100 Best Rock Songs of the ‘90s

Updated on June 4, 2019
Ansel Pereira profile image

I have been an online writer for over two years. I am passionate about books, philosophy, music, and the music industry.

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Every decade in rock history has had something special to offer. The glam metal scene was suddenly swept clean by the alternative revolution that emerged in the ‘90s. Alternative rock became the dominant rock genre in the ‘90s. The decade witnessed a change in musical directions.

Towards the end of the ‘90s, traditional grunge began to decline in popularity and post-grunge bands with a modern sound began to emerge. Indie rock started being associated with underground bands in the alternative scene. Newer forms of rock music started taking shape (a trend that has continued post 2000). A number of songs in the alternative, punk, grunge, hard rock, alternative metal, heavy metal, pop-rock, and indie rock genres became massive rock anthems during this decade.

The article below showcases a diverse number of ‘90s rock songs. If you are a music buff from this era, you'll definitely have something to say. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section.

Top 10 Best Rock Songs of the ‘90s

  1. “Creep”—Radiohead
  2. “Smells Like Teen Spirit”—Nirvana
  3. “Wonderwall”—Oasis
  4. “Lightning Crashes”—Live
  5. “November Rain”—Guns N’ Roses
  6. “Semi Charmed Life”—Third Eye Blind
  7. “Nothing Else Matters”—Metallica
  8. “Under the Bridge”—Red Hot Chili Peppers
  9. “More Than Words—Extreme
  10. “Runaway Train”—Soul Asylum

The Changing Face of Rock Music in the ‘90s

The alternative scene helped a number of new rock subgenres emerge. Punk, nu metal, and ska (among other genres) became exceedingly popular in the ‘90s. Grunge, a subgenre of alternative rock, gained ground in the early ‘90s. A number of grunge bands with a raw, hard hitting sound found space for expression. Alternative and grunge went on to become a global phenomenon. Clearly, a new style of rock song had stamped its authority on the decade.

Best Rock Songs of the ‘90s #11-20

11. “Black Hole Sun”—Soundgarden

12. “No Rain”—Blind Melon

13. “Killing in the Name”—Rage Against The Machine

14. “You Oughta Know”—Alanis Morissette

15. “Basket Case”—Green Day

16. “One”—U2

17. “Everlong”—Foo Fighters

18. “Buddy Holly”—Weezer

19. “Come as You Are”—Nirvana

20. “Interstate Love Song”—Stone Temple Pilots

The Alternative and Grunge Revolution

During the '90s, alternative and grunge had a colossal impact on the music industry. The alternative metal scene, which took shape during this decade, helped branch diverse forms of music that have since formed the core elements of the modern rock sound. Alternative rock songs achieved a great deal of mainstream success throughout this decade. Elements of alternative, hard rock, and heavy metal merged to form unique metal subgenres. While alternative and grunge music were never a part of mainstream rock prior to this decade, throughout the '90s, a number of alternative and grunge bands achieved mainstream success in the music industry.

Best Rock Songs of the ‘90s #21-40

21. “Tears In Heaven”—Eric Clapton

22. “What I Got”—Sublime

23. “Mr. Jones”—Counting Crows

24. “Closing Time”—Semisonic

25. “Smooth”—Santana and Rob Thomas

26. “Losing My Religion”—R.E.M.

27. “Enter Sandman”—Metallica

28. “Song 2”—Blur

29. “Zombie”—The Cranberries

30. “Hunger Strike”—Temple of the Dog

31. “You Get What You Give”—New Radicals

32. “Are You Gonna Go My Way”—Lenny Kravitz

33. “Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)”—Green Day

34. “Loser”—Beck

35. “Cannonball”—The Breeders

36. “Nothing Compares 2 U”—Sinead O’ Connor

37. “I Don't Want to Miss a Thing”—Aerosmith

38. “Give It Away”—Red Hot Chili Peppers

39. “Alive”—Pearl Jam

40. “Don’t Speak”—No Doubt

The Success of Heavy Metal Subgenres in the ‘90s

During the '90s, a movement to diversify heavy metal swept across the musical soundscape. As a result, several new metal subgenres emerged. At the same time, experimental sounds started changing rock's identity. Thrash metal and speed metal also achieved considerable success in the ‘90s.

While the majority of these bands released albums on independent record labels, a few bands bagged major recording contracts with established music labels. These contracts caused industrial metal to erupt onto the scene, pushing the genre to new heights.

Best Rock Songs of the ‘90s #41-60

41. “All Apologies”—Nirvana

42. “Freak on a Leash”—Korn

43. “Say It Ain’t So”—Weezer

44. “Bitter Sweet Symphony”—The Verve

45. “Paranoid Android”—Radiohead

46. “Crash Into Me”—Dave Matthews Band

47. “Everybody Hurts”—R.E.M.

48. “Rooster”—Alice in Chains

49. “Been Caught Stealing”—Jane’s Addiction

50. “Tubthumping”—Chumbawamba

51. “Mysterious Ways”—U2

52. “Thunderstruck”—AC/DC

53. “Man in the Box”—Alice in Chains

54. “Bullet With Butterfly Wings”—Smashing Pumpkins

55. “All Star”—Smash Mouth

56. “Closer”—Nine Inch Nails

57. “Iris”—Goo Goo Dolls

58. “Heart Shaped Box”—Nirvana

59. “All I Wanna Do”—Sheryl Crow

60. “Jeremy”—Pearl Jam

The Third Wave of Hard Rock

Although the popularity of hair metal declined with the emergence of grunge, certain glam metal bands has considerable success early in the decade with their brand of rock ballads. In fact, a number of hard rock bands released successful albums throughout the decade and maintained their popularity by reinventing their sound.

Acoustic Based Rock Styles in the ‘90s

Acoustic rock songs found mainstream success in the '90s. A number of young bands and artists blended soft rock with alternative to create a new kind of pop rock. The singer-songwriter format of the ‘70s took on a new shape during this decade. Rock songs with poetic leanings became anthems for youth. The teen pop-rock sound opened new pathways for musical explorations that helped new subgenres emerge.

Best ‘90s Rock Songs #61-80

61. “Love Will Keep Us Alive”—Eagles

62. “Two Princes”—Spin Doctors

63. “The Unforgiven”—Metallica

64. “Friday I'm in Love”—The Cure

65. “Disarm”—Smashing Pumpkins

66. “Even Flow”—Pearl Jam

67. “Lovefool”—The Cardigans

68. “All the Small Things”—Blink 182

69. “1979”—The Smashing Pumpkins

70. “My Own Prison”—Creed

71. “Bed of Roses”—Bon Jovi

72. “Far Behind”—Candlebox

73. “Linger”—The Cranberries

74. “Would?”—Alice In Chains

75. “Scar Tissue”—Red Hot Chili Peppers

76. “Better Man”—Pearl Jam

77. “Karma Police”—Radiohead

78. “Say It Ain’t So”—Weezer

79. “One Week”—Barenaked Ladies

80. “Bulls on Parade”—Rage Against The Machine

Best ‘90s Rock Songs #81-100

81. “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You”—Bryan Adams

82. “Californication”—Red Hot Chili Peppers

83. “Longview”—Green Day

84. “Champagne Supernova”—Oasis

85. “Where It's At”—Beck

86. “Ants Marching”—Dave Matthews Band

87. “Send Me an Angel”—Scorpions

88. “Ironic”—Alanis Morissette

89. “Please Forgive Me”—Bryan Adams

90. “Black”—Pearl Jam

91. “Plush”—Stone Temple Pilots

92. “High Hopes”—Pink Floyd

93. “Don’t Cry”—Guns N’ Roses

94. “Streets of Philadelphia”—Bruce Springsteen

95. “Higher”—Creed

96. “Angels”—Robbie Williams

97. “Shine”—Collective Soul

98. “Always”—Bon Jovi

99. “Live Forever”—Oasis

100. “Hard to Handle”—Black Crowes

Other Notable Rock Songs of the ‘90s

  • “The Distance”—Cake
  • “What’s My Age Again”—Blink 182
  • “A Design for Life”—Manic Street Preachers
  • “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
  • “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
  • “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
  • “Heroes”—The Wallflowers
  • “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
  • “Seasons in the Abyss”—Slayer
  • “Can’t Stop This Thing We Started”—Bryan Adams
  • “Nookie”—Limp Bizkit
  • “Today”—Smashing Pumpkins
  • “Cryin'”—Aerosmith
  • “Sabotage”—Beastie Boys

  • “Criminal”—Fiona Apple
  • “Symphony of Destruction”—Megadeth
  • “The World I Know”—Collective Soul
  • “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
  • “Stop!”—Jane’s Addiction
  • “Girls and Boys”—Blur
  • “Tonight, Tonight”—The Smashing Pumpkins
  • “What’s Up”—4 Non Blondes
  • “Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover”—Sophie B. Hawkins
  • “Common People”—Pulp
  • “All Mixed Up”—311
  • “This Love”—Pantera
  • “Wind of Change”—Scorpions
  • “One Headlight”—The Wallflowers
  • “Heaven Knows”—Rick Price
  • “I Live My Life for You”—Firehouse
  • “Dammit”—Blink 182
  • “Santa Monica”—Everclear
  • “Roots Bloody Roots”—Sepeltura
  • “Pull Me Under”—Dream Theater
  • “Cloud Number Nine”—Bryan Adams
  • “High Enough”—Damn Yankees
  • “Silent Lucidity”—Queensryche
  • “Dreams”—The Cranberries
  • “Stupid Girl”—Garbage
  • “Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)”—The Offspring
  • “Walk”—Pantera
  • “I Alone”—Live
  • “Good”—Better Than Ezra

  • “Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad”—Def Leppard
  • “Pepper”—The Butthole Surfers
  • “Sad, but True”—Metallica
  • “Can’t Stop Loving You”—Van Halen
  • “Mama, I’m Coming Home”—Ozzy Osbourne
  • “Holy Wars…The Punishment Due”—Megadeth
  • “Tomorrow”—Silverchair
  • “Keep the Faith”—Bon Jovi
  • “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
  • “Spoonman”—Soundgarden
  • “You Could Be Mine”—Guns N’ Roses
  • “Crazy”—Aerosmith
  • “Joey”—Concrete Blonde
  • “Stay (I Missed You)”—Lisa Loeb
  • “Down”—311
  • “Livin’ On The Edge”—Aerosmith
  • “Hook”—Blues Traveler
  • “Come Out and Play”—The Offspring
  • “Dead Embryonic Cells”—Sepultura
  • “Run to You”—Bryan Adams
  • “The Way”—Fastball
  • “Nutshell”—Alice in Chains
  • “Let’s Get Rocked”—Def Leppard
  • “Torn”—Natalia Imbruglia
  • “Flood”—Jars of Clay
  • “One of Us”—Joan Osborne
  • “Don’t Look Back in Anger”—Oasis
  • “Civil War”—Guns N’ Roses
  • “Rusty Cage”—Soundgarden
  • “Territory”—Sepultura
  • “Fake Plastic Trees”—Radiohead

Which Is the Best Rock Song of the ‘90s?

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    © 2019 Ansel Pereira

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