Well, here’s another music debate question. The ’90s were a well-defined time in music, shifting to a radical new direction from previous genres almost on the first day of 1990. Metal was out; grunge was in. Rap faded; hip-hop blew up. Alt-rock rose to the fore. In a way, music styles have not changed so abruptly since 1990. We’re still pretty much living in the 90s music-wise right now.
As usual, we will try to be objective and as fair as possible. Here’s the top-ten bands to know from the 90s:
#10> No Doubt / Sublime
One was bouncy pop-punk act straight out of Orange County, California. The other was a punk-ska innovation from Long Beach, California, that could have made it much bigger if the lead singer hadn’t OD’d. We squeeze them both in the 10-slot because they frequently shared a stage and defined alt-rock fringes for the early 1990s.
#9> Smashing Pumpkins
Alt-rock was pretty much born on stage here. By turns psychedelic, metal, grunge, and progressive, the Pumpkins have stayed relevant all the way from 1988 until now.
Madchester, England, has never been at a loss for contributing to the world scene, and Oasis anchored the Brit-pop cornerstone well into the 21st century.
#7> Blink 182
They had a slow start and took a while to catch on, since they were hard to classify. But eventually everyone caught on that “power pop” and “skate punk” had just had a fusion and a hundred bands couldn;t scurry fast enough to imitate them.
#6> Red Hot Chili Peppers
What can you say about the Peppers? A genre known as “funk metal” had never existed before them. With every RHCP album that came out in the 90s, everybody had to admit it was impossible to place, but always sounded great.
#5> Alice in Chains
They said metal was dead, and called Alice in Chains a grunge band. They were content with that, but they knew a secret: grunge was just a natural progression from metal, and over time, they showed us how that works.
#4> Nine Inch Nails
Technology defined the 1990s, and Nine Inch Nails’ tricky synthesized one-man-band method produced music that sounded like what they listen to in the Matrix. NIN has been cranking out music from the future for years now, and making the Quake soundtrack didn’t hurt that reputation one bit.
#3> Green Day
Punk is not dead! It’s on life support permanently from Green Day, who faithfully preserved its retirement home for years. They seem to have more fans now than ever before, thirty years after they launched.
#2> Pearl Jam
We almost don’t even have to name them here, they’re a given. Many grunge bands struggled with the grunge sound out of Seattle, but Pearl Jam picked it up and wielded it like Excalibur. When they played grunge, you wondered what you ever listened to any other genre.
Nobody can possibly dispute Nirvana’s spot at #1. They invented the grunge sound or at least were the most definitive smiths of it, and a million bands went on to imitate them to this day. We end as we begun, with another tragic death taken from us too soon.