle Driveby" by Third Eye Blind. This song begins just like many of the sad acoustic songs of the 90's with an almost spoken word vocal over a soft acoustic guitar strum. The way this song starts out purely acoustic and builds up into a roaring chorus only to break back down to the pure sincerity of a man and his unplugged instrument in such a manner that it all fits the lyrical content so succinctly is pure songwriting genius.
- "Daughter" by Pearl Jam. Eddie Vedder delivers this tale of an abused daughter trying to escape her sad world in such a way that you can actually start to visualize the setting. The cinematic quality of the lyrics and Eddie Vedder's trademark vocals are perfect matches for one of the most touching sad acoustic songs of the 90's.
- "Iris" by Goo Goo Dolls. Johnny Rzeznik penned an instant classic with this song. While slow, softly composed verses with big, roaring choruses were a trademark of many hits of the era, Rzeznik's raspy voice and haunting instrumentation made this song one of the most distinctive of its time and one of the most requested sad acoustic songs of the 90's.
- "Losing My Religion" by R.E.M. Michael Stipe delivers one of his legendary band's most iconic pieces over a jaggedy acoustic guitar and a mandolin. The honesty of this song is rivaled by few of its era as Stipe sings about losing his sanity.
- "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)" by Green Day. There were many sad acoustic songs of the 90's, but oddly enough it was probably this number by Bay Area pop-punk band, Green Day, that was probably the most emblematic of the period. An entire generation of high school kids received their diplomas to this introspective song and there is something to be said for that.
- "Porcelain" by Better Than Ezra. The mark of a truly great songwriter is being able to address an issue we can all identify with in a unique way and make you feel the pain they are singing about without drowning in cliches. Going by this definition, Kevin Griffin crafts a beautifully written song of the hurt he feels from seeing an ex-lover with someone new. The refrain of this song sets a benchmark in songwriting that few can rival.
- "Be Like That" by 3 Doors Down. The lyrics in this song keenly evoke a feeling of yearning and desire by using easily identifiable imagery creating one of the most popular, sad acoustic songs of the 90's.
- "Name" by Goo Goo Dolls. Johnny Rzeznik's songwriting skills are used masterfully in this reflective piece that is widely hailed as one of the most memorable sad acoustic songs of the 90's.
- "Take a Picture" by Filter. One of the most played sad acoustic songs of the 90's uses the familiar topic of taking pictures to capture a certain moment in time in a very refreshing manner.
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