53 Best Grunge Songs Ever

Best Grunge Songs Ever

Born in the grey skies of Seattle, Washington, punk music's evolution into grunge gave us some of the best rock songs ever.

Whether you're nostalgic for your flanneled past or just discovering the sound of the '90s, our list of the best grunge songs is sure to entertain you.


“Come As You Are” by Nirvana

Song year: 1991

Nirvana's rough edges feel softened by singer Kurt Cobain's pop sensibilities in “Come As You Are.”

The song's subject matter of inclusivity serves as a mission statement for the band. Nirvana, in particular Cobain, was famously outspoken about social issues and equal rights.

“Touch Me I’m Sick” by Mudhoney

Song year: 1988

Before the word grunge became synonymous with the '90s, Mudhoney was at work laying the foundation for the genre.

“Touch Me I'm Sick” is a barrage of irony and buzzing guitars. The song put Mudhoney, and their label SubPop, on the map. It inspired legions of future grunge bands.

“Violet” by Hole

Song year: 1994

Courtney Love's relationship with Kurt Cobain made the pair grunge royalty in the '90s, but Love's band Hole provided female perspective to the rock scene.

Hole uses the loud/soft guitar dynamic found in grunge to illustrate their dizzying levels of heartbreak in their single “Violet.” The results are electric.

“Hunger Strike” by Temple of the Dog

Song year: 1991

When Mother Love Bone's vocalist died, the remaining members recorded an album under the name Temple of the Dog in his honor.

The band featured members of Pearl Jam and Soundgarden. On the song “Hunger Strike,” it's easy to see just how successful these musicians would become.

“Superunknown” by Soundgarden

Song year: 1994

With an opening riff that sounds pulled straight from a Led Zeppelin track, Soundgarden rips into “Superunknown” with all the bombast of rock and roll royalty.

Soundgarden's album Superunknown would catapult the band to the forefront of mainstream rock on the strength of its eponymous single.

“Jeremy” by Pearl Jam

Song year: 1992

Pearl Jam took inspiration for the song “Jeremy” from real life. Written about teen suicide and school shootings, Pearl Jam struck a somber note on their acoustic hit.

The '90s would see a highly publicized influx of teen violence. It all makes Pearl Jam's “Jeremy” seem prophetic.

“Wood Goblins” by Tad

Song year: 1990

Tad was one of the very first bands in the grunge scene, forming in Seattle in 1988.

Their pioneering guitar screeches and guttural singing would eventually become the norm for rock and roll. But when they released “Wood Goblins,” they were on the vanguard of punk.

“Sweet ‘69” by Babes In Toyland

Song year: 1995

Babes in Toyland took their fuzzed-out grunge sound and injected a little psychedelic rock into the mix with “Sweet '69.”

With its manic-sounding vocals and prominent cowbell, the song would become one of the most popular songs of this all-female grunge group's career.

“Interstate Love Song” by Stone Temple Pilots

Song year: 1994

Mellow acoustic guitars and an iconic guitar riff carried Stone Temple Pilot's “Interstate Love Song” to the top of the rock charts in '94.

Coupled with vocalist Scott Weiland's slight country affectation, the song showed a softer side of grunge on its way to becoming one of Stone Temple Pilot's greatest hits.

“In Bloom” by Nirvana

Song year: 1991

Though Nirvana's “In Bloom” packs a wallop of intensity, the song started even more aggressive. The song's initial tempo was fast and in the style of punk.

Wisely, Cobain would slow the song down, and it became one of the standout tracks of Nirvana's classic album, Nevermind.

“Jane Says” by Jane’s Addiction

Song year: 1988

Jane's Addiction went outside the box when they wrote the song “Jane Says.”

Eschewing traditional rock elements, the band uses steel drums and acoustic guitar to tell the story of singer Perry Ferrell's muse.

With its unique structure, “Jane Says” stands as one of the most eclectic grunge songs of the era.

“No Rain” by Blind Melon

Song year: 1993

Blind Melon would find international success with their psychedelic grunge acoustic jam “No Rain.”

The song's accompanying music video, featuring a girl in a bumblebee costume, became one of the '90s most iconic.

Blind Melon would lose their lead singer, Shannon Hoon, to a drug overdose in 1995.

“Outshined” by Soundgarden

Song year: 1991

While bands like Nirvana came from a punk background, Soundgarden was more influenced by classic metal. This heavier sound is readily apparent in their single “Outshined.”

Crunchy, down-tuned guitars and a unique time signature highlight Chris Cornell's powerful vocal melody, creating a headbanging classic.

“River of Deceit” by Mad Season

Song year: 1995

Mad Season was the first proper grunge supergroup. The band featured members of Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, and Screaming Trees. Their single “River of Deceit” would climb the Billboard charts and become their biggest hit.

Mad Season only released one album before schedules and addiction put the band on hiatus.

“Man in the Box” by Alice in Chains

Song year: 1991

Alice in Chains tackle animal cruelty and censorship in their Grammy Award-nominated hit single “Man in the Box.”

The song's heavy riff helped it become a mainstay on rock radio, where it still receives continual airplay more than three decades after its initial release.

“Even Flow” by Pearl Jam

Song year: 1992

If anyone thought Pearl Jam were one-hit wonders after their massive single “Alive,” the success of follow-up “Even Flow” proved the band was here to stay.

“Even Flow” is Pearl Jam's ode to homelessness, with Vedder writing the lyrics about a war veteran he met under Seattle's Space Needle.

“Heart-Shaped Box” by Nirvana

Song year: 1993

The first single from Nirvana's final studio album In Utero, “Heart-Shaped Box,” found the band in a rawer state than their pop crossover Nevermind.

Cobain's struggles with fame, the media, and his relationship with Courtney Love are all on display in the song. It exemplifies the singer's authentic artistic approach.

“Black Hole Sun” by Soundgarden

Song year: 1994

“Black Hole Sun” was an international hit for Soundgarden and has become the most recognizable song in their catalog.

Thanks in part to its surreal and terrifying music video that received an MTV Music Video Award, “Black Hole Sun” is a cultural touchstone of '90s alternative culture.

“Stumblin’ Man” by Tad

Song year: 1991

Grunge pioneers Tad released their album 8-Way Santa a mere six months before Nirvana's Nevermind would blow open the doors for grunge bands.

TAD never found commercial success, but the album's track “Stumblin' Man” illustrates how the band's influence directly relates to the grunge boom.

“Sex Type Thing” by Stone Temple Pilots

Song year: 1993

Stone Temple Pilot's “Sex Type Thing” helped the band's profile early in their career, launching them into the mainstream conversation as grunge became the big trend.

Like the best grunge songs, “Sex Type Thing” has a moral compass. Singer Scott Weiland says the song has an anti-rape message.

“Alive” by Pearl Jam

Song year: 1991

With its life-affirming sing-along chorus, Pearl Jam's song “Alive” signaled the beginning of the band's long and illustrious career.

Though singer Eddie Vedder has revealed the lyrics are intended to tell a darker story, the public's interpretation of hope and perseverance has made it a grunge-era anthem.

“Rooster” by Alice in Chains

Song year: 1993

Alice in Chain's Chris Cantrell wrote “Rooster” from the perspective of a Vietnam Veteran. Cantrell's father was a veteran, and his PTSD from Vietnam inspired the song.

“Rooster” is considered one of the band's best songs, and despite the intense subject matter, was a top-ten mainstream rock hit.

“Spoonman” by Soundgarden

Song year: 1994

Soundgarden's song “Spoonman” was the first single from their classic album Superunknown.

Inspired by a spoon-playing street performer, the song was originally composed for the film Singles. After its official release rocketed up the rock charts, Soundgarden would go on to sell millions of copies of Superunknown.

“Cherub Rock” by The Smashing Pumpkins

Song year: 1993

Though The Smashing Pumpkins would experiment with many genres in their career, they started amongst the fuzzy grunge underground of the early '90s.

The single “Cherub Rock” kicks off their impressive sophomore record Siamese Dream with their trademark crushing guitar tones and vocalist Billy Corgan's wailing melody.

“Plush” by Stone Temple Pilots

Song year: 1992

Stone Temple Pilots conquered the world when they released the grunge classic “Plush.”

Not only was the song a number one hit on rock radio, but it garnered the band a Grammy Award.

The music video also won an MTV Music Video Award.

“Been Caught Stealing” by Jane’s Addiction

Song year: 1990

Jane's Addiction singer Perry Farrell brought his dog into the studio when the band recorded “Been Caught Stealing.” The dog makes a very prominent appearance in the intro of the song.

Jane's Addiction was always on the lighter side of grunge, and “Been Caught Stealing” is a fun, poppy entry into the murky waters of the genre.

“Daughter” by Pearl Jam

Song year: 1993

Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam tackle learning disabilities and child abuse on their signature acoustic hit “Daughter.”

“Daughter” topped the rock charts and became the band's first top-40 single. Its international success ensured it a place in Pearl Jam's live repertoire to this day.

“Loud Love” by Soundgarden

Song year: 1989

By utilizing amplifier distortion and uncommonly long guitar sustain, Soundgarden's “Loud Love” guitar intro signaled a taste of the volume to come.

The band's classic metal-styled guitar riffs carry this track through its head-banging heavy groove, and though Soundgarden would have bigger hits, few would rock this hard.

“Mountain Song” by Jane’s Addiction

“Mountain Song” by Jane’s Addiction

Song year: 1988

“Mountain Song” was the first song ever written by Jane's Addiction and was first featured in the 1986 punk-western comedy Dudes.

The band re-recorded the song for their debut album Nothing's Shocking. It became a grunge-era classic and one of Jane's Addiction's heaviest songs.

“Between the Eyes” by Love Battery

Song year: 1989

Love Battery never reached the top of the rock charts, but their heavily psychedelic grunge sound produced some of the most vital songs of the Seattle grunge scene.

“Between the Eyes” is notable for its tremolo and distortion guitar effects, creating a dizzyingly heavy sound.

“Hooch” by Melvins

Song year: 1993

The Melvins blend of metal and punk benefited from the success of Nirvana, after which record labels were signing anyone adjacent to the grunge scene.

As a result, The Melvins released the single “Hooch” on their Atlantic Records debut Houdini. The song stands out as an exceptionally heavy grunge track.

“Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana

Song year: 1991

Nirvana's “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is considered one of the best songs ever. Upon its release, the song changed the course of alternative and mainstream music and catapulted Nirvana to international fame.

As an anthem for disaffected youth, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” remains relevant decades after its initial release.

“Say Hello 2 Heaven” by Temple of the Dog

Song year: 1991

Written as a tribute to Mother Love Bone singer Andrew Wood, Temple of the Dog's song “Say Hello 2 Heaven” is a striking grunge ballad and meditation on life and death.

Wood's overdose would shake up the grunge scene and ultimately lead to the formation of Pearl Jam.

“Nearly Lost You” by Screaming Trees

Song year: 1992

Though Screaming Trees had already released five albums, the inclusion of their song “Nearly Lost You” on the Singles soundtrack would be their first taste of mainstream success.

Singer Mark Lanegan find later success with Queens of the Stoneage, Mad Season, and The Gutter Twins.

“Vasoline” by Stone Temple Pilots

Song year: 1994

Swirling guitars and hard-hitting drums made Stone Temple Pilot's “Vasoline” a number one hit on rock radio in 1994. This single would help their album Purple sell over six million copies.

The grunge scene was beset with addiction issues. “Vasoline” is singer Scott Weiland's first-hand account of heroin abuse.

“Them Bones” by Alice in Chains

Song year: 1992

Despite its morbid subject matter of mortality, Alice in Chains still scored a rock hit with their single “Them Bones.”

Grunge music was often dark and brooding, and this riff-heavy meditation on death was no exception.

“Them Bones” opens Alice in Chains' multi-platinum selling album Dirt.

“Fell on Black Days” by Soundgarden

Song year: 1994

Opening with one of the coolest grunge riffs ever, Soundgarden's “Fell on Black Days” immediately grabs your attention.

Singer Chris Cornell's tale of depression was autobiographical and would become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Cornell would hang himself in a hotel room hours after a 2017 Soundgarden concert.

“Far Behind” by Candlebox

Song year: 1993

Candlebox scored a Billboard Hot 100 top-ten hit with their song “Far Behind.”

Written in tribute to Mother Love Bone singer Andrew Wood, the song would become one of the defining ballads of the grunge era. It continues to find its way into movies and television.

“Pretend We’re Dead” by L7

Song year: 1992

The grunge and rock scenes of the '90s were male-dominated terrain.

Though not many female voices were able to contribute to this exciting era of music, L7 broke barriers on their way to delivering one of the most blistering tracks of the '90s, “Pretend We're Dead.”

“Comedown” by Bush

Song year: 1994

Bush arrived late to the grunge scene, releasing their first record in late 1994.

Their sound was an updated version of grunge, described by some as post-grunge. “Comedown” was the appetizer to the alternative sound that grunge would morph into by the end of the decade.

“All Apologies” by Nirvana

Song year: 1993

Nirvana's “All Apologies” would be the final track in their final studio album In Utero. The song's rambling acoustic guitars and ironic-sounding happiness serve as a fitting outro to the raw album.

“All Apologies” is considered one of Nirvana's best songs.

“Epic” by Faith No More

Song year: 1990

Faith No More found unexpected success with their single “Epic.” The song's amalgamation of funk, metal, and alternative rock seems like a strange brew. But audiences loved it, and the grunge anomaly cracked the charts globally.

Faith No More would never match the success of “Epic,” but the song would help the band grow a devoted cult following.

“Bruise Violet” by Babes in Toyland

Song year: 1992

Babes in Toyland's “Bruise Violet” comes from the punkier side of grunge. Singer Kat Bjelland tears her vocal cords apart as she trashes an ex-lover and wishes the worst upon them.

The thrashing sounds of the all-female Babes in Toyland were just as rocking as any band in the scene.

“Would?” by Alice in Chains

Song year: 1992

It's impossible to write about the best grunge songs without running into tributes to Andrew Wood. The death of the Mother Love Bone singer sent shockwaves through the tight nit Seattle grunge scene.

Alice in Chains' single “Would?” was a tribute to Wood. It stands as an artistic peak for the band as a heavily vulnerable rocker.

“Lithium” by Nirvana

Song year: 1991

Krist Novoselic laid down one of the most iconic basslines on the intro to Nirvana's Nevermind standout track “Lithium.”

As the third single from their breakout album, the single continued their streak of hits.

“Lithium” is Seattle Kraken's goal song.

“Jesus Christ Pose” by Soundgarden

Song year: 1991

Written from a non-religious viewpoint, Soundgarden's Chris Cornell wrote “Jesus Christ Pose” about the absurdity of celebrities feigning as deities.

The song has a chopping guitar rhythm and aggressive pace, giving it propulsion unique in the groove-heavy world of grunge rock. It's another example of the higher level of musicianship that Soundgarden brought to their compositions.

“Doll Parts” by Hole

Song year: 1994

Hole's Courtney Love wrote “Doll Parts” shortly after meeting Kurt Cobain. The song is about her insecurity in their relationship as Cobain was already on his ascent to fame.

Love's vulnerability hit a nerve with mainstream rock fans, sending “Doll Parts” to number five on the alternative charts. Rolling Stone named it among the 500 best songs ever.

“Oceans” by Pearl Jam

Song year: 1992

Pearl Jam's acoustic “Oceans” was included on their iconic album Ten as an example of the creative avenues the grunge band wanted to take their music down.

Eddie Vedder wrote the song while locked out of band practice. The California native was inspired while Seattle poured rain down on him.

“Rocket” by The Smashing Pumpkins

Song year: 1994

Though The Smashing Pumpkins 1994 album Siamese Dream has its hard-rocking moments, it's songs like “Rocket” that signaled that the band was destined for more than just a moment in the grunge spotlight.

This coincidentally is what Corgan was singing about in the song. With buzzing shoegaze guitars, Corgan proclaims his independence. Soon enough, his band would be one of the biggest in rock.

“Love Buzz” by Nirvana

Song year: 1988

Nirvana's first single was a cover of the '60s Dutch band Shocking Blue.

“Love Buzz” was released by SubPop to little fanfare, though the song would grow in popularity as Nirvana reached more acclaim. The initial pressing of the single was limited to a thousand copies.

“No Excuses” by Alice in Chains

Song year: 1994

Alice in Chains would finally top the rock charts with their single “No Excuses.”

The song marked a departure from the band's heavy approach — instead, they used a droning psychedelic approach to create a track with more depth than a standard rock song.

“Rusty Cage” by Soundgarden

Song year: 1992

Soundgarden's “Rusty Cage” is notable for its odd guitar tuning and tempo changes. Soundgarden would become known for employing these musical techniques throughout their career, though the band has said it wasn't intentional.

Country legend Johnny Cash recorded a version of “Rusty Cage” in 1996.

“Revolve” by Melvins

Song year: 1994

The Melvins took their brand of sludge-metal-infused grunge and sped it up a little on “Revolve.”

Sounding like Black Sabbath draped in flannel, the song found the Melvins both heavy and accessible. The single's album, Stoner Witch, is considered a grunge classic.

Top Grunge Songs Of All Time, Final Thoughts

While the '90s ushered in a new era of technological advancement, the punishing guitars and howling vocals of grunge felt primordial. It was the rock and roll counterpoint to the beginning of our tech age.

Nirvana and Pearl Jam are now classic rock, while Seattle is home to Amazon. But regardless of age, grunge will always sound fresh. We hope you enjoyed our list of the best grunge songs.

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