50 Alternative Songs From The ’90s You Should Never Forget

Did your favorites make the list?

Everyone knows the 90’s gave us some of the best alternative music in the history of the Universe. There were so many songs from so many incredible (and some not-so-incredible) bands. While hundreds of extraordinary songs are from this decade, here’s our list of the 50 90’s alternative songs you should never forget.

List of X96’s Favorite 90’s Alternative Songs

50. All Mixed Up – 311

You didn’t live in the 90’s if you haven’t heard this song at least 1,000 times. This is a bonafide 90s alternative classic.

49. Been Caught Stealing – Jane’s Addiction

Aside from giving us one of the weirdest music videos of the decade, this song solidified Jane’s Addiction into the regular rotation on radio stations across the country.

48. Good Riddance – Green Day

You know you were having the time of your life at least once while listening to this Green Day song. Whether it was your high school graduation ballad or the song that inspired you to make a big decision in your life, this song meant something to you during the 90’s.

Find this 90s alternative classic on vinyl:

Nimrod LP

Nimrod LP (paid link)

47. Killing in the Name – Rage Against the Machine

F*$# You! I won’t do what you tell me!

Cop the classic 90’s album on vinyl:

46. Sabotage – Beastie Boys

Some will argue that the Beastie Boys were mainstream artists before this song hit the airwaves. While that may be true in some circles, the release of Sabotage made the Beastie Boys a household name.

45. Santa Monica – Everclear

Sadly, suicide was a big theme throughout a lot of 90’s alternative music and culture (see: Kurt Cobain). This song tells the story of one guy’s attempt.

44. More Human Than Human – White Zombie

Alternative, meet metal. When White Zombie came into the scene there were a lot of plaid-wearing grunge rockers who popped this single into their walkman.

43. Basket Case – Green Day

When Green Day released Dookie, nobody knew what to make of it. Song after song this guy named Billie Joe Armstrong was unloading every feeling he ever had on anyone who would listen, but even the songs with depressing messages were delivered in a happy, up-beat manner like no one else had ever done. “Do you have the time to listen to me whine?” Yeah, we all did.

42. Hy Hero – Foo Fighters

From the ashes of Nirvana came Dave Grohl’s Foo Fighters, and much to everyone’s surprise Grohl wasn’t playing the drums. His musical talent transcended what we knew of him from his earlier 90’s work. “My Hero” was often mistaken as a tribute to Kurt Cobain, but was actually just a song about everyday heroes who try to make a difference in the world.

41. Brain Stew/Jaded – Green Day

Classic 2-for-1 and a preview of things to come from Green Day (see: American Idiot). This song came at you fast and hard, and you couldn’t help it when you hit rewind (remember rewind??) to listen to this track again. Note: These songs were originally released as a one-song single… which is why we’re calling them one song here.

40. Inside Out – Eve 6

Depending on where you came from, you either loved this song publicly or loved it in private. If you didn’t love it you were lying to yourself and everyone around you. Swallow your pride and admit this song is great!

39. Scar Tissue – Red Hot Chili Peppers

Anthony Kiedis had no problem telling people over, and over, and over that he had a drug problem at one point in his life.

38. Self Esteem – The Offspring

If you’re a 90’s kid, you know you relate to this song. How many of us had girlfriends we just *couldn’t* get rid of?

37. Hurt – Nine Inch Nails

Anyone who can write a song and get Johnny Cash to cover it deserves to be on this list. Both versions are included here for your listening pleasure.

36. Lump – Presidents of the United States

This song is just weird, but everyone who grew up in the 90’s knows it. Just like Lump, you can’t get this song out of your head.

35. Undone, The Sweater Song – Weezer

Why did everyone love this song so much? It’s probably because Weezer took queues from the metal you listened to in the 80’s and snuck them past you in the form of a pop song. Explore a list of the best Weezer songs.

34. Zombie – The Cranberries

Who can sing like that?

33. Buddy Holly – Weezer

Even though the band apparently thought this song was too cheesy to include on their first album, they did – and you loved it! Also, find out how Weezer got their name.

32. Hunger Strike – Temple of the Dog

Eddie Vedder and Chris Cornell got together and blew everyone’s brains completely out of their heads.

31. I Alone – Live

When you saw Live live, you got to see one of the best vocalists to come out of the 90’s alternative scene. This song was one of the two or three that hooked you and got you to buy that concert ticket.

30. Sober – Tool

You wanted progressive rock to go away, but Tool kept writing songs and you couldn’t stop listening.

29. Glycerine – Bush

Don’t let another day go by before you listen to this song again. Kind of takes you right back to the first time you ever heard Bush, doesn’t it?

28. Hey Man, Nice Shot – Filter

This song is cool. And then it’s crazy once you find out what it’s about.

27. Vasoline – Stone Temple Pilots

It is about as basic as it gets when it comes to music (my high school drum teacher gave me this song to learn at my very first lesson); the chord progression is still haunting, and Scott Weiland pulls you in with his lyrics and vocals.

26. Daughter – Pearl Jam

Pearl Jam will be on this list a lot, and they probably deserve to be on this list many more times than they are. This probably wasn’t the first song you heard from Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam, but it quickly became one of your favorites, despite the message of the song being quite disturbing.

25. Lightning Crashes – Live

This song taught you that someone else had a worse day than you.

24. Jeremy – Pearl Jam

Clearly, I remember the first time I heard this song… And you probably do, too. Life changing. Not to mention the first time you saw the music video.

23. What I Got – Sublime

What 90’s kid didn’t love Sublime? In this song, Bradley Nowell taught us life is good and we need to take it easy, come what may.

22. Yellow Ledbetter – Pearl Jam

Nobody understands how this song could have possibly been left off of Pearl Jam’s first album. When people found it as a B-side single, they went nuts. The song made the radio and made it all the way to 21 on the Billboard charts.

21. Bittersweet Symphony – The Verve

Epic song about normal stuff.

20. Creep – Stone Temple Pilots

Scott Weiland really doesn’t like himself.

19. Heart-Shaped Box – Nirvana

A subtle progression from Nevermind, this song makes 90’s kids wonder what Nirvana could have been if Kurt Cobain was still around. The track comes from In Utero.

Be sure to check out the 30th Anniversary In Utero LP


18. Big Empty – Stone Temple Pilots

Although this song is definitely not a traditional blues riff, it gave many kids their first peek into the blues sound.

17. Everlong – Foo Fighters

By the time you heard this song you were probably already convinced that Dave Grohl was a much bigger star than you thought. If not, this was the song that pushed you over the edge.

16. In Bloom – Nirvana

The second song on this list (and not the last) from Nevermind, some would argue the best. Also the song that made you realize that Kurt Cobain didn’t care.


15. Loser – Beck

You bought this single on cassette and listened to it over and over until the tape broke. So did everyone else.

14. Alive – Pearl Jam

Aptly titled, this song gave birth to Pearl Jam when Eddie Vedder first sang vocals to an early instrumental track. Changed a lot of people’s lives forever.

13. 1979 – Smashing Pumpkins

You almost didn’t get to hear this Smashing Pumpkins song, but you know you’re glad you did.

12. Even Flow – Pearl Jam

Did you know Pearl Jam didn’t like this song until its 60th or so recording? You loved it the first time you heard it.

11. All Apologies – Nirvana

Some people have said this song proves Kurt Cobain knew he would live a much shorter life than any of us wanted him to.

10. Better Man – Pearl Jam

Another deep, haunting story told in a way only Eddie Vedder could. By the time we were done listening we all believed she deserved someone better.

9. Come As You Are – Nirvana

The title alone gave validation to an entire generation of grunge rockers. The fact that the message was delivered in this song made it gospel.

Nevermind LP

Nevermind LP (paid link)

8. Plush – Stone Temple Pilots

Hard not to choose every song from this album, but this one easily cracks the top 10. Our introduction to Scott Weiland and STP couldn’t have been better.

7. Lithium – Nirvana

This song gave Nirvana fans a glimpse into the type of music that inspired Kurt Cobain to become the father of a musical generation.

6. Under the Bridge – Red Hot Chili Peppers

RHCP front man Anthony Kiedis bares his soul in this song, and some would say this song made RHCP.

5. Black Hole Sun – Soundgarden

This is the song everyone knows Soundgarden from. Your dad even loved this song.

4. No Rain – Blind Melon

Another great song was written by another great singer who left us too soon.

3. Black – Pearl Jam

When it comes to Pearl Jam, or any 90’s alternative music, it doesn’t get much better. Black became more legendary because of how protective Eddie Vedder was of this song.

2. Creep – Radiohead

If you’re a Radiohead fan, this song is probably the reason you started listening to them. If you’re not, you still remember hearing this song. A lot.

1. Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana

Seriously, did you really think any other song would be #1 on this list of 90’s alternative songs?

As we conclude this journey through the 90s alternative music scene, it’s clear that this era was more than just a collection of songs; it was a movement that shaped a generation. From the raw energy of Nirvana to the soulful melodies of Pearl Jam, each track on this list carries a piece of history, a moment in time that resonates with millions. These songs are not just memories; they are timeless classics that continue to inspire and move us, reminding us of the power of music to capture the essence of an era. So, whether you’re a die-hard fan or a newcomer to the genre, this playlist is a testament to the enduring legacy of 90s alternative music.


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