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The 5 Best Records of the ‘90s

I have always loved and appreciated music, even from a young age. Growing up, I was lucky that my parents had an eclectic taste in music — thankfully it was good taste, too. I wasn’t one of those kids listening to Kidz Bop, Disney Channel, or One Direction songs on my iPod; I was rocking out to artists such as Fleetwood Mac and Led Zeppelin. My mom wanted to make sure my siblings and I were musically cultured — my love for nineties grunge, rock, and new wave came from her.

Every genre of music was booming in the 90s, from pop to punk, rap, disco, and grunge — a new genre combining alternative rock and heavy metal elements. Some of my favorite artists, albums, and songs emerged from the nineties, all before I was born in ’98. There are so many amazing albums from the nineties, but here is my take on the five best records:

Pearl Jam, ‘Ten

Pearl Jam’s Ten was released by Epic Records on August 27, 1991, and in my opinion is the best record of the 90s. Ten was Pearl Jam’s debut record, and they came out swinging with lead singer Eddie Vedder’s powerful, dynamic vocals and guitarist Mike McCready’s impressive riffs. Each song on Ten is vastly different, showcasing Vedder’s range as a vocalist from ragged, heavy metal-esque vocals to bluesy-rock. Ten’s success was slow, but by late 1992 it had reached the number two spot on the Billboard 200 chart. To this day Ten is Pearl Jam’s most successful album.

Best song: “Black”  

Nirvana, ‘Nevermind

Nirvana’s heavy underground sound mixed with Kurt Cobain’s raw, angsty vocals and punchy melodies popularized the grunge genre. Nevermind was probably the most popular and influential album of the nineties, with “Smells Like Teen Spirit” catapulting Nirvana onto the mainstream scene through its fierce commentary on shallowness while still having mass appeal to a teenage audience. Nevermind was a breakout success for Nirvana and landed them the number one spot on the Billboard 200 chart by 1992. It’s still one of the bestselling albums in the world to this day.

Best song: “Come As You Are

Depeche Mode, ‘Violator

Depeche Mode is an English trio formed in 1980. They fall under the electronic genre with their synth-pop, new wave sound. Depeche Mode had struggled to break into American mainstream media in the eighties, but that changed with Violator — an edgy, intimate, electronic record that reached the number seven spot on the Billboard 200 chart. The album experimented with new sounds and explored ideas of sex, drugs, and spirituality. Violator was Depeche Mode’s seventh studio album, and was released on March 19, 1990.

Best song: “Policy of Truth

Nirvana, ‘MTV Unplugged in New York

Nirvana’s live, acoustic performance for MTV was recorded on November 18, 1993, at Sony Music Studios in New York, and was released on November 1, 1994 — months after Cobain’s death. The album contains some of their lesser known songs along with covers of artists such as David Bowie and the Vaselines. Years after the performance and album release, drummer Dave Grohl said, “That show was supposed to be a disaster. We hadn’t rehearsed. We weren’t used to playing acoustic. We did a few rehearsals and they were terrible. Everyone thought it was horrible. Even the people from MTV thought it was horrible. Then we sat down and the cameras started rolling and something clicked. It became one of the band’s most memorable performances.”

Best song: “The Man Who Sold the World

The Smashing Pumpkins, ‘Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness

Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness was the third studio album by The Smashing Pumpkins. It was released on October 23, 1995, as a double feature album. This was unheard of at the time for alternative rock bands, but it proved successful with the album debuting at number one on the Billboard 200 chart. The double feature was intended to represent day and night — the vibe of the album changes from song to song, moving from heavy rock to slow, melodic lullabies. The album received critical acclaim as well, with Time calling it “the group’s most ambitious and accomplished work yet.”

Best song: “1979


These albums were genre and decade defining records. Each band had their unique artistic style and showcased it fiercely in their art.


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-Junior at the University of Utah -Communications major with an emphasis in Journalism and minor in Political Science
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