Finding a single iconic “rock” song for the 1990’s decade is very hard to do. There was a lot of good music in that decade, and not all of its rock either. “Rock” as a label was all over the place. In speaking about “rock,” one could mean grunge, alt-rock, or heavy metal (or anything in between). It’s nearly impossible to talk about the 90s decade without mentioning these artists. I’ve also chosen what I think is the best example of their 90s output. I would also point out that these all still sound good to me. And, I know, no Radiohead. Too bad.
REM – Losing My Religion – REM is the alt-rock poster child. With its catchy melody, oblique lyrics, and up-in-the-mix mandolin, this song paved the way for so many other bands like Smashing Pumpkins, Counting Crows, Wallflowers, Live, and others.
Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit. If I were to pick one 90s song, this is it. Kurt Cobain’s Beatles melodic sensibilities coupled with the power of Dave Grohl on drums was the shot from Seattle heard round the world. This song will always be their anthem.
Pearl Jam – Alive – Or “Jeremy” or “Even Flow” from 10. Always in Nirvana’s shadow, they have become a touring machine with many loyal fans attending dozens of shows.
Soundgarden – Black Hole Sun – A unique sound, great singing, and distinct from the rest of grunge.
Alanis Morrisette – You Outta Know – Jagged Little Pill was THE album of the 90s. Alanis came out of nowhere (Canada, actually), getting millions of teeny boppers and boomers to know every single lyric of every track on this brilliant collaboration with producer/songwriter Glen Ballard.
Green Day – When I Come Around – Dokie was the breakthrough record from this three-piece power-pop machine.
Oasis – Wonderwall – Hooks on steroids abound on “What’s the Story Morning Glory.” One of the biggest selling LPs of all time. It might be the best singalong record ever (for those who do Karaoke).
Foo Fighters – Everlong – Proof that tragedy can have a happy ending as the drummer of Nirvana turns out to be a great songwriter and bandleader.
Metalica – Enter Sandman – The most fantastic riff ever? Maybe. It’s up there.