Top 10 Alternative Bands of the 1990s

The 1990s saw the explosion of grunge and the use of quiet and loud musical dynamics hit the mainstream. For this list, we’ve chosen influential artists who helped define the alternative sound and genre in the 1990s, who were commercially successful and whose music stood the test of time. If you don’t see a band you think should be on the list, be sure to check out our video on the Top 10 Grunge Bands. This is part of a series of videos spanning the decades of alternative rock music from the 1970s to the 2000s, and includes our lists of the Top 10 Alternative Bands of the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s as well as the Top 10 Punk Bands and Top 10 Grunge Bands. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 alternative bands of the 1990s. Special thanks to our users akt, Zachary Wicks, AmaanS and Despair505 for submitting the idea on our Suggest Page at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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This decade saw the explosion of grunge and the use of quiet and loud musical dynamics hit the mainstream. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 alternative bands of the 1990s.

For this list, we’ve chosen influential artists who helped define the alternative sound and genre in the 1990s, who were commercially successful and whose music stood the test of time. If you don’t see a band you think should be on the list, be sure to check out our video on the Top 10 Grunge Bands. This is part of a series of videos spanning the decades of alternative rock music from the 1970s to the 2000s, and includes our lists of the Top 10 Alternative Bands of the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s as well as the Top 10 Punk Bands and Top 10 Grunge Bands.

#10: Weezer

With influences like Nirvana, the Pixies, Sonic Youth and more, is it any wonder Weezer lands here? While they’re also known to add elements of emo, power pop and indie rock to their music, this band from L.A. has carved out their own spot in alt rock. Their clever lyrics and imaginative music videos have helped them sell almost 20 million albums around the world and become an influence to other artists as well.

#9: Beck

While he obviously fits within alternative rock in general, Beck stood out for his willingness to experiment and his creative use of effects, styles and samples. “Loser” helped him go from an indie artist to major-label one and paved the way for his fifth record to become a Billboard 200 top 20 entry. Though Beck continues to make diverse music today, the ‘90s really saw him shine, become a critics’ darling and showcase his multiple musical talents.

#8: Foo Fighters

With Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl taking the helm of this project after Kurt Cobain took his own life, it’s no surprise the Foo Fighters attracted attention early on. While it started off as a solo project, Grohl eventually recruited other members to bring the music to life. And boy, did they ever; along with their musical passion, Grohl’s songwriting, and the band’s various instrumental abilities, the Foos solidified their place in alternative rock back then and for today.

#7: Green Day

With their punk rock roots, it's not surprising they started off as an indie underground band. But it was in 1994 when their breakthrough effort, Dookie, finally earned them mass appeal. Several more successful albums followed and opened the door for the band to expand their sound in the new millennium with American Idiot, 21stCentury Breakdown and more.

#6: Rage Against the Machine

What do you get when you mix heavy metal and rap with some politically charged lyrics? If it’s the ‘90s and you’re in the United States, then it’s Rage Against the Machine. In less than 10 years and with just 3 albums, Rage topped album charts, earned critics’ respect and made millions of fans. Thanks to their unique sound and strong message, they’re considered a significant musical act and one of the heavier examples of alternative rock.

#5: Oasis

Oasis made history when their independently released Definitely Maybe became the fastest selling debut in the UK. While it also helped the English band find American success, it was the sounds of the alt rock subgenre known as Britpop from their sophomore effort that really transformed them into international superstars. Though the Gallagher brothers’ fighting eventually broke up the band, there’s no denying Oasis was instrumental in bringing British alt rock into the mainstream.

#4: Nine Inch Nails

Also described as industrial, dark and ambient, the music of Nine Inch Nails is the mastermind of producer, singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Trent Reznor. After making a name for himself on the underground scene, Reznor’s dark lyrics and electronic style earned him critical, commercial and chart success. The Downward Spiral is considered one of the ‘90s most significant records. And Nine Inch Nails continues to set the bar with its musical experimentation and visually stunning live performances.

#3: Smashing Pumpkins

Focusing on the guitar as their main instrument, The Smashing Pumpkins embraced the alternative rock scene and gave us some of the decade’s most memorable tunes in the genre. Incorporating dream pop and heavy metal, their second effort is considered a seminal work that paved the way for their chart-topping Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. Led by Billy Corgan, whose expressive vocals and emotional lyrics made the band what they are today, the Pumpkins have truly left a long-lasting mark on alternative rock.

#2: Red Hot Chili Peppers

Though they integrate funk, hard rock and psychedelic rock into their sound, there’s no question that the Chili Peppers belong in alternative rock. After several years taking the indie route, they hit it big in the early ‘90s with Blood Sugar Sex Magik. The music world soon took a liking to the band’s fusion of styles and allowed them to evolve and find massive success with 1999’s Californication. And they’re still going strong.

Before we unveil our number one pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- Sublime
- Björk
- Blur
- The Offspring
- Pavement

#1: Radiohead

Releasing Pablo Honey and The Bends during the explosion of alternative rock, Radiohead found early popularity with their first two albums. But they proved they weren’t a one-note band when the latter half of the decade produced the more complex sound and abstract themes of OK Computer. This paved the way for the Brits to branch out to other genres and achieve international critical and commercial success. Today, Radiohead continues to be one of the most highly regarded musical acts for their consistently original and innovative music.

Do you agree with our list? What is your favorite alternative rock act of the 1990s? For more entertaining top 10s published every day, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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