By Lily Doolin
I am definitely a product of the 90s alt-rock era. I grew up jamming out to Third Eye Blind and Green Day. I remember listening to “Santeria” by Sublime on full blast whenever it came over the airwaves of my Bratz Doll car radio. And I wouldn’t be the emo kid I am today if 90s alt-rock didn’t usher in the wave of pop punk that dominated the 2000s.
While I may not have even been alive for most of this age of Fresh Prince and Pookah Shell Necklaces, these songs were an integral part of my childhood. They are the songs I still treasure today, that I play when I want to bring it back to the good old days, when I was just an angsty kid trying to make sense of the crazy world around me. When I listen back to these songs today, they remind me of both the good times and the bad, since they helped me through some of my best and darkest moments.
For me, my love of headbangers and soulful guitar riffs started with the songs on this playlist. Some of my favorites are:
“Bittersweet Symphony” by The Verve
Ah, there’s nothing better than the sweet sound of those violins at the beginning of this song. 90s English rock band The Verve really takes you to another place with this song. I like to close my eyes while listening to this one, and just get absolutely transported by the orchestral feel of this song. This is a really unique 90s alt-rock jam, considering it’s bereft of the heavy drums, guitar riffs, and raspy vocals that usually characterize the genre. It’s got this ethereal feel, and yet the lyrics still stay true to the disenchanted sentiments around the 9-5 grind of daily life of the time.
“Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” by Green Day
I feel like everyone who was alive and young when this song was popular has some sort of memory connected to it. For me, it’s a song I listened to a lot when I was in middle school, during the scary time that was sixth grade. I was oily, confused, and just trying to get my science homework done. And yet, when I was just hanging out with friends, listening to this song, I suddenly forgot all about that. I also sang this song for a concert that same school year, and it was the coolest thing to be singing this song with a bunch of my friends, like we were just jamming out together in our bedroom. This song just reminds me to be grateful for both the good times and the bad—even the ones that are distant memories. It’s also Green Day’s first-ever ballad, so it’s pretty special in its own right.
“Zombie” by The Cranberries
I wish I could growl out the word “zombie” as effectively as Dolores O’Riordan, lead singer of Irish rock band The Cranberries, does in this song. The intense guitars at the beginning of the song set it up to be a real headbanger. There’s also something incredibly unique and special about O’Riordan’s delivery of the lyrics. Her voice is so soft and melodic, but all of a sudden, the chorus comes around and she just starts belting out the words, tearing through the previous delicacy of the song. It’s a song about war, devastation, and death that was inspired by the IRA bombing of 1993, and yet somehow it all becomes incredibly poetic in this one song.
“Semi-Charmed Life” by Third Eye Blind
Doot-doot-doo, doot-da-doot-doot. Need I say more?
Seriously though, this song was constantly stuck in my head as a kid. I would just start humming it as I was playing with my toys. American rock band Third Eye Blind delivers this absolute anthem in a style that would later shape both the pop punk and garage band genres. The lyrics are catchy and the vocals are characteristically unpolished in a good way—this song feels honest, like it was written for the kids in the backseat. It’s the quintessential 90s alt-rock anthem, one that never fails to get a crowd singing anywhere it plays.
“The Good Life” by Weezer
“The Good Life” is definitely one of American rock band Weezer’s lesser-known hits, but it’s one of my personal favorites. The verses are pretty mellow, with some great drum beats and an electric guitar riff that is to die for. Then, the chorus hits you as it speeds up and Rivers Cuomo starts declaring that it’s time he got back to the good life. The bridge also starts slow, but speeds up to end the song with an absolute bang. It’s a true head banger, one that’s sure to make you go hoarse from singing along.