50 Best 90s Rock Songs (1990s Rock Hits)

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Written By Will Fenton

Founder of MidderMusic. From numerous bands to stints working in music shops, read more about me on the 'Here's My Story' page!

The 90s was an interesting decade for rock music.

Some bands from the 1980s continued to thrive, and new legends emerged.

It was also a life-changing decade for alternative rock.

So for today’s article, we picked the 50 best 90s rock songs.

Get ready for a trip down memory lane! 

Table of Contents

1. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana

One of the genres of rock music that flourished in the 90s is grunge.

And Nirvana’s greatest hits helped define the sound of the genre.

“Smells Like Teen Spirit” is also recognized as one of the best rock songs of all time.

2. “Under The Bridge” by Red Hot Chili Peppers 

Another band that made a huge impact on the 90s music scene is Red Hot Chili Peppers.

“Under The Bridge” became their signature song, and it’s arguably one of the top rock songs of the 90s.

3. “Black Hole Sun” by Soundgarden

A weird music video, Chris Cornell’s unforgettable voice, sounds of grunge… 

Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” is arguably one of the most iconic 90s rock songs.

The song also won a Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance in 1995.

4. “Common People” by Pulp

The 90s was also a decade when alternative music started gaining mainstream success.

And Pulp’s “Common People” is one of the examples. 

After it was released in 1995, the song became a universal hit.

It’s also considered one of the greatest Britpop songs.

5. “Semi-Charmed Life” by Third Eye Blind 

The song that is usually among the top 100 rock songs of the 90s is “Semi-Charmed Life.” 

It’s surprisingly cheerful and youthful, and that “doo, doo, doot” in the song is directly inspired by Lou Reed’s “Walk On The Wild Side.”

6. “Say It Ain’t So” by Weezer 

The previous song reminded us of this iconic 90s gem.

“Say It Ain’t So” is taken from Weezer’s self-titled debut album released in 1994.

Although it was one of their first singles, the track turned out to be the band’s best song.

7. “Creep” by Radiohead

Although they stopped performing it live years ago, “Creep” is still considered one of Radiohead’s greatest hits.

Nevertheless, it’s definitely one of the most important 90s alternative songs.

8. “Killing In The Name” by Rage Against The Machine

“Killing In The Name” is one of the most popular protest songs and the band’s biggest hit.

The song even reached UK Christmas number 1, following a campaign protesting the British talent show The X Factor.

Nonetheless, it’s definitely one of the most memorable rock songs of the decade.

9. “Sabotage” by Beastie Boys

Well, “Sabotage” seems like a natural follow-up.

Beastie Boys released this rap rock masterpiece in 1994.

Many media platforms included it on their list of the best 90s rock songs including Pitchfork, VH1, and Q magazine.

10. “Alive” by Pearl Jam

Of course, this list wouldn’t be complete without Pearl Jam.

Their track “Alive” is undeniably one of the most loved 90’s rock album songs.

Their whole debut album “Ten” is an essential part of 90s rock.

11. “Kinky Afro” by Happy Mondays

And if you’re more interested in a blend of rave and rock, this one’s for you.

Some critics say that Happy Mondays were the first British band to make a rock and dance music crossover.

Whether you agree or not, “Kinky Afro” will probably bring you back to the 90’s.

12. “Basket Case” by Green Day

“Basket Case” was the song that brought Green Day a mainstream success.

And it remains one of the top 90s rock songs.

It talks about anxiety attacks, and since Billie Joe Armstrong suffered from panic attacks, the song is quite personal. 

13. “You Oughta Know” by Alanis Morissette

With her album “Jagged Little Pill”, Alanis Morissette found a spot in the 90s rock scene.

And “You Oughta Know” is definitely one of the biggest 90s rock hits. 

It’s lively, angry, catchy… And it doesn’t get old. 

14. “Just A Girl” by No Doubt 

Another smashing hit released in 1995 is “Just A Girl” by No Doubt.

Gwen Stefani’s energy in this song is just unforgettable.

It’s an ultimate 90s girl power anthem.

15. “Everlong” by Foo Fighters 

Many agree that “Everlong” is the most loved Foo Fighters song.

Well, it’s definitely a memorable rock love song.

And it’s interesting to know that Dave Grohl was going through a divorce while he was finishing the song.

16. “What’s My Age Again” by Blink-182

Blink-182 also made an impact on the 90’s music scene.

If you’re a 90s kid, their youthful tunes will take you another time right away.

My friends say I should act my age

What’s my age again?

17. “November Rain” by Guns N’ Roses

“November Rain” is a timeless power ballad and one of the most popular rock songs of the 90s.

It has even been honored as the greatest song of all time by one European radio station.

18. “Been Caught Stealing” by Jane’s Addiction

Released in 1990, “Been Caught Stealing” is one of Jane’s Addiction biggest hits.

The song was an instant hit and it spent four weeks at No. 1 on the U.S. Modern Rock chart.

19. “Losing My Religion” by R.E.M.

When it comes to the top 90s rock songs, it’s hard to forget “Losing My Religion.” 

Besides being a chart-topping hit and a Grammy-award winner, the song is arguably R.E.M.’s best track ever.

20. “One” by U2

U2’s “One” is often described as one of the best rock love songs from the 90s.

In 2005, they re-recorded the song as part of a duet with Mary J. Blige. 

All in all, it’s definitely one of the band’s signature songs that doesn’t seem to get old.

21. “Wonderwall” by Oasis

Whether you like “Wonderwall” or not, you have to admit it’s one of the most popular 90s rock songs.

According to Gallagher, the wonderwall refers to “an imaginary friend who’s gonna come and save you from yourself.”

22. “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC

“Thunderstruck” was released as a lead single from the band’s album “Razors Edge.”

It’s one of AC/DC’s most well known songs.

And probably one of the most popular drinking game songs.

23. “Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica

“Nothing Else Matters” is an iconic rock ballad released in 1992.

And it’s funny that the song initially wasn’t intended for release. 

But then Lars Ulrich heard the final version and recognized its potential.

24. “Zombie” by The Cranberries 

“Zombie” is undoubtedly one of the best rock songs of the 90s.

But there’s also a meaningful story behind it.

It was created as a response to the 1993 IRA attack that resulted in the death of two children.

25. “Good Riddance” by Green Day

Without a doubt, “Good Riddance” is the most nostalgic 90s rock song.

And it’s actually a wonderful throwback. 

26. “Stay Together” by Suede 

“Stay Together” by Suede is often included in the top rock songs of the 90s lists.

And it remains the band’s most well known song. 

27. “Motorcycle Emptiness” by Manic Street Preachers 

The Welsh rock band Manic Street Preachers became a globally popular band in the 2000s.

But they released some of the most memorable tunes in the 90s, and “Motorcycle Emptiness” is one of them.

28. “Bittersweet Symphony” by The Verve 

In a way, it’s hard to believe that “Bittersweet Symphony” was released more than 20 years ago.

The song is still frequently played at the radio; and it somehow still sounds fresh. 

29. “Fake Plastic Trees” by Radiohead

Radiohead added a new kind of melancholy to the 90s music scene.

And it’s a good type of melancholy – authentic, raw, and interesting.

Although they continued to thrive long after its release, “Fake Plastic Trees” certainly remains one of the band’s signature songs. 

30. “Song 2” by Blur

Damon Albarn was a different artist in the 1990s; and “Song 2” was surely life-changing for him and the band.

Since we’re kind of talking about art-rock, who would have thought “Song 2” would become a stadium anthem?

31. “Even Flow” by Pearl Jam

Another song by Pearl Jam that deserves a place on our best 90s rock playlist is “Even Flow.” 

It’s taken from the band’s iconic 1991 album “Ten” we mentioned earlier.

32. “Into My Arms” by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

In the 1990s, Nick Cave transformed into something else.

His piano-driven track “Into My Arms” is arguably one of the most beautiful love songs of all time.

He wrote it during the period following his breakup with PJ Harvey.

33. “Down By The Water” by PJ Harvey

Speaking of PJ Harvey, her song “Down By The Water” is one of the classic 90s rock songs.

In fact, she became a ‘queen’ of alternative music and a true icon of that decade.

34. “Closing Time” by Semisonic

“Closing Time” is another iconic 90s rock song.

There’s something so simple and catchy about this tune.

And it’s still nice to hear it from time to time.

35. “Two Princes” by Spin Doctors 

Of course, this list wouldn’t be complete without “Two Princes” by Spin Doctors.

It’s yet another catchy and iconic 90s melody.

And it still rocks. 

36. “Loser” by Beck 

Beck is still working on new music, but his most well known songs came out in the 90s.

He released “Loser” on his third studio album in 1994.

37. “Chumbawamba” by Tubthumping

“Chumbawamba” is the name of that famous ‘I get knocked down’ song.

Sometimes all you need is a good one-hit wonder to remind you of the good old days.

38. “Bitch” by Meredith Brooks 

Meredith Brooks released “Bitch” in 1997.

The song became her signature song and a famous girl power anthem.

39. “What I Got” by Sublime

“What I Got” is all about appreciating the moment you’re in and people around you.

It’s uplifting yet easy-going; so in a way, it’s a typical rock song from the mid 90s. 

40. “Buddy Holly” by Weezer 

When thinking about uplifting, youthful 90s rock music, “Buddy Holly” also comes to mind.

It’s taken from Weezer’s self-titled debut album.

The album was released on September 7, 1994, which would have been Buddy Holly’s 58th birthday.

41. “You Get What You Give” by New Radicals

If you need something to lift your spirits up, look no further.

“You Get What You Give” reflects the mood of many 90s rock songs.

And it simply doesn’t get old!

42. “All Star” by Smash Mouth

Another song that captures the 90s youth spirit is “All Star” by Smash Mouth.

The song also gained popularity after being used in the animated film “Shrek.” 

43. “Lovefool” by The Cardigans

We didn’t forget about “Lovefool” and its iconic chorus.

The band’s singer Nina Persson allegedly wrote it at an airport while waiting for a plane. 

And it became an influential 90s rock song.

44. “Iris” by Goo Goo Dolls

“Iris” is one of the unforgettable late 90s rock songs.

It was originally written for the soundtrack of the 1998 film ‘City of Angels.’

And I don’t want the world to see me, ’cause I don’t think that they’d understand…

45. “Santa Monica” by Everclear

“Santa Monica” is considered one of the popular 90s alternative rock songs.

And although you probably don’t hear it so often anymore, it certainly deserves to be mentioned.

46. “Always” by Bon Jovi

Bon Jovi also released many memorable hits in the 1990s.

And this power ballad was released as a single from their 1994 greatest hits album, “Cross Road.”

47. “Lightning Crashes” by Live 

“Lightning Crashes” is probably one of the 90s rock songs you forgot.

It’s an emotional tune with a powerful build-up.

The band dedicated it to a high school friend who was killed by a drunk driver in 1993.

And that story makes it even more sentimental. 

48. “One Week” by Barenaked Ladies 

Lyrically, “One Week” by Barenaked Ladies is supposedly about a fight in a relationship.

However, the lyrics are very messy and quirky – just like the song.

And that makes it quite memorable.

49. “Live Forever” by Oasis

One thing is for sure: Oasis wanted to live forever through their music.

Whether they succeeded or not remains to be seen, but many agree they managed to record a rock classic in 1994. 

 “Live Forever” also won an NME Award for Best Single.

50. “Enter Sandman” by Metallica 

Many would agree that “Enter Sandman” is one of the greatest rock hits of all time.

Therefore, it’s a perfect ending to our list of the best 1990’s rock songs.

90s Rock Songs – Final Thoughts

As you can see, the 1990s were a great time for rock.

Some of the artists we mentioned are still making music, but they made some of their most impactful songs in the 90s.

Either way, we hope you enjoyed our 90s rock playlist and that you came across some nice throwbacks!  

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Best 70s Rock Songs