I'll admit it: the alternative era of the '90s produced many of my favorite bands and my favorite songs. This genre and this time period form my musical mecca. Those bands and their moody, brooding tunes are still on almost every playlist I make. I can't help it. I likes what I likes. If you're on a nostalgia kick and you love those angsty alternative beats, too, here's the only list you'll ever need.
1 Hole, “Celebrity Skin”
Say what you will about Hole and Courtney Love, but both the band and its frontwoman made an impact in the alt scene of the 1990s. Hole's discography is actually beyond amazing – there are perhaps better grrrl power bands from the era and the scene, but I've always had a soft spot for both “Celebrity Skin” and “Doll Parts.”
2 Weezer, “Buddy Holly”
Before there were hipsters, there were Weezer fans. Weezer predated the movement, but they came off as preppy and shaggy next to bands like Green Day and Silverchair. However, please tell me that this was not the only song you listened to and that you listened to more than the blue album.
3 Blur, “Song 2”
Well, duh. Blur has dozens of amazing songs, but this was everywhere in the '90s.
4 Marcy Playground, “Sex and Candy”
Oh, I miss Marcy Playground so much. I fell in love with this song as a moody 15-year-old feeling out her sexuality, and my did it have an effect. That little shiver still kills me, by the way.
5 Sublime, “What I Got”
Sublime was funky, cool, laid-back – the jams were easygoing on the surface but so much more than that beneath. Sublime still rocks it like that, in fact.
6 REM – “Shiny Happy People”
REM is responsible for tons of top alt hits from the '90s. The name alone makes it seem like this isn't one of them, but “Shiny Happy People” is a wonderfully upbeat satire with the sort of snark only Michael Stipes can really pull off.
7 Jane's Addiction, “Been Caught Stealing”
This song helped bring Jane's Addiction to mainstream radio, which you may view as either good or bad. The video also still trips me out.
8 Rage against the Machine, “Killing in the Name of”
Do you know what's especially awesome about this song? Its inclusion in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas introduced a whole new generation of fans to Rage Against the Machine.
9 Garbage, “I'm Only Happy when It Rains”
Unffff. Shirley Manson still gives me a ladyboner.
10 Foo Fighters, “My Hero”
Do I even need to talk about why this is such a huge hit, still? There are lots of reasons, actually, but they're all pretty self-explanatory. I don't know about you, but I was actually glad to learn this wasn't about Kurt Cobain – not because he's not awesome, but because the everyday heroes are more deserving of a song.
11 Nirvana, “Smells like Teen Spirit”
Is this the best Nirvana song? Absolutely not. But is it awesome all the same? Absolutely yes.
12 Green Day, “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)”
I'm a huge Green Day fan, even still. I loved Dookie and I even listened to their first album of awful grunge love songs incessantly. You'll probably see them on this list again, but “Good Riddance” still gets me every time. I cry listening to this song. In one song, you got to see the band's evolution. I always wished they'd chosen this as my class's senior song, but no, instead we got that horrid, overplayed Vitamin C song.
13 The Cranberries, “Zombie”
Dolores O'Riordan has a voice like nobody's business. This song was practically a '90s anthem, especially in indie films.
14 Eve 6, “inside out”
Wanna put my tender heart in a blender, watch it spin around into a beautiful oblivion … By all accounts, Eve 6's lead singer was and is kind of a dick, but with a voice like that and lyrics like those, who cares?
15 Nine Inch Nails, “Hurt”
NIN was practically the go-to alt band in my hometown, even though they're a bit darker than traditional alternative. Absolutely Johnny Cash's version of this song is the most incredible thing to ever be recorded, but Trent gives it an edge that Johnny can't.
16 Green Day, “Basket Case”
Told you so. Not sorry.
17 Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Scar Tissue”
RHCP came out with a lot of '90s hits. I mean a lot. But this one happens to be my favorite, so it gets mentioned first. There's something haunting and evocative about this song, something that gets you right down to the bone.
18 The Presidents of the United States of America, “Lump”
I did not like The Presidents of the United States of America, but I can't leave them out because, like them or not, they made a name for themselves in the alternative scene. In fact, just to get it over with ...
19 The Presidents of the United States of America, “Peaches”
“Peaches” was everywhere, too. I liked “Lump” better than this, but you can't leave out “Peaches.”
20 Tool, “Sober”
21 Bush, “Glycerine”
Gwen Stefani ruled part of the scene in the '90s, and since she's still ruling today, and since I guess Gavin cheated, I don't know, it's like everyone forgets how awesome Bush was in the '90s. I lived for this band. In fact (again) ...
22 Bush, “Mouth”
This song is just sex. It is sex coming through your headphones.
23 Stone Temple Pilots, “Vasoline”
RIP. Scott Weiland's voice made this.
24 Live, “Lightning Crashes”
This guy's voice, man. I still don't know his name and I know I could google it, but eh. I prefer to keep up the mystery. (I'm just lazy.)
25 Pearl Jam, “Jeremy”
Pearl Jam had several top songs, but none quite so haunting as this one. I love Pearl Jam. My only beef with Eddie Vedder is that his voice launched a thousand other bands trying to sound exactly like him. Ew.
26 Counting Crows, “Mr. Jones”
I could include practically any Counting Crows song and you'll probably see a few more. This introduced the world to Adam Duritz and his one-of-a-kind voice, however, and it was the first CC song I ever heard, so it's special.
27 The Verve, “Bittersweet Symphony”
Cannot listening to this song without having “Cruel Intentions” flashbacks.
28 Counting Crows, “Colorblind”
Point the first: told you. Point the second: same as above. I have lyrics from this song tattooed on my foot, for god's sake.
29 Nirvana, “Heart-Shaped Box”
The first time I listened to this song, I did so just because the title appealed to me. Was not disappointed.
30 Foo Fighters, “Everlong”
This really set Dave Grohl apart, for me at least. I stopped looking at him as Nirvana's former drummer and started appreciating Dave and the Foo Fighters for themselves.
31 Beck, “Loser”
This is still my anthem. Not even sorry. I'm so glad Beck's back.
32 The Smashing Pumpkins, “1979”
Oh, I know what part of the song just popped into your head. Mine too. Billy Corgan's kind of a d-bag but there's a reason the Pumpkins ruled the '90s. This is just one of them.
33 Natalie Merchant, “My Skin”
Natalie's voice slays me. This skin is even better than anything she did with her band. I mean, it's breathtakingly gorgeous. Her voice will give you shivers.
34 Pearl Jam, “Better Man”
Oh, that voice. I love the way Eddie did more than sing songs. No, this man told stories.
35 Red Hot Chili Peppers, “under the Bridge”
Of course this song is on this list. Of course it is.
36 Blind Melon, “No Rain”
Blind Melon didn't need another hit. This one still takes the cake. Oh, the bee girl!
37 Nirvana, “Come as You Are”
I'm sorry. I'm a big Nirvana fan, what can I say? They were such a huge part of my '90s life.
38 Soundgarden, “Black Hole Sun”
This song and its video were so weird. Disturbingly weird. But that's partly why everyone liked it.
39 Radiohead, “Creep”
I used to listen to “Creep” right after listening to “Loser” whenever I was trying to make myself feel better about being an outcast. Awww, I know, right? But seriously, Thom Yorke's voice is just a treasure.
40 Toadies, “Possum Kingdom”
Make up your miiind … such a strange, sexy song. Always makes me think of vampires.
41 The Verve Pipe, “the Freshman”
This song is so beautiful. So beautiful. Morbid and dark and brooding, but it's the stuff teenage angst is made of – even if you didn't understand the darker aspects back then.
42 Dishwalla, “Counting Blue Cars”
I … I don't know why I like this song. @Jennifer has made fun of it before, and I totally get it, but I can't help it. I love it so much. It's so nonsensical and strange.
43 New Radicals, “Get What You Give”
I know, it's a little upbeat to be alt, but it counts and it's still such a great song. The band doesn't get as much respect as they deserve for their songwriting and their satire.
44 Semisonic, “Closing Time”
All these years later, we know there was a lovely meaning behind this song. I prefer to keep thinking it's about something less inspiration than a new baby, though. I don't know, I like songs better when they depress me.
45 Harvey Danger, "Flagpole Sitta”
I don't know why I like this song so much either. I almost decided to hate it after discovering that my evil sister-in-law, The Devil, loves Harvey Danger, but I can't do it. I mean, “Been around the world and found that only stupid people are breathing” – tell me that's not relevant right now.
46 L7, “Pretend We're Dead”
L7 is everything. Still. It's strangely pretty and kind of pop-happy and so fabulous. Listen to it. Listen to it now.
47 REM, “Losing My Religion”
This song is pure beauty. It is haunting, dark, depressing, and the beat gets down beneath your skin and eats you up from the inside out. Then you watch the video as well and your life is never the same.
48 The Cure, “Friday I'm in Love”
Couldn't help it. Not sorry.
49 Alanis Morissette, “You Oughta Know”
As a matter of fact, everything on Jagged Little Pill. EVERYTHING.
50 Silverchair, “Emotion Sickness”
Actually, everything on Neon Ballroom. EVERYTHING.
Okay, so, I just realized I haven't even scratched the surface. We're going to have to add to this list. Tell me your favorites, starting … NOW!
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