Home The 90s Top alternative rock songs from the 90s

Top alternative rock songs from the 90s

The 90s era is accountable for many things. One of them is the birth of grunge music, punk, heavy metal, rock n roll, and alternative rock. It was an era of transition, especially when it came to music. There was a dramatic change in how prominent bands such as Nirvana created music after admitting that the Pixies inspired them. Alternative rock would spread like a fire, and no one would see it coming. Therefore, let us recall some of the best alternative rock songs ever created from the 90s. 

Nirvana-“Smells Like Teen Spirit”

Nirvana-“Smells Like Teen Spirit”

Nirvana’s “Smells like Teen Spirit” was not popular because it had the likes of Kurt Cobain in there but because it single-handedly changed the trajectory of rock music. It was a turning point in the music industry. At the time, the mainstream rock was minding its business when a meteor from Seattle hit it out of nowhere, and as already mentioned, nobody could see it coming. Suddenly everyone witnessed a change in music and attire. The glittery spandex of the 90s was replaced by flannel shirts and ripped jeans, while the music was harder, louder, and expressive

Radiohead-“Paranoid Android”

When MTV aired “Creep” back in 1992, nobody imagined that Radiohead would become one of the most influential bands for the next three decades. The song itself was nothing less than iconic, and the debut album Pablo Honey was not released without a promise. And that promise was that it would blow your head off. However, Radiohead was not that different from the other bands that were trending around at the same time, trying their luck and failing. However, things changed when ‘The Bends’ arrived in 1995. It was simply magical. The artistic progression in such a short amount of time was not possible. The Bends was once in a career album. But “Paranoid Android” was a legend as it featured three distinct moods: the enigmatic lyrics, mesmerizing guitar work, and beautiful choral vocals.

Nine Inch Nails-“Hurt”

When Nine Inch Nails came out with its single “Hurt,” it was neither an easy song to listen to, nor was it meant to be. The way the song’s dynamics shifted was key to it becoming so famous. The song talks about addiction and depression. The drums by Chris Vrenna, Reznor on every instrument, and flickers of acoustic guitar in the background were a perfect combination to describe a state, which is often difficult to describe verbally. As the song moves towards its end, the band does not forget to mention hope. The song fades to black, after the lyrics end and we are left to ponder, does Reznor find a way?


Sometimes we often struggle to find words to communicate or describe something. The case of “Wonderwall,” which was written and made by Noel Gallagher, who was a songwriter and a guitarist for British rocker Oasis. It is a love song but something beyond that. It is based on a man who has opened himself in a way he has never done before because he knows he has no choice. 

Noel Gallagher changed his statements behind the meaning of the song. At first, he mentioned that the song was about his then-girlfriend, but later he changed it by saying that it was not about her at all. He claimed that the song, in fact, was about a dream of someone who will magically appear and rescue him from whatever emotional wreckage he is into. Regardless of what the meaning was, Wonderwall was a major hit in the 90s. 

Pearl Jam-“Jeremy”

Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy” was extremely powerful. The song by vocalist Eddie Vedder was inspired after he read an article about a high school student in Texas by the name of Jeremy Wade Dell, who in 1991 walked into an English class and put a .357 Magnum revolver in his mouth. Infront, of a teacher and his 30 fellow students, he pulled the trigger. 

The song is so dramatically surreal, featuring the emotions and reactions of his fellow students who had once tormented and bullied the boy, now sitting frozen in terror and shock with Jeremy’s blood splattered all over them. Throughout the video, Eddie Vedder looks straight into the camera to describe a tale that was unbearable. The concept of the song was beautifully executed by Eddie Vedder, and the message that was communicated touched every string and soul.

Tori Amos-“Spark”

Spark was a lead single and the opening track, which featured a penetrating and a fierce piano with passionate wild vocals and a hyper-dramatic, pulse-gripping climax. This song will get a hold of you and will not let you do. You will not be able to escape it either. This song is about sharing the human experience. The song is based on a traumatic miscarriage that Amos suffered. The song is about what and how Amos could have done things in a better way to prevent the miscarriage. While she is not blaming herself, she is blaming God, who does not always come through, as mentioned in the song. Lastly, it is a naked song, in which nothing remains hidden, and you only get to witness Amos’s rage and anger. 

U2-“The Fly”

The Fly single by U2 was simply genius. It had the powerful vocals of Bono that were meant to make the track a hit. It was unlike anything U2 had ever released. With this song, the band distanced itself from the usual signature sound of theirs and experimented with a new one, and the result was exhilarating. 

The Fly is a song that is buzzing with shards of industrial and electronic elements accompanied by chainsaw guitar riffs and fiery solos by the edge. Furthermore, the vocal arrangement is beautifully conceived as Bono shifts from a semi-demented voice to a nuanced and restless whisper. Lastly, “The Fly” was a song that pulled U2 out from a ditch and directed it towards a successful future. 

R.E.M-“Losing My Religion”

Losing My Religion was R.E.M’s finest. It does not sound anything like a typical pop song as there was no chorus, and the melodic hooks came from a mandolin. Even then, it managed to become a monster hit after spending two full months as #1 on the Billboard Modern Rock Chart. “Losing My Religion” was the rocket fuel that propelled R.E.M to their success. Furthermore, they did it without copying or caving into the pop/rock convention that was existing at the time. The mandolin accompanied by heavenly vocals, and the main instrumental hook was the best justice ever done to a single. 

R.E.M. is also a very popular alternative band in the 1980s. If you want to discover more, check out our list of the best alternative bands in the 1980s.

Final Word

Although the list could go on, we decided to narrow it down to the most famous alternative rock songs from the 90s. These songs, along with the respective bands, had one way or the other changed alternative rock for the better. The alternative rock we listen to today would be nothing if it were not for these genius tracks. 

Exit mobile version