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Top 10 Nirvana Songs | Listeners & Todd Face-Off

Nirvana songs
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Todd Nuke ‘Em’s Best 10 Nirvana Songs VS The X96 Listeners’ Top 10 Nirvana Songs

The best Nirvana songs, according to Todd and you, the listener.


Love them or hate them, you can’t deny the impact Nirvana had on alternative music. They came along at a time when 80s synth-based alternative music was growing a bit stale, and people were eager for new sounds. Their 1991 album Nevermind was certainly the gigantic commercial success that upended the sound of alternative music and ushered in the grunge sound, but there were some crucial building blocks that had already begun that process. Notably, Nirvana’s debut album Bleach enjoyed some underground success in 1989, not long after Jane’s Addiction (Are they grunge? Kind of.? They definitely know how to use guitars.) dropped their breakthrough album Nothing’s Shocking in 1988. Alice in Chains had already released their album Facelift in August of 1990, Smashing Pumpkins released their Gish album in May of 1991, and Pearl Jam had already released their single “Alive” in July of 1991 with their debut album Ten to follow on August 27th of 1991.


But then came the single “Smells Like Teen Spirit” on September 10, 1991. The song and the accompanying video, with the scantily-clad, tattooed cheerleaders and the high school janitor rocking out, hit like an earthquake. It was the most profound impact I’ve ever seen in my 36 years of working in alternative radio. College kids had MTV blasting the music video on campuses across America, and teens heard it on their favorite alternative radio stations. It jolted the alternative genre’s Richter Scale and catapulted the format into the mainstream.


Todd’s Favorite Nirvana Songs


10. “You Know You’re Right”

Album: Greatest Hits Compilation

Released: 2002

This classic track is from the 2002 greatest hits compilation Nirvana. This was the final song recorded by the band before Kurt Cobain’s suicide in 1994. The studio version had been shelved and never released until a lawsuit between the surviving band members and Cobain’s widow, Courtney Love, was resolved. This was a number-one hit on the alternative charts.

9. “Stay Away”

Album: Nevermind

Released: 1991

From the 1991 album Nevermind. This encapsulates what they do best: loud guitars, amazing drums, and intense vocals. Play it loud and enjoy!

Find this classic Nirvana album on vinyl:

8. “Serve the Servants”

Album: In Utero 

Released: 1993

From the 1993 album In Utero. It’s classic Nirvana and the opening track from their follow-up album to the mega-platinum Nevermind. This song is kind of a statement that illustrates their mindset at the time. “Yes, we had huge success, but we’re still a loud-ass band from Seattle.”

7. “Lithium”

Album: Nevermind

Released: 1991

From the 1991 album Nevermind. Another single from an album filled with hits. I love the opening bass line and the irresistible chorus.

Check out the 30th Anniversary edition of Nevermind on vinyl:

6. “All Apologies”

Album: In Utero 

Released: 1993

From In Utero. Despite being loud and crass, Nirvana also knew how to tap into songs that were considerably darker in tone. This is an excellent example of how they can go from melting your face to a subdued and moody vibe.

5. “Rape Me”

Album: In Utero 

Released: 1993

From In Utero. These are not easy lyrics by any means, and I can’t play this song when my grade-school age niece is around. (She’s already mastered the lyrics to Green Day’s “American Idiot” and will happily sing along to whatever she hears.) The way the chorus explodes on this song at full volume is an experience one must behold.

4. “In Bloom”

Album: Nevermind

Released: 1991

From Nevermind. This song was powered by a great music video that spoofs the first TV appearance by The Beatles. Dave Grohl’s explosive drums in the opening riffs of this song show you why he is legendary.

3. “Smells Like Teen Spirit”

Album: Nevermind

Released: 1991

From Nevermind. I mean, you have to love this Nirvana song. Even if you are tired of hearing it, crank it up and pay attention to the arrangements: the pre-chorus is brilliant, the drums are spectacular, the bassline is the soul of the song.

2. “Dumb”

Album: In Utero 

Released: 1993

From In Utero. When Nirvana adds strings to a song, I will instantly love it. Another moody gem that shows Cobain’s strength as a great songwriter.

1. “Something in the Way”

Album: Nevermind

Released: 1991

From Nevermind. When I first listened to the album all the way through, this song hit me hard. I did not expect such a calm and thoughtful track. Cobain’s chilling vocals, the slightly out-of-tune acoustic guitar that they correctly decided was perfect, and, of course, a string section combine to close the album in a haunting way. This song was never a single, but when it was used in the 2020 film The Batman, it resulted in radio airplay and massive streaming numbers. It was relieving to see such an amazing song finally receiving recognition.


X96 Listeners’ Top 10 Nirvana

That’s my list. Now let’s take a look at what the X96 Listeners have to say. These results are taken from our recent Utah Music Survey that we conducted in November of 2023 among X96 listeners. Without further ado, Nirvana songs are ranked by our listeners.


10. “Dumb”

9. “About a Girl”

8. “The Man Who Sold The World”

Album: MTV Unplugged in New York

Released: 1994

from the 1994 release MTV Unplugged in New York. This came out about seven months after Cobain’s death, and I always thought it was a bit of a cash-grab by the record label to put it out so soon. They should have waited. Anyway, it was a dynamic, live, mostly acoustic, intimate album from the MTV special. This is a cover of a David Bowie classic.

7. “Heart-Shaped Box”

Album: In Utero 

Released: 1993

This was the first release from the much-anticipated follow-up album after Nevermind went multi-platinum and blew everyone away. Can you imagine the stress the band was under to continue that momentum? Anyway, they delivered another huge hit!

6. “In Bloom”

5. “Lithium”

4. “All Apologies”

3. “Something in the Way”

2. “Come as You Are”

Album: Nevermind

Released: 1991

The first time I heard this, I recognized its similarity with Killing Joke’s song “Eighties.” Apparently, so did Killing Joke. While they complained about it, no legal action ever materialized. Hey, we all have our influences. But it’s totally the same guitar riff.

1. “Smells Like Teen Spirit”

What more is there to say, other than this is one if the best song titles of all time. Apparently, the Teen Spirit deodorant by Mennen enjoyed massively boosted sales from the success of this song. Who knew that a classic grunge song could relate to a deodorant marketed to teen girls?

And that’s our guide to Todd’s and X96 listeners’ favorite Nirvana songs. Did we miss any of your favorites? Subscribe to our mailing list to catch the next round of voting.

Check out a similar list of Depeche Mode songs

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