Nirvana. Pearl Jam. Soundgarden. Foo Fighters. R.E.M. Nine Inch Nails. Alice in Chains. Which band had the best song in the 90s? SiriusXM’s Lithium channel spent the last week counting down the best songs during the alternative and grunge era A.K.A. the 1990s. They just finished up the list on Sunday night.
And as with all “best of” lists – no one is going to agree with the top 5 or top 10 or top 100, and there will be plenty of deserving songs that don’t make the list. No doubt that Nirvana had the most cultural impact in the 90s, but does that mean they automatically deserve a top spot? And does popularity/record sales matter or is it just about the music? If it’s just about the music itself, then can we agree on the factors that matter the most?
No? Okay. Well… let’s just get on with it shall we? Here’s Lithium’s Top 100 starting from the bottom:
|100||Praise You||Fatboy Slim|
|99||Scar Tissue||Red Hot Chili Peppers|
|98||My Own Worst Enemy||Lit|
|97||Cherub Rock||Smashing Pumpkins|
|95||Learn To Fly||Foo Fighters|
|94||In The Meantime||Spacehog|
|93||Hey Jealousy||Gin Blossoms|
|92||Big Empty||Stone Temple Pilots|
|87||The Beautiful People||Marilyn Manson|
|85||Otherside||Red Hot Chili Peppers|
|84||Good||Better Than Ezra|
|83||What's The Frequency Kenneth?||R.E.M.|
|81||Burden In My Hand||Soundgarden|
|80||Just A Girl||No Doubt|
|77||Brain Stew/Jaded||Green Day|
|75||Undone-The Sweater Song||Weezer|
|73||I'll Stick Around||Foo Fighters|
|72||Hey Man Nice Shot||Filter|
|71||Guerrilla Radio||Rage Against The Machine|
|68||Flagpole Sitta||Harvey Danger|
|67||Plush||Stone Temple Pilots|
|66||What Would You Say||Dave Matthews Band|
|63||Jane Says (Live)||Jane's Addiction|
|62||Give It Away||Red Hot Chili Peppers|
|61||Would?||Alice In Chains|
|60||Epic||Faith No More|
|59||Monkey Wrench||Foo Fighters|
|57||Heart Shaped Box||Nirvana|
|56||You Oughta Know||Alanis Morissette|
|55||Man On The Moon||R.E.M.|
|53||Peaches||Presidents Of The United States Of America|
|52||Basket Case||Green Day|
|51||Don't Look Back In Anger||Oasis|
|50||Fell On Black Days||Soundgarden|
|48||What I Got||Sublime|
|46||Tonight Tonight||Smashing Pumpkins|
|45||Come Out And Play||Offspring|
|44||Californication||Red Hot Chili Peppers|
|43||Even Flow||Pearl Jam|
|42||Semi-Charmed Life||Third Eye Blind|
|41||Heaven Beside You||Alice In Chains|
|37||My Hero||Foo Fighters|
|35||Come As You Are||Nirvana|
|34||Hunger Strike||Temple Of The Dog|
|33||Interstate Love Song||Stone Temple Pilots|
|31||Bittersweet Symphony||The Verve|
|30||Killing In The Name||Rage Against The Machine|
|29||Losing My Religion||R.E.M.|
|25||Rooster||Alice In Chains|
|23||Bullet With Butterfly Wings||Smashing Pumpkins|
|22||No Rain||Blind Melon|
|19||Creep||Stone Temple Pilots|
|18||Been Caught Stealing||Jane's Addiction|
|17||Say It Ain't So||Weezer|
|16||All Over You||Live|
|14||When I Come Around||Green Day|
|12||Bulls On Parade||Rage Against The Machine|
|11||Where It's At||Beck|
|10||Man In The Box||Alice In Chains|
|9||Closer||Nine Inch Nails|
|8||Under The Bridge||Red Hot Chili Peppers|
|7||Black Hole Sun||Soundgarden|
|5||Smells Like Teen Spirit||Nirvana|
|4||Vasoline||Stone Temple Pilots|
|2||The Man Who Sold The World (Unplugged)||Nirvana|
Six bands dominated with five or more songs on the list. It’s the usual suspects in Nirvana (6), Foo Fighters (5), Pearl Jam (5), Red Hot Chili Peppers (5), Smashing Pumpkins (5), and Stone Temple Pilots (5) while Alice in Chains, Bush, Green Day and Soundgarden all had four songs on the list.
With 47 songs between these 10 bands, they make up nearly half the songs.
Then there’s Third-Eye Blind, Better Than Ezra, 311, Gin Blossoms, Oasis and The Verve. Not to mention the names that came out during that decade: Kurt Cobain and Eddie Vedder, Chris Cornell and Billy Corgan. Layne Staley, Courtney Love, Anthony Kiedis and David Grohl.
Doesn’t that take you back? I forgot about half of these songs, so what’s great about Lithium putting together this list is reminding us of the great music that came out 25 years ago.
So how did they come up with it? Here’s what the SiriusXM blog had to say about their selection process:
Narrowing down a decade’s worth of music to a list of 100 was a great deal easier than one would think. It only required two teams of experts, working 1,700 miles apart. The first team consisted of 9 of the world’s top alternative and grunge music experts locked in a conference room in the former Kmart World Headquarters in Troy, MI. These musicologists needed only 3 weeks to compile a list of songs they felt deserving of being on the Lithium Top 100.
I know that radio people don’t get paid much money, much less get paid to be locked in a conference room for three weeks, but that sounds like a lot of fun. Think of anything you’re passionate about and you’re then asked for your opinion for an authority on the subject?
But in what order? That’s where the second team began their work, in a laboratory built nearly a quarter mile beneath the surface of a nondescript patch of New Mexico desert. There, 17 rogue scientists used math, Bunsen burners and a particle accelerator to determine what song was truly number 1, and which one was 2. And 3. And so on.
Omissions, Snubs and Impossibility
What about the omissions? The top 100 didn’t include The Breeders’ Cannonball, Hole’s Violet, Pearl Jam’s Better Man or Yellow Ledbetter, Pepper by The Butthole Surfers, No Doubt’s Don’t Speak, Nirvana’s All Apologies, Spin Doctor’s Two Princes, Liz Phair’s Supernova, PJ Harvey’s Down by the Water, Nine Inch Nails’ Hurt, The Cranberries’ Zombie or Soul Asylum’s Runaway Train?
We could go on and on and on and that’s our point — it’s 100% impossible to make a perfect list of “best” music for an entire decade because music tastes are subjective.
Our take is as long as most can agree that the top 15-20 is 90% accurate, that’s the best you can really hope for. You’ll know you have a good list when an argument can be made for any of the top ten songs for the #1 spot.