Top 10 Best Nirvana Songs

Updated on April 21, 2016

Nirvana is the name of one of the most famous and influential rock bands of the 20th Century. The band is famous for its grunge and punk sound, heavy drums, interesting riffs and poetic lyrics. The band consisted of Kurt Cobain, Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic. Cobain has been hailed as the spokesperson of a generation. The band lasted from 1987 until Cobain's death in 1994, which was reported to have been suicide. The band offered teenagers a sense of being understood during that period. However, the band did not just connect with teenagers; people of all ages were affected by the bands music, particularly the poetic lyrics of Kurt Cobain.

I shall discuss what I believe to be Nirvana's best 10 songs. This is only my opinion; nothing more, nothing less. Of course some of you shall disagree with my favourite songs, and if so, feel free to leave a comment. It is our opinions that shape who we are, if all our opinions were the same there would be no differentiation between anyone and we truly would be sheep, all following a leaderless crowd. There are enough people doing that already. So of course not all will agree. The songs are in no particular order. Here are my top 10 Nirvana songs.

1: Nirvana - About A Girl

This song is from the band's first album, "Bleach". Cobain wrote it at the time about his then girlfriend, Tracy Marander. The song describes there difficult relationship through Cobain's eyes. Cobain wrote the song after listening to "Meet The Beatles!" for an afternoon. The Beatles were a major influence on Kurt Cobain, and this influence can clearly be heard on the song, particularly with the structure of the song and the tone of Dave Grohl's back-up vocals.

Whether you know the story behind this song or not, it leaves a lasting impression. The structure of the song is more melodic then the rest of the grunge songs on the album, and the lyrics can mean many different things to many people. This is why Cobain's lyrics are so effective, they are poetic and have so many different interpretations. This is clearly seen on "About A Girl", which I consider to be the best song on "Bleach". Not only is the album version of this amazing, but the unplugged version from their "Unplugged In New York" album is even better. This is truly a great song that leaves a lasting impact.

Listen to "About A Girl" by Nirvana

2: Nirvana - Smells Like Teen Spirit

This is undoubtedly Nirvana's most well known song. It has been anthem of rebellion for every teenager of every generation since the song was released. It is from the album "Nevermind", which in my opinion, is the band's second best album after "Unplugged In New York". The lyrics off the song were not very important to Cobain, they were written very quickly to go with the music. For this song the band concentrated on the music and felt it was the most important thing. However, by writing such contradictory and nonsensical lyrics, the band sparked millions of different opinions and debates as to what the meaning of the song is. Cobain was influenced by the Pixies when writing this song. In a rolling stones interview, Cobain said:

"I was trying to write the ultimate pop song. I was basically trying to rip off the Pixies. I have to admit it. When I heard the Pixies for the first time, I connected with that band so heavily that I should have been in that band— or at least a Pixies cover band. We used their sense of dynamics, being soft and quiet and then loud and hard."

The song itself is a hard hitting song that sparks a feeling of defiance and rebellion in the soul of every disheartened young adult who connects with the nonsensical wonder of this song. It is very difficult to listen to this song and not feel pumped up. We are lucky that such a wonderful song is in the mainstream, not many songs as fantastic as this are so readily accessible by so many people. It is a truly great song, by a truly great band.

Listen to "Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana

3: Nirvana - Come As You Are

The eerie guitar riff at the beginning is relaxing and soothing, easing you into the song, preparing you to soak in the meaning-filled lyrics. The song is off "Nevermind". Like "Smells Like Teen Spirit", this song is full of contradictory lyrics, such as "As a friend, as a friend, as an old Enemy. Take your time, hurry up, choice is yours, don't be late". Once again this song can have many different interpretations and has sparked many different debates. Perhaps the most haunting and ironic line of the song is "No I don't have a gun". At the time it was probably interpreted as a term of peace. Now when I hear that line I automatically thing of the controversial suicide of Kurt Cobain, and whether it was a suicide or not. There are many conspiracy theories surrounding his death, and this line signifies the fact that perhaps Kurt didn't have a gun.

Listen to "Come As You Are" by Nirvana

4: Nirvana - Lithium

This is one of my favourite Nirvana songs. The lyrics are poetic and meaningful, leaving an impression that lasts a very long time. The structure of the song is clever, going from quiet to loud, giving an emphasis to certain parts of the song, while making other parts of the song more emotional. It tells it like it is, it is a triumph. The song has references to religion, and Cobain was influenced by the time he spent living with his friend Jesse Reid and his born-again Christian parents. It is one of those songs that can be very special to some people, it has scenarios and ways of life that people can relate to. Once again Cobain has created a song that will stand the test of time and will be relevant to some people, no matter what the era. A very powerful song.

Listen to "Lithium" by Nirvana

5: Nirvana - Polly

This song is based on the true story of a rape victim from Tacoma, Washington. The girl was only 14. She was abducted in 1987 when returning from a punk rock show. She was raped and tortured with razors and a blowtorch. The song sounds sinister, it is mainly acoustic, lulling you into a false sense of security with the sleepy tone. However, the way Cobain sings the lyrics; and the lyrics themselves are actually quite terrifying, as you realise that this is a song is not as calm and collected as originally thought. This helps to show the terror of the girl being raped, perhaps she was lulled into a false sense of security, and then was helpless against her captor. It is an extremely powerful song that really makes you think.

Listen to "Polly" by Nirvana

6: Nirvana - Something In The Way

This is an amazing song. The tone is melancholic, you can hear the sadness in Kurt's voice. This song truly is a thing of beauty. It is not a fast, heavy grunge song as Nirvana were famous for. It is a slowed-down, emotional song, that captures the essence of what it is like to be lonely. The song is about a time when Kurt lived alone under a bridge, after being kicked out of his house. No other Nirvana song has this much emotion in it., it truly makes you feel something. This shows the talent Nirvana had, and the fact that they had so much to offer had Kurt not died. A great song.

Listen to "Something In The Way" by Nirvana

7: Nirvana - Rape Me

Ironically, this song is an anti-rape song. The lyrics "Rape me" are sung in defiance, over and over again, almost as if the rape victim is trying to portray to the rapist that no matter how much she is raped, she will survive, and be defiant until the end. That is exactly what this song is; defiant. It shows that if you are down and out, or someone is giving you a hard time, you will beat what is annoying you. Despite the positivity of the message, the song is primarily negative, showing the hate and anguish of the world, particularly in the line "I'm not the only one". The song has some thought-provoking imagery, which depicts scenes that are not pleasing, strengthening the fact that this song is negative as well as positive. Overall it is a song of defiance; a song to be screamed out loud, as long as you truly understand what you are singing.

Listen to "Rape Me" by Nirvana

8: Nirvana - All Apologies

This is a truly wonderful song. It has a soothing riff that is perhaps their most impressively structured. Also, the lyrics are beautiful, depicting a sense of confusion, with lines such as "Aqua, seafoam, shame,/ Sunburn with freezer burn". The lyrics give off a sense of pain, an internal type of pain. While there is not much evidence for this, the songs tone suggests this, giving a sense of being fed up. There is evidence in the lyrics for this. However, this song could mean something different for someone else, which is the wonderful thing about Nirvana's music and Kurt Cobain's lyrics. It is one of Nirvana's best songs that is a true achievement.

Listen to "All Apologies" by Nirvana

9: Nirvana - Where Did You Sleep Last Night

"Where Did You Sleep Last Night" is originally a traditional American folk song, which was covered by Lead Belly before Nirvana covered it. The Nirvana is the best version of the song in my opinion. It s covered on their live album "Unplugged In New York". This song is raw emotion personified. Cobain earned both critical and commercial acclaim for his performance of this song on the unplugged album. It was justly deserved. Cobain sings it like he truly means it, pouring every ounce of every bit of emotion in his body into every syllable of every word. You can feel what he's feeling, the frustration, the disappointment, the anger, every negative feeling is poured into that song, delivering it in a twisted, passionate way. Also, his guitar performance is excellent. There are not many performances like this. This truly is a fantastic cover.

Listen to "Where Did You Sleep Last Night" by Nirvana

10: Nirvana - Pennyroyal Tea

Last, but certainly not least is "Pennyroyal Tea". This song is filled with a melancholic aura of regret and despair. It really is a song full of sadness and negativity; personally I love those kind of songs. It always changes, but at the moment this is my favourite Nirvana song. Cobain has said the song is about someone who is suffering from extreme depression. The Pennyroyal tea is a reference to the person trying a herbal abortive to try to relieve some of the pain; but it doesn't work. There is an entry on" In Utero" where he explains the tracks. For "Pennyroyal Tea" he simply states: "herbal abortive... it doesn't work, you hippie."

The tone of the song adds to its generally depressing mood. Kurt was often disheartened by the fact that fans were singing along to songs ant concerts and enjoying the music of Nirvana, without actually knowing what the music meant. While I feel it is good to have your own interpretation, people were completely misinterpreting the music, ignoring the fact that many songs showed the ugly side of the world. "Pennyroyal Tea" is one of these songs. It was written to show that depression is real, and it is not pleasant in any way. It can not be ignored. Another powerful song by Nirvana; it will always be one of my favourites.

Listen to "Pennyroyal Tea" by Nirvana

Thats My Top 10

They are my top 10 Nirvana songs. It is a pity that Kurt Cobain died when he did, the band had so much potential. There is a lot of controversy surrounding the death of Kurt, a lot of people believe it was murder, not suicide. Personally, I'm not sure. The band was and still is one of the most diverse and influential rock bands ever. There are not many bands who have accomplished what they have done. There are not many people who get called the spokesperson of a generation. The band connected with both teenagers and adults. They produced many great songs, and the ten I just mentioned are simply just a few of them. It was difficult to narrow it down to then as there are many other songs that I could consider putting into my list of favourites. Nirvana was an excellent band; and their influence can still be felt today.

Questions & Answers


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      • profile image

        max 2 years ago

        "the band had potential" lol....

      • profile image

        Peace 2 years ago

        You omitted a major addition, The Man Who Sold The World.

      • FatFreddysCat profile image

        Keith Abt 3 years ago from The Garden State

        Cool list, I would've included "Negative Creep" off of "Bleach" but that's just me...

      • profile image

        Phil 3 years ago

        Sappy, Moist Vagina, Lounge Act, You Know You're Right, Drain You, Heart Shaped Box, and Sliver belong on the list too. You only put the popular songs which are good, but Nirvana is so full of hidden gems.

      • redfive profile image

        Levy Tate 4 years ago from California, USA

        Hello, fellow Nirvana lover. Nothing gets blasted louder in my room than their albums! Thanks for writing this hub. Voted up!

      • FullOfLoveSites profile image

        FullOfLoveSites 4 years ago from United States

        Not a fan of Nirvana, my younger sister is. However, I can't help feeling nostalgic about the songs you list here -- my sister used to play them all over again when we were younger. That Unplugged album is amazing, your list remind me of the tracklist there, which also includes the band's cover of Bowie and the Vaselines. :)

      • HumanPerception profile image

        HumanPerception 5 years ago from Ireland

        @Aleister888: Thank you very much for your kind feedback! I'm glad you enjoyed the hub!

      • profile image

        Aleister888 5 years ago

        Simply Beautiful Hub, i just put a random "off the top of my head" Nirvana Hub just now, but this takes the cake my good man! excellent arrangement of modules and really great content.

        Really enjoyable read, and loved watching / listening to the videos!

      • HumanPerception profile image

        HumanPerception 5 years ago from Ireland

        Yeah they're a great band!

      • amymarie_5 profile image

        amymarie_5 5 years ago from Chicago IL

        Well done! Nirvana remains to this day my favorite band. (I'm actually listening to Nirvana as I write this). I love all the songs you chose and have a hard time choosing just one favorite song. I'd have to say Lithium, Rape Me, About a Girl and Come as You Are would have to top my list though.

      • profile image

        AZAZASDASDFSAFCASZC 5 years ago

        where is heart shaped box

      • profile image

        Randall Flagg 5 years ago

        Anyone who is really interested in Kurts beginnings and life, have a read of "Kurt Cobain - Heavier than Heaven". Its a heart jerkin bio!

      • profile image

        Randall Flagg 5 years ago

        Penny Royal Tea is Kurt himself attempting to discribe the stomach condition he suffered from throughout his adult life. Its nothing to do with someone suffering with depression?? "Im on, Warm Milk, Laxatives...Cherry Flavoured Ant-Acids....". Kurt chronically suffered from something similar to IBS and tried everything to keep it at bay and Penny Royal Tea sings of his anguish about this

      • profile image

        Randall Flagg 5 years ago

        Rape me was never recorded as an anti rape song. It was a song discribing how Kurt felt about the record industry he was in and how that industry treated him. He gave and they screwed him for more without consent, hence Rape Me. This was why he wanted to sing the song at the MTV music video awards in 1992 but wasn't allowed to by execs and had to do Lithium, even though the band play the first few bars of Rape me at the start of the set, just to piss the MTV execs off.

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        HLTK 5 years ago

        My number 1 is Lounge Act..... that song is just pure emotion

      • profile image

        afghan rocky 5 years ago

        i like a beautifull girls and you

      • HumanPerception profile image

        HumanPerception 6 years ago from Ireland

        @TheHeavyReview: That's a great list :)

      • TheHeavyReview profile image

        TheHeavyReview 6 years ago

        Cool hub... my top ten would probably include: "Blew", "Pen Cap Chew", "Drain You", "Scentless Apprentice", "Floyd the Barber", "School", and "Heart-Shaped Box". That's probably not all of them, but just a few of my favorites. "About A Girl" is my favorite slow Nirvana song.

      • HumanPerception profile image

        HumanPerception 6 years ago from Ireland

        @RealConception7, Thanks! :)

      • HumanPerception profile image

        HumanPerception 6 years ago from Ireland

        @RockerGinger Yeah, such a talented man, and yeah, thanats a great song!

      • RealConception7 profile image

        RealConception7 6 years ago

        Love nirvana! this is really useful!

      • RockerGinger profile image

        Sarah Jason 6 years ago from Vermont

        I wish Kurt were sill alive. He was such a talented man. I agree with your top 10, cept I would have squeezed "Heart Shaped Box" in there, such a good listen. :)

      • HumanPerception profile image

        HumanPerception 7 years ago from Ireland

        Yeah that's a great song :)

      • Lady MJ profile image

        Lady MJ 7 years ago

        I was never a really big fan of Nirvana until about 5 years ago. Once I learned to open the door to diverse music I really started to appreciate them. I do agree with your number 1.