Home » Best Songs » Top 220 Best 90s Grunge Songs

Top 220 Best 90s Grunge Songs

What was “grunge,” exactly? It seems pretty hard to nail down, especially because of the way this label was tossed around by the media in the 1990s. Unlike distinctive genres like Heavy Metal and Ska, Grunge hasn’t all got the same sound.

Take a Look ↓↓↓

But, some elements flow through the music that was called grunge back then. Distorted and often detuned guitars, heavy drumming, husky singing, some screaming, and usually dark, heavy lyrics. This genre is credited as having been developed in the Seattle, Washington, area in the late 80s.

By the 90s, it was in full bloom…

Bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains, and more were lumped into this category with many other originators and imitators. So, what were the best 90s grunge songs ever? Let’s look at the biggest hits and best-loved 90s Grunge songs.

Best 90s Grunge Songs


Top 220 Best 90s Grunge Songs

1 In Bloom – Nirvana

We just have to start this list off with Nirvana, the band that was used to define Grunge. Even though they never called themselves Grunge, the release of Nevermind in 1991 drew massive attention to the Seattle scene and brought that music to the world.

And one of the defining tracks on that album was “In Bloom.” A song that encapsulated Nirvana’s sound and songwriting style.

Like so many of their songs…

“In Bloom” borrows a formula from the legendary band, Pixies. It has a slow and heavy grind to the verses, focusing on the bass and vocals over a plain beat. It then explodes into the chorus with thunderous drums care of Dave Grohl and Kurt Cobain’s signature screechy singing.

The lyrics lash out at bandwagon fans who don’t relate to their music or subculture. You can see this clearly in the chorus “He’s the one – Who likes all our pretty songs – And he likes to sing along – And he likes to shoot his gun – But he knows not what it means.”

2 Alive – Pearl Jam

Pearl Jam was another Seattle area band that helped to define the Grunge genre, if there ever truly was one. Eddie Vedder’s husky voice, combined with a moody style of long hair and plaid shirts, brought the grunge-rocker into the homes of people around the world.

And, even when they tried to scale back their success and keep the music pure, their influence on this scene was already too far-reaching.

The 1991 album Ten was the band’s breakout smash hit…

It blew up, selling at least 13x platinum. “Alive” was the first single from that album and still one of the band’s biggest songs ever. It has a nice heavy, slow groove that incorporates heavy drums and bass and lots of screaming guitars.

Vedder’s singing is unique, or it was before all the imitators, and the lyrics are about family instability. He sings, “Son, she said, have I got a little story for you – What you thought was your daddy was nothing but a…” and you get a real idea of what it means to still be alive after going through trauma.

3 Black Hole Sun – Soundgarden

By 1994, Grunge had gone mainstream. Grunge bands were all over the radio and TV, and even the relatively heavy band Soundgarden’s album Superunknown debuted at #1 on the charts.

And the biggest track from that album, the one that most people remember Soundgarden for, is “Black Hole Sun.”

This song is very different from most of the band’s other work…

Maybe that’s why it stands out. It doesn’t have a fast beat or a weird time signature. Instead, it has a slow, heavy bass and drum groove that plows the song along. The guitars give a strange combination of sounds, with underwater echoing arpeggios mixed with mournful wailing.

Also, Chris Cornell sang mostly in the low end of his impressive register, except in the chorus, where he let loose and howls as only he could. The band creates a surreal dreamscape using a combination of delay, echoreverb, and tremolo effects on the guitar, against which the lyrics really pop.

They add to the surreal and creepy nature of this dark song, especially lines like, “Boiling heat – Summer stench – Neath the black, the sky looks dead.”

4 Hunger Strike – Temple of the Dog

Here’s a little background to Temple of the Dog. This was a band formed in 1991 as a supergroup tribute project to their friend and fellow musician Andrew Wood, who had died of a heroin overdose.

Wood was the lead singer of Malfunkshun and Mother Love Bone; two important Grunge precursor acts from the late 80s.

The tribute project included Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament (both ex-Mother Love Bone members) and Mike McCready from Pearl Jam, together with Chris Cornell and Matt Cameron from Soundgarden. Eddie Vedder also came in as a guest and is featured as a vocalist on “Hunger Strike.”

This track is the best known from the Temple of the Dog album…

It’s a slow but heavy, introspective Rock song that’s incredibly memorable. The band is tight, especially in the heavy breakdown. But it’s the vocals that make this a memorable 90s Grunge song.

Legend has it that Vedder heard Cornell struggling on the lower parts of the song and stepped in to give him some direction. Instead, he was invited to trade verses with his deeper voice with the scorching high tones of Cornell.

The way they trade the refrain “I’m goin’ hungry” is pure musical magic. And that is also why it ranks as one of the best 90s Grunge songs ever.

5 Would? – Alice In Chains

Alice in Chains was perhaps the darkest of the Grunge bands to come out of Seattle in the late 80s. They had some success in the early 90s and then hit paydirt with their 1992 album Dirt. “Would?” was another tribute song to the late Andrew Wood, this time by his friend, guitarist Jerry Cantrell.

The song is a slow, heavy rocker with driving bass and drums…

Just like with “Hunger Strike,” it’s the vocals that make this song. The verses are sung in a lower, brooding tone by Cantrell. Then the chorus comes around, and lead vocalist Layne Staley takes over with his distinctive snarling voice.

When he sings, “Am I wrong? – Have I run too far to get home? – Have I gone? – Left you here alone”, the loss of their friend comes through in stark emotions.

It is a sad 90s Grunge song, speaking of loss. But also trying to send a warning to others, like Staley, who also overdosed in 2002.

6 Plush – Stone Temple Pilots

When Stone Temple Pilots dropped their debut album, Core, in 1992, it was a massive breakthrough. To date, this album has sold over 40 million copies and won a Grammy for one song – “Plush.”

While the band went on to experiment more with psychedelic rock and other sounds, they were, at heart, a Grunge band. And this grungy song fits in perfectly with what was happening in the early 90s. Even if the California band wasn’t a part of the Seattle scene.

This song has a slow Hard Rock groove…

And you just have to nod your head along to it. The guitars are heavily distorted and crunching. And frontman Scott Weiland’s vocal performance is perfect. He sings in a husky baritone that has been widely compared to Eddie Vedder’s.

But his phrasing is all his own, and so are his lyrics. “And I feel, so much depends on the weather – So is it raining in your bedroom?” is one of my favorite lines from the angsty Grunge era.

7 Violet – Hole

The Grunge scene was a messy and almost incestuous one back in the 90s, with so many bands collaborating and pulling each other up.

And Courtney Love of Hole was right in the thick of it…

She had a relationship with Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins before marrying Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain – talk about grunge royalty! And the song “Violet” from 1994’s Live Through This was about one or both of these relationships.

The song has a fast, almost Punk Rock feel, especially in the explosive chorus. But, the verses are muted and soft, making for a dark texture and contrast. The drums sizzle and the guitars are alternatively light and pretty, then dark and heavy.

Love’s vocal work here is on point…

She almost speaks the verse and then snarls and screams the chorus. This song is also heavy in content, speaking to sexual exploitation and also female sexuality.

Love screams, “Go on take everything – Take everything – I want you to,” and the title is compared to “violence” and even “violate.”

8 Today – Smashing Pumpkins

Smashing Pumpkins were formed in Chicago, but as an alternative band with a dark edge and a hard rock sound, they were lumped into the Grunge genre in the early 90s. While they put out some great stuff previously, it was 1993’s Siamese Dream that pushed the popularity of this band.

They simply sounded like no one else, playing with dynamics and emotions in a way that was ahead of their time. The song “Today” is one of their most successful ever and also one of their most radio-friendly.

But it’s not that friendly…

It does start with a lovely little guitar arpeggio that sounds almost like an ice cream truck (check out the video) or something else innocent. When the beat and crunchy guitars jump in, though, you’re in for even more of a treat. Billy Corgan alternates between singing in a high, sweet voice and nearly a scream, giving this track great texture and emotion.

And quite surprisingly, it’s about getting past thoughts of suicide and trying to live life. What’s not surprising is that it remains one of the best Grunge songs from the 90s.

9 Outshined – Soundgarden

Back in late 1991, Grunge was on the verge of a global explosion. Soundgarden’s third album, Badmotorfinger, dropped in October of that year and was one of the reasons why the Seattle scene really blew up.

This was the band’s first record with its final line-up, and it really came together. It’s heavy, hard-hitting, and sung with Chris Cornell’s scorching vocals.

“Outshined” is one of the most memorable tracks from this record. The song is about being outshined by yourself and going through the highs and lows of life.

You’ve got a heavy groove…

…along with odd time signatures (the verses are in 7/4 time) and excellent drumming. The bass provides a thick, heavy backdrop for the guitars to duel against. And Cornell’s vocals are some of his best.

He both sings low and soars to untold heights on this track. There’s even a clip of Kurt Cobain trying to imitate the chorus, but no one can sing like Cornell.

10 Smells like Teen Spirit – Nirvana

If we’re talking about the best 90s Grunge songs, well, there may not have been a Grunge explosion in the 90s if not for this song. “Smells like Teen Spirit” also comes from 1991’s Nevermind, the album that broke Nirvana to the world and propelled grunge into the mainstream.

This song was the main mechanism for that popularity…

Like “In Bloom,” this song takes advantage of the quiet verse/loud chorus dynamic. But here, Nirvana does it to the extreme. The verses are driven by Grohl’s minimal beat and Krist Novoselic’s pounding bass, with Cobain playing just two repeated notes on the guitar and mumbling weird lyrics.

Things build up in the pre-chorus and then explode with thunderous drums and Cobain’s screeching in the chorus. The lyrics are built around imagery but play on the self-deprecation of this generation with the lines “I feel stupid and contagious – Here we are now, entertain us!”

At its core, this is a Punk song. But it’s easily the most popular 90s Grunge song and the tune most people around the world associate with 90s Grunge.

11 Black – Pearl Jam

12 Jeremy – Pearl Jam

13 Man in the Box – Alice in Chains

14 Heart-Shaped Box – Nirvana

15 Rooster – Alice in Chains

16 Lithium – Nirvana

17 Spoonman – Soundgarden

18 Big Empty – Stone Temple Pilots

19 No Excuses – Alice in Chains

20 Come as You Are – Nirvana

21 Cherub Rock – Smashing Pumpkins

22 Rusty Cage – Soundgarden

23 Down in a Hole – Alice in Chains

24 Interstate Love Song – Stone Temple Pilots

25 All Apologies – Nirvana

26 Black Hole Sun – Soundgarden

27 Today – Smashing Pumpkins

28 Creep – Radiohead

29 Bullet with Butterfly Wings – Smashing Pumpkins

30 Plush – Stone Temple Pilots

31 In the Meantime – Helmet

32 Fell on Black Days – Soundgarden

33 Glycerine – Bush

34 Machinehead – Bush

35 Hunger Strike – Temple of the Dog

36 Vasoline – Stone Temple Pilots

37 Plowed – Sponge

38 Far Behind – Candlebox

39 Hitchin’ a Ride – Green Day

40 Nearly Lost You – Screaming Trees

41 Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns – Mother Love Bone

42 Where Did You Sleep Last Night – Nirvana

43 Rain When I Die – Alice in Chains

44 Say Hello 2 Heaven – Temple of the Dog

45 Mr. Jones – Counting Crows

46 Hate to Feel – Alice in Chains

47 Blow Up the Outside World – Soundgarden

48 Loser – Beck

49 Even Flow – Pearl Jam

50 Outshined – Soundgarden

More Best 90s Grunge Songs

    1. Platypus (I Hate You) – Green Day
    2. Garden – Pearl Jam
    3. Doll Parts – Hole
    4. Longview – Green Day
    5. The Day I Tried to Live – Soundgarden
    6. Porcelina of the Vast Oceans – Smashing Pumpkins
    7. Roots Radicals – Rancid
    8. Sick of Myself – Matthew Sweet
    9. She Talks to Angels – The Black Crowes
    10. Fade into You – Mazzy Star
    11. My Friends – Red Hot Chili Peppers
    12. Song 2 – Blur
    13. All Over You – Live
    14. Stupid Girl – Garbage
    15. Corduroy – Pearl Jam
    16. The Freshmen – The Verve Pipe
    17. Brick – Ben Folds Five
    18. Zero – Smashing Pumpkins
    19. Black Metallic – Catherine Wheel
    20. Bound for the Floor – Local H
    21. The Way – Fastball
    22. Buddy Holly – Weezer
    23. Only Happy When It Rains – Garbage
    24. Wicked Garden – Stone Temple Pilots
    25. Sex Type Thing – Stone Temple Pilots
    26. Low – Cracker
    27. Not an Addict – K’s Choice
    28. All Mixed Up – 311
    29. Tomorrow – Silverchair
    30. Laid – James
    31. Runaway Train – Soul Asylum
    32. Flagpole Sitta – Harvey Danger
    33. What I Got – Sublime
    34. Push – Matchbox Twenty
    35. Bulls on Parade – Rage Against the Machine
    36. She – Green Day
    37. Seether – Veruca Salt
    38. Hey Jealousy – Gin Blossoms
    39. Feed the Tree – Belly
    40. Low Self Opinion – Rollins Band
    41. I Touch Myself – Divinyls
    42. I Will Remember You – Sarah McLachlan
    43. Monkey Wrench – Foo Fighters
    44. One Headlight – The Wallflowers
    45. Novocaine for the Soul – Eels
    46. Lump – The Presidents of the United States of America
    47. Sweet Jane – Cowboy Junkies
    48. Gel – Collective Soul
    49. When I Come Around – Green Day
    50. Rhinoceros – Smashing Pumpkins
    51. Sober – Tool
    52. Numb – U2
    53. Love Like Ghosts – Lord Huron
    54. 6th Avenue Heartache – The Wallflowers
    55. Heartspark Dollarsign – Everclear
    56. She Don’t Use Jelly – The Flaming Lips
    57. Black Gold – Soul Asylum
    58. Got You (Where I Want You) – The Flys
    59. The Way I Am – Eminem
    60. Hey Man Nice Shot – Filter
    61. Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver – Primus
    62. The Beautiful People – Marilyn Manson
    63. It’s a Shame About Ray – The Lemonheads
    64. Bawitdaba – Kid Rock
    65. Tubthumping – Chumbawamba
    66. Hash Pipe – Weezer
    67. Torn – Natalie Imbruglia
    68. Jump Around – House of Pain
    69. Run-Around – Blues Traveler
    70. Feel So Good – Mase
    71. Bittersweet Symphony – The Verve
    72. Counting Blue Cars – Dishwalla
    73. Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth with Money in My Hand – Primitive Radio Gods
    74. Gangsta’s Paradise – Coolio
    75. Ray of Light – Madonna
    76. The Sign – Ace of Base
    77. Tennessee – Arrested Development
    78. Jump – Kris Kross
    79. Jumpin’, Jumpin’ – Destiny’s Child
    80. No Scrubs – TLC
    81. Genie in a Bottle – Christina Aguilera
    82. Smooth – Santana ft. Rob Thomas
    83. I Want It That Way – Backstreet Boys
    84. Livin’ la Vida Loca – Ricky Martin
    85. I Will Always Love You – Whitney Houston
    86. Vision of Love – Mariah Carey
    87. Don’t Speak – No Doubt
    88. Baby One More Time – Britney Spears
    89. Waterfalls – TLC
    90. Smooth Criminal – Alien Ant Farm
    91. Short Skirt/Long Jacket – Cake
    92. The Way I Feel – Remy Zero
    93. Name – Goo Goo Dolls
    94. The Freshmen – Jayhawks
    95. I Don’t Want to Wait – Paula Cole
    96. Ironic – Alanis Morissette
    97. Crash into Me – Dave Matthews Band
    98. The Distance – Cake
    99. Torn – Creed
    100. Doo Wop (That Thing) – Lauryn Hill
    101. All I Wanna Do – Sheryl Crow
    102. Zombie – The Cranberries
    103. Lovefool – The Cardigans
    104. Kiss Me – Sixpence None the Richer
    105. No Rain – Blind Melon
    106. Hold My Hand – Hootie & The Blowfish
    107. Santeria – Sublime
    108. Breakfast at Tiffany’s – Deep Blue Something
    109. Fly Away – Lenny Kravitz
    110. Linger – The Cranberries
    111. Save Tonight – Eagle-Eye Cherry
    112. Inside Out – Eve 6
    113. Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm – Crash Test Dummies
    114. Vaseline – Stone Temple Pilots
    115. Bad Reputation – Freedy Johnston
    116. Found Out About You – Gin Blossoms
    117. Sunny Came Home – Shawn Colvin
    118. My Own Worst Enemy – Lit
    119. Razorblade Suitcase – Bush
    120. Crush with Eyeliner – R.E.M.
    121. One of Us – Joan Osborne
    122. Connection – Elastica
    123. Feel the Pain – Dinosaur Jr.
    124. Cut Your Hair – Pavement
    125. Regret – New Order
    126. Popular – Nada Surf
    127. Dyslexic Heart – Paul Westerberg
    128. Criminal – Fiona Apple
    129. D’You Know What I Mean? – Oasis
    130. The Freshmen – Verve Pipe
    131. Violet – Hole
    132. All Star – Smash Mouth
    133. What’s My Age Again? – Blink-182
    134. Jumper – Third Eye Blind
    135. Mr. Brightside – The Killers
    136. Last Nite – The Strokes
    137. No One Knows – Queens of the Stone Age
    138. Someday – Sugar Ray
    139. I Want to Hold Your Hand – T.V. Carpio
    140. Do the Evolution – Pearl Jam
    141. The Impression That I Get – The Mighty Mighty Bosstones
    142. The Kids Aren’t Alright – The Offspring
    143. Wonderwall – Oasis
    144. Closing Time – Semisonic
    145. Tainted Love – Marilyn Manson
    146. Pretty Fly (For a White Guy) – The Offspring
    147. I Try – Macy Gray
    148. Sex and Candy – Marcy Playground
    149. Fly – Sugar Ray
    150. All the Small Things – Blink-182
    151. Dumpweed – Blink-182
    152. Everything Zen – Bush
    153. Midlife Crisis – Faith No More
    154. Sour Girl – Stone Temple Pilots
    155. Who Will Save Your Soul – Jewel
    156. The Way You Love Me – Faith Hill
    157. You Get What You Give – New Radicals
    158. Closing Time – Leonard Cohen
    159. Zoot Suit Riot – Cherry Poppin’ Daddies
    160. Killing Me Softly – Fugees
    161. Groove Is in the Heart – Deee-Lite
    162. Wannabe – Spice Girls
    163. The One I Love – R.E.M.
    164. Two Princes – Spin Doctors
    165. Meet Virginia – Train
    166. Don’t Let Go (Love) – En Vogue
    167. Dreams – The Cranberries
    168. No Diggity – Blackstreet ft. Dr. Dre
    169. Virtual Insanity – Jamiroquai
    170. Semi-Charmed Life – Third Eye Blind

Want to Find Great Songs from Other Music Eras?

If so, check out our thoughts on the Best 70s Rock Songs, the Best 80s Rock Songs, the Best Classic Rock Songs, the Best Songs of The 2000s, and the Best Songs Of All Time for more incredible school selections.

Also, you need to listen to those tunes. So, take a look at our in-depth reviews of the Best Headphones for Music, the Most Comfortable Headphones, the Best Wireless Bluetooth Headphones, the Best Headphones For Rock & Metal Music, as well as the Best Headphones Under $200 you can buy in 2023.

Best 90s Grunge Songs – Final Thoughts

Grunge started in the 80s and continued into the 90s. It was a sort of blanket term for any Alternative Rock that was heavy and darker than the late 80s hair metal that had come before. And it definitely provided a stark contrast.

The so-called Grunge sound came out of the Seattle area but was soon picked up, played with, and improved on by bands around the US and later the world. Still, Seattle icons like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden are some of the first groups most people think of when they think of Grunge.

The best songs of this era expressed feelings of angst…

And, to some degree, anti-mainstream feelings of the youth at the time. So, it was ironic when grunge hit the mainstream in the early 90s. But, music politics aside, some of these songs are simply perfect.

They worked then and still stand the test of time. With darker themes, contrasting dynamics, raging vocals, and screaming guitars, 90s Grunge hit songs made their way into Rock music history, whether they wanted to or not.

Until next time, happy listening.

5/5 - (38 votes)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

About Joseph L. Hollen

Joseph is a session musician, writer, and filmmaker from south Florida. He has recorded a number of albums and made numerous short films, as well as contributing music to shorts and commercials. 

He doesn't get as much time to practice and play as he used to, but still manages (just about!) to fulfill all his session requests. According to Joseph, it just gets harder as you get older; you rely on what you learned decades ago and can play without thinking. Thankfully that's what most producers still want from him.

He is a devout gear heat and has been collecting musical instruments all his life. As his wife, Jill, keeps on saying, "You're very good at buying nice instruments, but terrible at selling them!".

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top