The Sounds of 90’s Alternative Rock

Rock music has always been an influential music genre! From the blues rock sounds of Muddy Waters to the jaw dropping sounds of Jimi Hendrix, rock music is a culture and a musical phenomenon. However, the sounds of alternative rock in the 1990’s proves to be one of the music Influential moments in music history. Why?

The revolution of 90s alternative rock music was nothing but silky, smooth, and mainstream poetic as some of the sounds of 1950s rock. Bands and artists such as “The Beatles” with songs such as “I Want to Hold Your Hand” almost seemed like a fond memory compared to the teen angst, loud, energy nature of 1990s rock music. With personalities such as Courtney Love, Kurt Cobain, and Alanis Morrisette, self-effacing with mixed with a heavy dose of emotional pull fueled the melodies and poetic lyrics of a generation. But, how did rock music turn into the drug-infused, party culture that influenced suburban adolescents and later the world? Let’s take a deeper look at what made 90s rock, one of the most influential parts of music history. 

Toward the end of the 1980s, rock music was beginning to feel a communal shift toward a more high-energy mentality. As artists such as Guns and Roses, ZZ Top, and INXS remained prominent figures of the music charts, the chance for rock to experiment in terms of sound, alternative interpretation, and aesthetic was apparent. Heavy rock veterans “Metallica” contributed to this shift with their fearing single “Enter Sandman”. Which an intense mixture of Kirk Hammett enticing guitar riffs paired with James Hetfield’s haunting vocals, MTV gravitated to the monumental sounds in July 1991. The song along with the corresponding album would sell more than 20 million copies worldwide. 

As the rock music scene continued to alternate, many music live events were doing the same. Highly inspired by the spirit of European music festivals, Perry Farrell of “Jane Addiction” created a monumental music festival entitled “Lollapalooza”.  With acts such as Nine Inch Nails and Funk royalty Living Colour. This notion introduced a wide range of music listeners to many underground genres such as Alternative rock, indie pop, and the underground punk scene. According to, Farrell described the early music festival happenings as an “Alternative Nation” which consists of a community of weird and unique music artists seeking to entertain disaffected youth. In 1992, MTV debuted a program under the same description as “Alternative Nation” highlighting unique music artists such as “Oasis”, “Smashing Pumpkins” and the legendary band “Nirvana”. 



It would be hard to debate which was the most influential alternative rock band of the 1990s without mentioning Washington’s native band, Nirvana. With a rock anthem such as “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, Nirvana catapulted to the mainstream in 1991. With a dynamic life and impressive talent lead singer/guitarist, Kurt Cobain became the image for all things grunge during the impactful 1990s grunge movement, filled with alternative lyrical approaches combined with a unique fashion statement that later embodied much of 1990s rock. 


Girl Power!

The grunge sound of rock comprised of defined guitars, alt-rock ballads, fiery drumming centered around husky vocals which remained prominent in the mainstream rock music scene until 1998. However, the husky vocals that were sung by male groups did not shine as much as the women of 1990s rock music. As rock seemed to present a more masculine approach in past years, a large command for woman rock musicians came into play during the musical decade. Known as Riot Grrrls, punk rock femmes’ artists were challenging the rock sounds completely. Artists such as “Bratmobile”, “Bikini Kill” embodied this notion heavily. However, mainstream rock got a heavy kick of girl power in the mid-1990s when a former Canadian pop star morphed her princess image to a more fiesty, poetic, and angsty musical environment. Legend Alanis Morrissette made music listeners weep and challenge our inner emotions with her monumental (still one of the best albums of all time) Jagged Little Pill in 1995. With songs such as “Ironic”, “You Oughta Know” and “Head Over Feet”, these songs embody all that is 1990’s rock music.  In the height of the 1990s rock scene, Punk was also creating a shift to a more embraced pop sound. Bands such as “Green Day” and “Sublime” rock music continued to branch into many popular subsections that modern music remains to be influenced tremendously. 


An Artist’s Perspective

I have always had a big appreciation for 1990s alternative rock. This period allowed music to shed this perfect image and heavily structured formula for creating songs and various music projects, into a raw more honest spellbinding way of interpreting music. Because of 1990s rock, many of the modern alternative indie pop-rock act continues to gain a strong following and continue to influence varying other genres.

Picture: Shutterstock / ID: 610159259


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