Unlisted Music

The Unforgettable Anthems of 90s Rock Music

Introduction to 90s Rock Music

The 1990s was a decade inundated with a range of musical influences. But it was rock music that dominated the airwaves of the era.

This period was characterized by the grunge music movement that started in the Pacific Northwest and spread across the US. Bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden topped the charts with their ubiquitous tunes and catchy melodies.

Alongside this, the introduction of music videos changed how audiences engaged with their favorite artists. In this article, we’ll explore the popular music television channels of the 90s, highlight some of the most iconic songs and videos, and dive into Nirvana’s landmark performance, “Smells like Teen Spirit”.

Dominant Music Television Channels

MTV and VH1 were the go-to channels for young generations in the 90s. They featured popular music shows that showcased the latest music videos, interviews with artists, and news from around the music world.

The influence of these channels was so great that they played an essential role in breaking new artists and launching new music genres into the mainstream.

Iconic Songs and Music Videos

The 90s saw a surge in music video production, which became a critical element of music promotion. The two decades produced some of the most memorable music videos in history, which continue to entertain audiences to date.

Some iconic songs include Nirvana’s “Smells like Teen Spirit,” Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy,” and Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun.” These songs helped bring the grunge movement into the public consciousness, making it one of the most significant musical sub-genres of the decade. Nirvana’s “Smells like Teen Spirit.”

Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” released in 1991, is widely considered a masterpiece of the grunge era.

The song’s lyrics expressed the angst of a generation disenchanted with the status quo, creating what was seen as a counter-culture movement. Nirvana’s influence on the music industry was so great that they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014.

Rolling Stone also regards “Smells like Teen Spirit” song as the song that changed the music world forever.

Nevermind Album

Nirvana’s “Smells like Teen Spirit” was part of the “Nevermind” album from which five singles were released, and it topped charts around the world. “Nevermind” was a diverse album featuring fast-paced punk rock, dark, brooding ballads, and catchy, radio-friendly hit singles.

Critics and fans alike lauded the album’s blend of aggressive instrumentation and emotive songwriting.


The 90s rock music and grunge movement were influential in shaping contemporary music, providing an avenue for young people to express themselves through their music. From MTV’s promotion of the music world to the iconic songs and music videos, the sounds of the 90s continue to reverberate through music to date.

“Glycerine” by Bush

In the mid-90s, Gavin Rossdale’s Bush band produced an emotive rock ballad that would become a classic of the era. “Glycerine” was a haunting love song that combined Rossdale’s raspy, sultry voice and the gorgeous twang of Suz Demarchi’s guitar.

The song’s inspiration stemmed from Rossdale’s relationship with Demarchi, his then-girlfriend. After playing around with some guitar riffs, Rossdale composed the song’s melody before sharing his concept with Demarchi, who added some guitar magic.

The result was a moving love song that took the US by storm. “Glycerine” was pivotal for Bush, leading to the band’s entrance into the US, thanks to Rossdale’s persona, a British rock n roll heartthrob.

Rossdale’s British accent and unique vocal delivery contrasted well with the unmistakable American grunge sound of the time. The song’s haunting quality carried its way across the airwaves, helping it to achieve a top ten spot on the US Billboard charts while simultaneously making it a favorite of music critics.

“Zombie” by The Cranberries

Dolores O’Riordan’s “Zombie” became an anti-British protest song that intertwined Ireland’s history with its current state of affairs. The song was a reaction to the two IRA bombings that occurred in Warrington, England, in March 1993.

The bombings resulted from British rule, leading to the death of two young boys and numerous injuries. This tragedy affected O’Riordan deeply, leading her to write a song that highlighted what was happening in Northern Ireland at the time.

The song’s lyrics were a potent mix of pain, frustration, and rebellion. The lyrics were inspired by the emotional response to the bombings and the state of affairs in Ireland.

The song called on the Irish people to fight to eliminate the oppression that the people of Northern Ireland faced under British rule. This message found a resonance with listeners worldwide and helped make the song an anthem for activism and social justice.

“Zombie” became one of The Cranberries’ most popular songs, charting in several countries around the world. The song became a symbol of Irish protest music, evoking a strong sense of national pride and political activism.

It made O’Riordan a symbol of Irish culture and activism, leading to the song becoming a significant part of political campaigns, rallies, and other social justice events.


The 90s will remain an iconic decade in the music world, with Bush’s “Glycerine” and The Cranberries’ “Zombie” being among the influential songs that captured the world’s attention. The songs’ emotional impact and unforgettable melodies continue to captivate audiences worldwide, while their messages around love, activism, and political change remain as important as ever before.

“Basket Case” by Green Day

In 1994, Green Day’s “Basket Case” became a punk rock classic. The song is a therapeutic outlet for frontman Billie Joe Armstrong who battle anxiety and panic disorder at the time.

The song touches on Armstrong’s personal struggles while taking a sardonic look at the mental health stigma of the time. “Basket Case” has become an anthem of hope for those who suffer from mental health conditions using music as a catharsis.

Green Day’s music is irreverent, edgy, and profound, covering topics that are relatable to their young listeners. The lyrics combine rebellious and angst and sincere emotions, pushing against the boundaries of what is acceptable to discuss in mainstream music.

Fans can readily connect with the band’s punk rock ethos and revel in their unconventionality, cementing Green Day’s place as one of the essential bands of the ’90s. “Say it Ain’t So” by Weezer

Weezer’s “Say it Ain’t So” was written by Rivers Cuomo, and it speaks to the emotional summation of teenage fears and frustrations.

The song deals with the impact of his parent’s divorce and his father’s struggle with alcoholism, issues that weighed heavily on the young songwriter. The song connects with audiences through its poignant expression of emotions that feel so raw and visceral.

Despite its thematic underpinnings, “Say it Ain’t So” is a song that also offers hope and consolation. It offers a reminder of how life can be cyclical and how people can break the cycle to turn things around.

The song has a sense of redemption that makes it resonate with audiences worldwide. The hook of the song is genuinely amenable, with Cuomo belting the catchy chorus that encourages audiences to sing it back to him.


The music of the 90s has had a lasting impact, primarily through songs like “Basket Case” by Green Day and “Say it Ain’t So” by Weezer. These songs serve as emotional outlets, evoking a range of cathartic and therapeutic effects for listeners.

Both songs take a poignant look at issues teenagers experience, from mental health challenges and emotional struggles to parental divorce and alcoholism. These songs remain timeless, providing solace, encouragement, and hope to countless listeners today and for generations to come.

“Semi-Charmed Life” by Third Eye Blind

Third Eye Blind released “Semi-Charmed Life” in 1997, becoming one of the decade’s signature songs. Although the song’s lyrics are upbeat and catchy, they are also heavily autobiographical, depicting frontman Stephan Jenkins’s crystal-meth addiction at the time.

Jenkins has spoken openly about his struggles with addiction and emotional turmoil, and the song reflects his emotional state at the time. “Semi-Charmed Life” deals with addiction and mental health, with Jenkin’s seminal line “Doing crystal meth will lift you up until you break” standing out as particularly poignant.

The song’s duality of catchy melodies coupled with dark lyrics has made it a mainstay of the era. It also serves an emotional outlet for those struggling with addiction and mental crises while traversing through a world that often does not comprehend or appreciate the struggles.

“Difficulty of Change”

“Semi-Charmed Life” also deals with the topic of difficulty and resistance to change, themes that resonate with audiences worldwide. Change is hard, whether it is giving up an addiction or adapting to a new normal, and the song touches on this theme through its candid portrayal of Jenkins’s struggles.

“Semi-Charmed Life” offers a reminder that it is okay to struggle, to resist, and to find it difficult to let go of what is holding us back, but that it is possible to overcome and break free. “What’s My Age Again?” by Blink 182

“What’s My Age Again?” by Blink 182 is a classic pop-punk song that represents the genre’s juvenile and fun side.

The song is a tongue-in-cheek reflection of the group’s pangs of puberty, a reflection of the difficulties and resistance young people go through. The song is catchy and infectious, evoking a sense of nostalgia and youthful exuberance.

The band famously utilized humor and satire in its lyricism, and “What’s My Age Again?” epitomizes this style, with lyrics such as “Nobody likes you when you’re 23.” The song deals with themes of resistance to growing up, a theme that most old teenagers can relate to in some way. “Resistance to Growing Up”

“What’s My Age Again?” encapsulates the pangs that people experience when growing up, bringing to the fore a theme of resistance to change.

The song speaks to audiences who feel the pressure to conform and grow up too quickly, encouraging them to throw off their adult responsibilities and embrace their youthful spirit. “What’s My Age Again?” has become an anthem for those who refuse to let go of their childhood and for those who resist society’s pressures to grow up too fast.


Songs like “Semi-Charmed Life” and “What’s My Age Again?” remain beloved and entrenched in the music world for their themes of addiction, mental health struggles, resistance to growing up, and the difficulty of change. They connect with audiences worldwide, inspiring young people to find their voices, confront the difficulties that life throws at them and to grow into the best version of themselves.

“What I Got” by Sublime

Sublime is one of the best-loved bands of the 90s, and “What I Got” is one of their signature hits. The band started as a cover band playing in local bars, but over time, they developed an amazing repertoire of proprietary songs that helped distinguish them from the pack.

The song “What I Got,” with its distinctive blend of reggae and punk, became an enduring classic from the grunge era. The legacy of lead singer Bradley Nowell endures.

Nowell was known for his laid-back style, powerful voice, and poignant lyrics. Although hailed as a massively talented musician, Nowell’s legacy is bittersweet on account of his tragic end.

Nowell died of a heroin overdose in 1996, just as the band was poised to break into the mainstream. The poignant lyrics of “What I Got” still resonate with audiences and serve as a tribute to Nowell’s incredible talent.

“Tragic End”

Sublime’s ‘What I Got’ is a constant reminder of the tragic end of the band’s frontman Bradley Nowell, a victim of addiction, and part of the larger narrative around drug abuse and overdoses that cut short the lives of many musical legends. Still, the music lives on, and songs like “What I Got” remain a testament to Nowell’s incredible contributions to the music world.

“Jeremy” by Pearl Jam

“Jeremy” is one of Pearl Jam’s most iconic songs. The song has long been associated with the grunge movement, featuring the highly emotional songs that dealt with controversial social issues.

The song tells the story of a Texas high-school student named Jeremy, who struggles with suppressed teenage angst and, ultimately, turns to gun violence when he can no longer deal with the pain and loneliness. The song’s emotional depth and the exploration of complex issues around gun violence and teen suicide struck a chord with audiences worldwide.

The controversy that the song’s music video sparked further emphasized the significance of the song to a generation struggling with increasingly visible social issues. “Teenage Angst and Gun Violence”

“Jeremy” remains as poignant and relevant today as it was when it was first released.

The song’s message is still resonant and serves as a reminder of the highly emotional nature of teenage angst and the devastating consequences of gun violence. The song gives a voice to those who struggle with isolation, loneliness, and mental health issues while addressing the larger question of education, safety and the broader social fabric that youth always struggle to navigate.

It remains a potent reminder of the importance of dialogue and awareness around teenage angst, mental health, and gun violence.


“What I Got” by Sublime and “Jeremy” by Pearl Jam remain cultural touchstones of the 90s. They serve as emotional outlets for generations of teens and adults grappling with drug addiction, mental health struggles, teenage angst, and gun violence.

Whilst the music remains a testament to the immense talents of the musicians, it is also a powerful reminder of the weighty issues of the time and resilience in the face of adversity. These songs continue to inspire and connect with listeners around the world to this day.

Popular Posts