100 Most Iconic (and Best) Rock Songs Of The 1990s

It’s no secret that rock music has changed over the years, from the beachy anthems of the 60s to the glam movement of the 80s. But how much did the music genre change in the 90s?

During this decade, rock music would change several times, with the movement becoming associated with rebellious fans and alternative fashions. In fact, the 90s saw various rock evolutions, such as punk, heavy metal, indie rock, and so much more. But what songs were the best and which ones have stood the test of time?

In the article below, we have compiled a list of the 100 most iconic rock songs of the 90s, which cover a diverse selection of genres and bands.

1990s Rock Songs

10 Best 1990s Rock Songs

To start, we have compiled a list of the 10 best 90s rock songs, which are now considered to be pillars of both the decade and the rock genre:

  1. Creep – Radiohead (1992)
  2. Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana (1991)
  3. Wonderwall – Oasis (1995)
  4. November Rain – Guns N’ Roses (1991)
  5. Lightning Crashes – Live (1994)
  6. Semi-Charmed Life – Third Eye Blind (1997)
  7. Nothing Else Matters – Metallica (1991)
  8. More Than Words – Extreme (1991)
  9. Under The Bridge – Red Hot Chili Peppers (1991)
  10. What’s Up – Four Non-Blondes (1992)

How Did Rock Music Change In The 90s?

Once the early 90s cemented a modern rock movement, several subgenres started to hit the shelves, with punk, nu-metal, and ska being some of the most successful. It was during this time that music lovers also saw the rise of the grunge movement, which was characterized by its raw and harsh expression.

Following this, alternative rock became a global phenomenon and it became clear that the 90s would forever be defined by these new musical movements.

10 Best 1990s Alternative Rock Songs

  1. Black Hole Sun – Soundgarden (1994)
  2. No Rain – Blind Melon (1992)
  3. Killing In The Name – Race Against The Machine (1992)
  4. You Oughta Know – Alanis Morissette (1995)
  5. Basket Case – Green Day (1994)
  6. One – U2 (1992)
  7. Everlong – Foo Fighters (1997)
  8. Come As You Are – Nirvana (1991)
  9. Buddy Holly – Weezer (1994)
  10. Interstate Love Song – Stone Temple Pilots (1994)

What Was The Alternative & Grunge Movement?

As we mentioned before, alternative rock soon became a global phenomenon, one that had a massive impact on the music industry. This is because the alternative scene opened the door for other diverse forms of music that have since become mainstream components of the modern rock sound.

Because of this, various musical elements were soon combined to create a unique subgenre called grunge, which borrowed heavily from alternative and hard rock. Nowadays, this raw movement is associated with the 90s music scene, as well as the decade’s media and fashion sense.

20 Best 1990s Grunge Rock Songs

  1. Pretend We’re Dead – L7 (1992)
  2. Plush – Stone Temple Pilots (1992)
  3. Doll Parts – Hole (1994)
  4. Nearly Lost You – Screaming Trees (1992)
  5. Them Bones – Alice In Chains (1992)
  6. Backwater – Meat Puppets (1994)
  7. Zombie – The Cranberries (1994)
  8. Even Flow – Pearl Jam (1991)
  9. Feel The Pain – Dinosaur Jr (1994)
  10. Lizzy – Melvins (1993)
  11. Seether – Veruca Salt (1994)
  12. Hunger Strike – Temple Of The Dog (1991)
  13. Touch Me I’m Sick – Mudhoney (1996)
  14. In Bloom – Nirvana (1991)
  15. Vasoline – Stone Temple Pilots (1994)
  16. Today – Smashing Pumpkins (1993)
  17. Superunknown – Soundgarden (1994)
  18. Would – Alice In Chains (1992)
  19. Alive – Pearl Jam (1991)
  20. Don’t Speak – No Doubt (1995)

What Happened To Heavy Metal Music In The 1990s?

During the 90s, audiences also saw a rise in musicians who wanted to reinvent the heavy metal genre, which resulted in the formation of several movements. At the same time, more and more performers were experimenting with sounds that started to transform the identity of rock and roll. This led to the success of thrash metal and speed metal, which als become notable components of 90s rock.

While most alternative rock bands found their footing in the indie scene, others were able to cement respectable careers with commercial labels, which allowed them to release their new version of heavy metal music.

Because of this, the 90s is now associated with the rise of these subgenres, as their role and influence can be seen across the decade’s culture.

20 Best 1990s Alternative Metal Rock Songs

  1. All Apologies – Nirvana (1993)
  2. Freak On A Leash – Korn (1998)
  3. Say It Ain’t So – Weezer (1994)
  4. Bitter Sweet Symphony – The Verve (1997)
  5. Paranoid Android – Radiohead (1997)
  6. Crash Into Me – Dave Matthews Band (1996)
  7. Everybody Hurts – R.E.M. (1992)
  8. Rooster – Alice In Chains (1992)
  9. Been Caught Stealing – Jane’s Addiction (1990)
  10. Tubthumping – Chumbawamba (1997)
  11. Mysterious Ways – U2 (1991)
  12. Thunderstruck – AC/DC (1990)
  13. Man In The Box – Alice In Chains (1990)
  14. Bullet With Butterfly Wings – Smashing Pumpkins (1995)
  15. All Star – Smash Mouth (1999)
  16. Closer – Nine Inch Nails (1994)
  17. Iris – Goo Goo Dolls (1998)
  18. Heart-Shaped Box – Nirvana (1993)
  19. All I Wanna Do – Sheryl Crow (1993)
  20. Jeremy – Pearl Jam (1991)

What Other Rock Music Originated In The 1990s?

With the sudden success of grunge music, genres such as hair metal became more obscure and hard to find. However, there were certain movements that were able to benefit from this sudden change, with glam rock bands becoming more popular in the early 90s due to their timeless rock ballads.

Because of this, a notable number of hard rock bands were also able to release new albums during this time, with some even maintaining their success through the constant reinvention of their sound and aesthetic.

It was through this that acoustic rock songs found their way into the mainstream, with new bands and artists combining alternative and soft rock to create a new and exciting sound. In fact, countless acoustic rock songs became synonymous with 90s teenagers, as they used poetic lyrics and welcoming melodies to discuss themes of identity, adolescence, emotion, and rebellion.

These songs soon became anthems for the next generation, which also resulted in new musical explorations and allowed new subcultures to emerge. With this audiences saw the rise of performers such as Alice in Chains and Nirvana.

20 Best 1990s Acoustic Rock Songs

  1. More Than Words – Extreme (1990)
  2. She Talks To Angels – The Black Crowes (1990)
  3. Silent Lucidity – Queensryche (1990)
  4. No Excuses – Alice In Chains (1994)
  5. Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life) – Green Day (1997)
  6. Lake Of Fire – Nirvana (1994)
  7. Love Will Keep Us Alive – The Eagles (1994)
  8. Two Princes – Spin Doctors (1991)
  9. Friday I’m In Love – The Cure (1992)
  10. In The Aeroplane Over The Sea – Neutral Milk Hotel (1998)
  11. Losing My Religion – R.E.M. (1991)
  12. Layla – Eric Clapton (1992)
  13. The Man Who Sold The World – Nirvana (1994)
  14. Champagne Supernova – Oasis (1996)
  15. Better Man – Pearl Jam (1994)
  16. Karma Police – Radiohead (1997)
  17. One Week – Barenaked Ladies (1998)
  18. Bulls On Parade – Rage Against The Machine (1996)
  19. Heroes – The Wallflowers (1998)
  20. Runaway Train – Soul Asylum (1993)

How Did Rock Music Influence The 1990s?

The 90s is often described as the decade that didn’t fit, as some believe that the period has little to show for itself when compared to the subcultures and historical events of the 70s and 80s. However, the 90s definitely left its mark when it comes to music, whether that be rock or other successful genres.

During this decade, boy bands and girls bands were on the rise, which means more and more commercial albums were being released, with the Spice Girls becoming the most successful group at that time. Because of this, there wasn’t much for rock enthusiasts to consume, until the rise of alternative rock opened the door for new subgenres to enter the market.

This led to the establishment of the grunge movement, as well as the rise of alternative rock, alternative metal, and acoustic rock. Components of these genres are still used in music today, which is another reason why 90s rock is so important to the history of the genre and its evolving landscapes.

Now, let’s take a look at the rest of the songs we have chosen for our list of the most iconic 90s rock songs.

20 Other Best 1990s Rock Songs

  1. (Everything I Do) I Do It For You – Bryan Adams (1991)
  2. Californication – Red Hot Chili Peppers (1999)
  3. Longview – Green Day (1994)
  4. Where It’s At – Beck (1996)
  5. Ants Marching – Dave Matthews Band (1995)
  6. Send Me An Angel – The Scorpions (1990)
  7. Ironic – Alanis Morissette (1996)
  8. Please Forgive Me – Bryan Adams (1993)
  9. Black – Pearl Jam (1991)
  10. Plush – Stone Temple Pilots (1992)
  11. High Hopes – Pink Floyd (1994)
  12. Don’t Cry – Guns N’ Roses (1992)
  13. Streets Of Philadelphia – Bruce Springsteen (1993)
  14. Higher – Creed (1999)
  15. Angels – Robbie Williams (1997)
  16. Shine – Collective Soul (1993)
  17. Always – Bon Jovi (1994)
  18. Hard To Handle – The Black Crowes (1990)
  19. Live Forever – Oasis (1994)
  20. All The Small Things – Blink 182 (2000)

Final Thoughts

And there you have it, those were the 100 most iconic rock songs of the 90s. We hope that you found this list helpful and that you agree with our choices. To learn more about 90s rock songs, we have included some other titles down below.

Other Notable 1990s Rock Songs

  • Let Her Cry—Hootie and The Blowfish
  • Cemetery Gates—Pantera
  • I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)—Meat Loaf
  • Push—Matchbox 20
  • Right Now—Van Halen
  • Fly—Sugar Ray
  • Wait and Bleed—Slipknot
  • Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?—Bryan Adams
  • Now and Forever—Richard Marx
  • Painkiller—Judas Priest
  • Self Esteem—The Offspring
  • Fly Away—Lenny Kravitz
  • Moneytalks—AC/DC
  • Out of My Head—Fastball
  • Cowboys From Hell—Pantera
  • Jerry Was a Racecar Driver—Primus
  • Love Is on the Way—Saigon Kick
  • Glycerine – Bush
  • Two Steps Behind—Def Leppard
  • Freak on a Leash—Korn
  • Breakfast at Tiffany’s—Deep Blue Something
  • Celebrity Skin—Hole
  • Something to Talk About—Bonnie Raitt
  • Today—Smashing Pumpkins
  • Cryin’—Aerosmith
  • Sabotage—Beastie Boys
  • Seasons in the Abyss—Slayer
  • Can’t Stop This Thing We Started—Bryan Adams
  • Nookie—Limp Bizkit
  • Criminal—Fiona Apple
  • Symphony of Destruction—Megadeth
  • The World I Know—Collective Soul
  • Stop!—Jane’s Addiction
  • Girls and Boys—Blur
  • Tonight, Tonight—The Smashing Pumpkins
  • Do I Have to Say the Words?—Bryan Adams
  • Lump—Presidents of The United States
  • This Ain’t A Love Song—Bon Jovi
  • Du Hast—Rammstein
  • If You Could Only See—Tonic
  • Common People—Pulp
  • All Mixed Up—311
  • This Love—Pantera
  • Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)—The Offspring
  • Walk—Pantera
  • I Alone—Live
  • Good—Better Than Ezra
  • Wind of Change—The Scorpions
  • One Headlight—The Wallflowers
  • Heaven Knows—Rick Price
  • I Live My Life for You—Firehouse
  • Cloud Number Nine—Bryan Adams
  • High Enough—Damn Yankees
  • Dreams—The Cranberries
  • Stupid Girl—Garbage
  • Dammit—Blink 182
  • Santa Monica—Everclear
  • Roots Bloody Roots—Sepeltura
  • Pull Me Under—Dream Theater
  • Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad—Def Leppard
  • Pepper—The Butthole Surfers
  • Sad, but True—Metallica
  • Can’t Stop Loving You—Van Halen
  • Civil War—Guns N’ Roses
  • Rusty Cage—Soundgarden
  • Territory—Sepultura
  • Fake Plastic Trees—Radiohead
  • Mama, I’m Coming Home—Ozzy Osbourne
  • Holy Wars…The Punishment Due—Megadeth
  • Tomorrow—Silverchair
  • Keep the Faith—Bon Jovi
  • Torn—Natalia Imbruglia
  • Flood—Jars of Clay
  • One of Us—Joan Osborne
  • Don’t Look Back in Anger—Oasis
  • Mary Jane’s Last Dance—Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers
  • When I Come Around—Green Day
  • More Human Than Human—White Zombie
  • All I Want—Toad The Wet Sprocket
  • Run to You—Bryan Adams
  • The Way—Fastball
  • Nutshell—Alice in Chains
  • Let’s Get Rocked—Def Leppard
  • Spoonman—Soundgarden
  • You Could Be Mine—Guns N’ Roses
  • Crazy—Aerosmith
  • Joey—Concrete Blonde
  • Down—311
  • Livin’ On The Edge—Aerosmith
  • Hook—Blues Traveler
  • Come Out and Play—The Offspring
  • Dead Embryonic Cells—Sepultura
  • Tears In Heaven—Eric Clapton
  • What I Got—Sublime
  • Mr. Jones—Counting Crows
  • Closing Time—Semisonic
  • Nothing Compares 2 U—Sinead O’ Connor
  • I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing—Aerosmith
  • Give It Away—Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • Alive—Pearl Jam
  • Don’t Speak—No Doubt
  • Smooth—Santana and Rob Thomas
  • Losing My Religion—R.E.M.
  • Enter Sandman—Metallica
  • Song 2—Blur
  • Hunger Strike—Temple of the Dog
  • You Get What You Give—New Radicals
  • Are You Gonna Go My Way—Lenny Kravitz
  • Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)—Green Day
  • Loser—Beck
  • Cannonball—The Breeders

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