Best Alternative Songs
Defining what classifies as alternative rock makes it difficult to choose the best alternative songs. Originally, alternative music evolved from punk rock and anti-commercially focused underground musicians. These were the musicians who gained popularity, not through mainstream recording labels and commercial radio, but through college radio stations and independent venues.
In the 1980's, college and underground bands played to audiences who bucked the system, resisted commercially popularized music, or had a beef with anything that symbolized the establishment or mainstream life. In the early 1990's, bands like Nirvana and Alice in Chains achieved commercial success, bringing alternative music to the general listening public. The following list of best alternative songs coincides with the evolution of what alternative music has come to be in recent years.
- “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana simply must appear on any list of the best alternative songs. As Nirvana’s first chart-topping single, this track brought alternative music and Grunge bands to mainstream America.
- “Man in the Box” by Alice in Chains comes in a close second for best alternative songs of the 90's. Still played on alternative and mainstream rock radio stations across the country, not only does this classic have staying power, but also helped further popularize alternative music.
- The Goo Goo Dolls song, “Iris” also deserves a spot amongst the best alternative songs for one simple reason. It was the first mainstream alt-rock ballad to enjoy solid commercial success. Written and composed as part of the soundtrack for the movie “City of Angels,” the song enjoyed tremendous airplay, including crossing over to Top 40 stations.
- “Evenflow” by Pearl Jam ushered in popularize alternative rock videos on stations like MTV and VH1. Not only did this titan of the best alternative songs create a bevy of alt-rock video fans, but it’s still rock-worthy today. The edgy, slightly grungy sound still contends with the best of modern alt-rock.
- “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)” by My Chemical Romance brought back some of the punk rock sound that spawned the alt-rock genre. When it comes to the best alternative songs, those that have wide commercial appeal without sacrificing the genre’s roots and core alternative origins deserve special mention.
- “Tighten Up” by the Black Keys may not rank a place in history for best alternative songs, but it does illustrate modern alt-rock sounds. Alternative rock has always experimented with new sounds, interesting interpretations of musical influences, and passion. “Tighten Up” has that and more.