The most popular bands of the 90s were always a lot of fun to listen to. In fact, many people still find the songs they were listening to in the 90s to be some of the best songs of all time. These bands include some of the greatest musicians of all time, including Pearl Jam, Nine Inch Nails, and Foo Fighters.
1. Pearl Jam
The American rock band Pearl Jam is regarded as one of the most influential bands of the 1990s. During that period, they were one of the few bands that successfully avoided peer disintegration. They also managed to avoid becoming the victim of mainstream music’s fickleness.
Pearl Jam was formed in Seattle, Washington, in 1990. A few years before that, guitarist Eddie Vedder was a member of the hard rock group Mother Love Bone. He recruited Soundgarden drummer Matt Cameron to join him on a number of albums.
Their debut album, Ten, was released in 1991 and quickly became a major hit. Among other hits, “Jeremy” won the Best Video of the Year award at the 1993 MTV Video Music Awards.
In 1997, the band decided to pursue more aggressive and experimental music. They spent most of the year working on new material. It wasn’t until late in the year that Pearl Jam issued a concert LP, Live on Two Legs.
When Pearl Jam re-grouped for Lightning Bolt in October 2013, the album was a dark, punk-inspired work that was darker than Backspacer. The album’s lead single, “Mind Your Manners,” was a raw, grungy track that bore influences from Pink Floyd.
2. Smashing Pumpkins
The Smashing Pumpkins were one of the most successful rock bands of the 1990s. They were an alternative rock band, with a unique guitar-driven sound. Their first three albums were landmarks in the era, but internal conflicts and drug problems brought them to a premature breakup.
Billy Corgan formed the group in 1988. The band was influenced by psychedelia, heavy metal, and dream pop.
After their debut album Gish, the Pumpkins embarked on a tour that exacerbated the tensions between the members. During the tour, band members began drinking and using drugs. This led to a 2000 breakup.
In 2006, Smashing Pumpkins sold 18.3 million albums in the United States alone. Billy Corgan plans to return to the studio and work on new music. He is currently touring with a different line-up of the band.
After their second album, the Pumpkins reunited with former drummer Jimmy Chamberlin. D’Arcy Wretzky joined the band as a new bassist. However, she left the band in 2009.
The Smashing Pumpkins released two more full-length albums. A rarities album, Pisces Iscariot, and a DVD titled Vieuphoria revealed the band’s unseen backstories.
3. Red Hot Chili Peppers
The Red Hot Chili Peppers were a band that made a lot of noise in the late 1980s. They were a group that combined punk rock with funk and hip-hop. Their music was a lot of fun. This band was also known for its aggressive stage presence. However, they had to deal with some controversy.
John Frusciante was the lead guitarist for the band. He started out as a teenage fan and eventually joined the band. But then he had a drug addiction. So he went into rehab. After a few years, he returned to the band.
Another member of the band is Anthony Kiedis. He started out as a vocalist and later became the band’s songwriter. His lyrics are hard-hitting. In one song, he talks about his love for his band. Other lyrics include references to David Bowie, Star Trek, and Nirvana.
The drummer for the Chili Peppers was Chad Smith. He later joined the party supergroup Chickenfoot.
The band also played in Woodstock ’99, which led to a full-scale riot. A year after the festival, Red Hot Chili Peppers released their reunion album, By the Way. That album reached #1 on the Billboard Top Album Sales Chart.
4. Foo Fighters
Foo Fighters were one of the most popular rock bands of the ’90s, and still, maintains a strong hold on rock music today. They’ve sold millions of records and have played sellout arenas throughout the world. With songs like “Marigold,” “Everlong,” and “Summer’s End,” they’ve earned a reputation for power ballads and mosh-pit ragers. But the band is so much more than that.
Formed in 1994, the band is fronted by Dave Grohl, a former drummer for Nirvana. In addition to Grohl’s lead vocals, the band also features Pat Smear on rhythm guitar and Taylor Hawkins on drums.
While the band started out as a duo, it later formed a full band lineup in 1997. The group has won 11 Grammy Awards, and Foos has been able to achieve immense commercial success as well.
The debut Foo Fighters album was released in 1995. It featured lead singer/guitarist Dave Grohl playing all of the instruments and was a successful record.
“I Don’t Owe You Anything” is the band’s first music video. This is actually a very clever song and one that’s been recorded by British pop stars. As you’ll see in the video, the song combines hardcore punk with melodic Beatlesque rock.
5. Sonic Youth
Whether you’re new to Sonic Youth or have been listening to them for years, it’s hard to deny the band’s storied influence. In fact, they’ve made a significant impact on underground music culture. And they’ve always been evolving in interesting ways.
The band formed in 1981 with bassist Kim Gordon and lead guitarist Thurston Moore. They later added drummer Steve Shelley, keyboardist Anne DeMarinis, and guitarist Richard Edson. As a result, the group’s sound has evolved from a no-wave rock band to a more experimental one.
Sonic Youth released four albums during their first five years. Their best-known album is 1990’s Goo, which became the group’s best-selling album. But, their mid-to-late career work is still out there, too.
Although Sonic Youth was considered an early pioneer of the ’90s rock boom, they were also influenced by all kinds of musical subgenres. Their songs often explore the idea of stardom.
The group’s self-titled debut EP has a shouted refrain and a frantic and urgent sound. There’s also a milky sonic palette.
6. Stone Temple Pilots
Stone Temple Pilots are a legendary rock band that emerged in the early 1990s. Their psychedelic pop riffs and candied melodies blended together to create a sonic blend of classic rock and glam rock. The band consists of guitarist Dean DeLeo, bassist Robert DeLeo, and drummer Eric Kretz.
Stone Temple Pilots initially started out as Mighty Joe Young. They later recruited Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington as lead singer. Initially, the group was a two-piece with two brothers, guitarist Dean, and drummer Eric, but soon added vocalist Jeff Gutt.
After the group signed with Atlantic Records, they released their first album in 1992. A double-platinum seller, Core was a solid debut for the band.
Later, the group toured to promote the album. On the road, they grew popular. However, a number of personal issues arose. This included vocalist Scott Weiland’s addiction to heroin and probation violation.
Eventually, the group went into rehab. Weiland returned to the group after completing the program.
In 2002, the group released its greatest hits compilation. But after a few years, the band split.
7. Dave Matthews Band
The Dave Matthews Band is a popular American rock band that came to prominence during the 90s. They are known for their unique sound and quirky touring style.
In the early 1990s, the band was formed in Charlottesville, Virginia. Soon after, it expanded to Pennsylvania and New York. It joined forces with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.
Their debut album, Under the Table and Dreaming, was released on RCA. It was certified Platinum by the RIA and has sold over four million copies.
While the band was pursuing a full-fledged tour in support of their debut, they began working on new songs for their next album. They also played at the Glastonbury Festival and at Farm Aid.
When the band was on its summer tour, they played some brand-new tracks for the first time. One of those songs, “Cry Freedom,” was a surprisingly poignant track about apartheid.
In December, the band launched a first-ever tour of South Africa. They also headlined the Big Dance Concert Series in Atlanta during the NCAA Final Four weekend.
8. Nine Inch Nails
Nine Inch Nails is a rock band that has been around since 1988. They were formed in Cleveland, Ohio, and are considered one of the most influential bands of the 90s.
Nine Inch Nails have sold over 20 million records, and are known for their industrial rock sound. They are nominated for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Their single “Closer” was a huge hit.
Nine Inch Nails have won two Grammy Awards, and their music has been praised by mainstream magazines. During their live shows, they employ a rotating cast of musicians. They often incorporate special effects into their performances, including elaborate lighting and a live drummer.
Nine Inch Nails’ music has been described as industrial rock and a hybrid of rock and electronic music. The lyrics often deal with themes of despair, violence, and mental illness.
Nine Inch Nails’ most successful album is The Downward Spiral. It contains the hits “Closer” and “Hurt,” and it climbed the Billboard charts.
Trent Reznor was the mastermind behind Nine Inch Nails. He began recording demos under the name in the late 1980s. His demos were published in the magazine Pretty Hate Machine.
One of the most popular rock bands of the 90s, Hole was founded in Los Angeles by singer Courtney Love and guitarist Eric Erlandson. They released four albums, including Live Through This in 1994.
The album was very popular and hit the Billboard music chart. However, the band broke up in 2002.
The hole was a very successful band and had many hit songs on MTV and alternative rock radio. Their lead singer, Courtney Love, was very talented and had a great voice.
The band started with Love and Eric Erlandson but they changed their members several times. They had several bassists and drummers. The most famous bassist was Kristen Pfaff and the drummer was Patty Schemel.
One of the most popular rock bands of the 90s, Radiohead has a unique sound and innovative live shows. They are known for their psychedelic rock and experimental music.
The band released their first album, Pablo Honey, in 1993 and soon became one of the most famous rock bands in the world. They have gone on to release several more studio albums, including OK Computer (1997), Amnesiac (2001), and Hail to the Thief (2003).
Their third album, OK Computer, was one of the most groundbreaking releases in the history of music. It brought them international fame and is regarded as one of the best albums ever made.
After the success of OK Computer, Radiohead decided to experiment with a more electronic style. Their fourth album, Kid A (2000), featured a lot of electronic music and minimal arrangements. It divided listeners at first, but it was well received later on.
11. Green Day
Green Day is a California rock band that has been releasing hits for years. They are known for their catchy hooks and powerful lyrics, and they have been able to sell millions of records worldwide.
The group was formed in the early 1990s and released their first LP, 39/Smooth, on Lookout! Records in the early 1990s. The album went on to sell a total of 50,000 copies in the United States, which helped them become one of the most successful independent bands.
After the success of their teen-anthem-filled debut, Green Day moved on to release the critically acclaimed Dookie. The album was a major breakthrough, which earned them a major label contract. It sold 10 million copies in the United States and 15 million worldwide, which made them a household name.
12. The Jesus and Mary Chain
A lot of the music of the ’90s began to get dubbed “shoegaze,” but few were as influential in that genre as The Jesus and Mary Chain. Their debut album Psychocandy, released in 1985, was considered by many to be one of the first and finest records of this era.
When they formed in 1983, Scottish brothers Jim and William Reid wanted to incorporate their love for noisy pop bands (like the Velvet Underground) with their passion for classical pop songs. Their songs were infused with industrial-strength guitar distortion, a cauldron of echo and attitude, and caricatured lyrical perversity.
After their success, the band went through a series of line-up changes, but still retained their ferocious attitude and bristling shoegaze malaise. They have been reunited several times, and they recently released Damage and Joy, a satisfying if not groundbreaking evolution of their sound.
13. The Stone Roses
The Stone Roses are a British rock band that was one of the most popular bands in the 90s. They have a unique sound that blends psychedelic’60s sounds, 70s American fun music, and danceable 80s-style house music.
The group consisted of Ian Brown (Vocals), John Squire (Lead Guitar), Gary ‘Mani’ Mounfield (Bass), and Alan ‘Reni’ Wren (Drums). They became known for their combination of indie alternative rock, neo-psychedelia, and jangle pop.
Their first album, The Stone Roses, was recorded in 1988 and was produced by John Leckie who previously worked with the likes of John Lennon and George Harrison. The songs were written by Squire and Brown. Their music has been credited with inspiring young fans to start making their own music. It is still considered to be one of the most influential albums of all time.
14. Courtney Love
There were many bands that dominated the music scene in the 1990s, but some of the most popular were female-led. One of these groups was Hole, a grunge band led by Courtney Love.
In 1989, Love placed an ad in a zine looking for musicians. She eventually recruited Eric Erlandson, Jill Emery, and Caroline Rue to form Hole.
The band exploded in the underground music scene and released their first album, Pretty on the Inside, in 1991. The group went on to have a major impact on alternative rock and became one of the most popular rock bands of the 90s.
Love has been in a number of bands, but Hole was her most famous. She also made a name for herself as an actress, appearing in a number of films and TV shows.
15. Matchbox 20
Matchbox 20, a rock band from Orlando, Florida, was one of the most popular and influential post-grunge bands of the 1990s. They sold more than 39 million albums worldwide.
They formed in 1995 and consist of Rob Thomas (vocals, piano), Paul Doucette (drums, now guitar), Kyle Cook (lead guitar, vocals), and Brian Yale (bass). They were previously members of the band Tabitha’s Secret out of Orlando, Florida, before forming Matchbox Twenty.
Their first album, Yourself or Someone Like You (1996, Atlantic), was a major success, selling 12x platinum in the United States and multi-platinum internationally. Their second, Mad Season(2000), was also successful.
After releasing their third album, More Than You Think You Are (2002), the group took a hiatus and reunited in 2007. They released a hits collection, Exile on Mainstream (2007), and a fourth studio album, North, in 2012. It was their first new release in ten years.
The Cake was one of the most popular rock bands of the 90s, and their songs were definitely catchy. Their guitar riffs were alternative, their drum beats usually stayed a bit “hippie-like,” and their deadpan vocals somehow really spoke to the often disaffected teen audiences who loved them.
They also had a dry, insanely witty, and sarcastic humor that they regularly added into their lyrics. And if that wasn’t enough, they even managed to cover some classic hits as well!
It’s a shame that Cake didn’t get more credit for their music, as they were one of the most underrated bands of the 90s. Their songs were certainly entertaining, but they also had a lot of depth to them as well. For example, this song from Fashion Nugget is a bit more depressing than most of their other hits.
Founded in 1994, Smash Mouth was an alternative rock band from San Jose, California. Their first single, “Walkin’ on the Sun,” was a hit and helped establish the group as one of the most popular rock bands of the 90s.
The band was formed by singer Steve Harwell, who was a former rapper in the local group F.O.S. He later began jamming with drummer Kevin Coleman. They also had a guitar player and a bassist.
They released their debut album, Fush Yu Mang in 1997 and signed with Interscope Records. They soon became a hit and started touring extensively.
Their second album, Astro Lounge, was released in 1999 and it went platinum. It included their best-known song, “All-Star.” This song quickly became a hit and it is still a favorite of many people today. It even made it to the soundtrack of the movie Shrek.
Pantera helped define heavy metal in the 1990s with sharper, deeper grooves and harder-edged sounds that pushed the genre into an even heavier direction. They released a series of landmark albums in this decade including Cowboys from Hell (1990), Vulgar Display of Power (1992), and Reinventing the Steel (2000).
At the band’s beginning, Pantera was influenced by bands like Kiss and Van Halen. But as their career progressed they started to take a more aggressive and modern approach.
After a few albums, vocalist Terrence Lee Glaze left the band, and Pantera tried out many different voices before settling on New Orleans native Philip Anselmo. With Anselmo in the front, Pantera released their first Power Metal album in 1988 and took an obvious change in style and image.
With Anselmo at the helm, Pantera became one of the popular rock bands of the 90s. But their success was not without a cost. A feud between the Abbott brothers and Anselmo resulted in the band disbanding in 2003.