Saturday, May 30, 2020

Top 100 Alternative Rock Songs

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Alternative Rock:

Top 100 Songs

More than 30 different lists were aggregated to create this list. Alternative is a widely defined collection of rock music which stretches from the garage bands of the 1960s to the indie scene of today. It generally is used to describe groups which are more left of center, but often these bands– such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, U2, and R.E.M. – move to the forefront of mainstream rock.

A brief history of the genre shows its origins to come out of the D.I.Y. aesthetic that accompanied rougher sounding, experimental bands who came out of the 1960s. Groups like the Velvet Underground and The Stooges provided a raunchier and rawer alternative to mainstream rock like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.

By the mid-1970s, groups like the Sex Pistols, The Clash, and The Ramones spearheaded the punk scene, which grew out of angry working class kids looking for a musical outlet. By the close of the 1970s and beginning of the 1980s, new wave groups like The Cure, Depeche Mode, and New Order emerged at the forefront of a more accessible, electronically-driven, and ready-for-video format. The college rock scene quickly grew out of that, also lending audiences to groups like U2, R.E.M., and The Smiths.

By the end of the 1990s, grunge became the dominant form of rock music with bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam at the helm. They revived some of the punk and D.I.Y. ethos of the 1960s and 1970s, while also crafting big songs which echoed some of the big-anthem classic rock of those decades.

Since grunge, there hasn’t been one dominant form of alternative – or what became known as “modern rock.” Groups like Green Day and Blink-182 created punk-pop while The White Stripes and The Strokes reminded listeners of the garage rock of the 1960s. Artists like Radiohead and Beck reminded listeners of the experimental nature of the genre.

So what is alternative rock exactly? It’s hard to say. This list taps into all the forms referenced above and more. I’ll just let these songs tell you what alternative is.

Click here to see other genre-specific song lists.

1. Nirvana “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (1991)
2. Radiohead “Creep” (1993)
3. Beck “Loser” (1993)
4. Nirvana “Come As You Are” (1992)
5. Red Hot Chili Peppers “Under the Bridge” (1992)
6. Pearl Jam “Alive” (1991)
7. Violent Femmes “Blister in the Sun” (1983)
8. Jane’s Addiction “Been Caught Stealing” (1990)
9. The Smiths “How Soon Is Now?” (1984)
10. Sublime “What I Got” (1996)

11. Smashing Pumpkins “Today” (1993)
12. Blur “Song 2” (1997)
13. Nine Inch Nails “Closer” (1994)
14. Ramones “I Wanna Be Sedated” (1978)
15. Beastie Boys “You Gotta Fight for Your Right to Party” (1986)
16. Pearl Jam “Jeremy” (1992)
17. Smashing Pumpkins “1979” (1995)
18. R.E.M. “Losing My Religion” (1991)
19. Oasis “Wonderwall” (1995)
20. Jane’s Addiction “Jane Says” (1988)

21. Beastie Boys “Sabotage” (1994)
22. The Cure “Just Like Heaven” (1987)
23. Soundgarden “Black Hole Sun” (1994)
24. Green Day “Longview” (1994)
25. U2 “Sunday Bloody Sunday” (1983)
26. Pearl Jam “Black” (1991)
27. New Order “Bizarre Love Triangle” (1986)
28. Linkin Park “In the End” (2001)
29. The Offspring “Come Out and Play” (1994)
30. Red Hot Chili Peppers “Give It Away” (1991)

31. R.E.M. “It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” (1987)
32. Depeche Mode “Personal Jesus” (1989)
33. The Clash “Rock the Casbah” (1982)
34. Live “Lightning Crashes” (1994)
35. U2 “With or Without You” (1987)
36. Stone Temple Pilots “Plush” (1992)
37. Rage Against the Machine “Killing in the Name” (1993)
38. The Clash “Should I Stay Or Should I Go” (1982)
39. New Order “Blue Monday” (1983)
40. Joy Division “Love Will Tear Us Apart” (1980)

41. U2 “One” (1992)
42. Green Day “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” (1997)
43. Weezer “Buddy Holly” (1994)
44. Green Day “When I Come Around” (1994)
45. The Clash “London Calling” (1979)
46. The Verve “Bitter Sweet Symphony” (1997)
47. Green Day “Brain Stew/Jaded” (1995)
48. Foo Fighters “Everlong” (1997)
49. Metallica “Enter Sandman” (1991)
50. Green Day “Basket Case” (1994)

51. Pearl Jam “Even Flow” (1991)
52. The White Stripes “Seven Nation Army” (2003)
53. The Offspring “Self Esteem” (1994)
54. Nine Inch Nails “Head Like a Hole” (1989)
55. Depeche Mode “Enjoy the Silence” (1990)
56. Nirvana “All Apologies” (1993)
57. The Pixies “Here Comes Your Man” (1989)
58. U2 “Pride (In the Name of Love)” (1984)
59. Stone Temple Pilots “Interstate Love Song” (1994)
60. Sex Pistols “Anarchy in the U.K.” (1976)

61. Soft Cell “Tainted Love” (1981)
62. Nirvana “Lithium” (1991)
63. Sublime “Wrong Way” (1996)
64. Faith No More “Epic” (1990)
65. Smashing Pumpkins “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” (1995)
66. Blink-182 “Dammit (Growing Up)” (1997)
67. Weezer “Undone (The Sweater Song)” (1994)
68. Iggy Pop “Lust for Life” (1977)
69. Smashing Pumpkins “Disarm” (1993)
70. Papa Roach “Last Resort” (2000)

71. Nirvana “In Bloom” (1991)
72. Rage Against the Machine “Bulls on Parade” (1996)
73. Devo “Whip It” (1980)
74. Blind Melon “No Rain” (1993)
75. R.E.M. “Radio Free Europe” (1983)
76. Ramones “Blitzkrieg Bop” (1976)
77. The Cure “Love Song” (1989)
78. Beastie Boys “Intergalactic” (1998)
79. The B-52’s “Rock Lobster” (1979)
80. Sex Pistols “God Save the Queen” (1977)

81. Alice in Chains “Man in the Box” (1991)
82. Radiohead “Karma Police” (1997)
83. Modern English “I Melt with You” (1982)
84. R.E.M. “The One I Love” (1987)
85. Blink-182 “All the Small Things” (1999)
86. Pearl Jam “Better Man” (1994)
87. The Pixies “Monkey Gone to Heaven” (1989)
88. Lit “My Own Worst Enemy” (1999)
89. Violent Femmes “Add It Up” (1983)
90. Elvis Costello “Alison” (1977)

91. Pearl Jam “Yellow Ledbetter” (1992)
92. Talking Heads “Once in a Lifetime” (1981)
93. Talking Heads “Burning Down the House” (1983)
94. Echo & the Bunnymen “Lips Like Sugar” (1987)
95. The Cure “Boys Don’t Cry” (1979)
96. Blink-182 “What’s My Age Again?” (1999)
97. The Police “Roxanne” (1978)
98. Linkin Park “Numb” (2003)
99. Linkin Park “One Step Closer” (2000)
100. U2 “New Year’s Day” (1983)

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First posted 6/14/2012; last updated 5/30/2020.


  1. I am forever a fan of alternative rock music. U2, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Linkin Park are a few of my favorites. I feel glad that there are other alternative rock song lovers out there who share to the public their passion for this kind of music. So thank you so much for this article.

  2. Great stuff...but metallica...not
    So much that should have been here that was replaced by pop and hit radio stuff...
    At least in my book..

    1. I completely agree. I compiled this list by aggregating multiple alternative-rock-oriented lists so it is a mystery to me how Metallica made appearances on enough lists to make the cut.

    2. Yea I hate it that underground non hit oriented radio was sold to idiots and mass marketed...
      where are the Replacements,Husker Du,Sonic Youth,or any of the real bands that made the movement,not those crap pop bands that destroyed alternative..check this out
      The whole movement was punk and the lack of the look at me airhead that it became.At least indie is keeping it real so far.
      We will lauch soon as a computer radio,focusing on the new indie and classic alternative,keeping our music real.

    3. But I do like your site allot,.
      Great job.