Someone has to say it: Nirvana is a good band. And there comes a time in every Nirvana fan’s life when they must rank their top 25 songs. That’s easier said than done considering they have at least two dozen tracks that could be their absolute best. Songs like “Pennyroyal Tea,” “On a Plain,” and “Gallons Of Rubbing Alcohol Flow Through The Strip” are excellent and all, but unfortunately not everything they wrote can be top 25 material. Here’s where we rank them.
25. “Serve the Servants”
Nirvana really knew how to open an album to set a tone, not to mention a ranking list. Nothing sums that up more perfectly than the opening lyric “teenage angst has paid off well, now I’m bored and old.”
24. “Polly” / “(New Wave) Polly”
Not many bands released an acoustic song and then recorded a peppier electric version of it. Nirvana did. So hey, if you don’t like the slow pace of regular “Polly” you’ll probably like “(New Wave) Polly.” This trend really should’ve caught on with other bands. Fans need options.
The sludge factor on “Dive” is higher than a lot of their others, and it’s one of their more classic grunge-sounding ones.
22. “Something in the Way”
This one trended on TikTok a while back and was heavily featured in a Batman movie, which is exactly what everyone predicted in the early ’90s when this came out.
21. “Lounge Act”
The opening bassline is so good it will make you think, “Hey, I guess bass players are people too.”
20. “Endless, Nameless”
Legend has it, this secret track was an impromptu jam. If that’s the case then they were far more talented than everyone initially thought and quite possibly wrote most of their songs on the fly. It also really showcases Kurt’s magnificent vocal strength.
19. “About a Girl”
“About a Girl” wasn’t a hit when it initially came out, but had a bit of a second life when they kicked off their “Unplugged in New York” performance with it. It’s like Kurt was trying to tell us something and that something was, “You’re all sleeping on this song.”
18. “Milk It”
Cobain as a lyricist was either a bona fide genius who was way ahead of his time or just kind of winging it. The words in “Milk It” definitely confirm one of these theories.
“Sappy” was like a deleted scene on a DVD extra. It wasn’t technically on an album but was bonus material for those of us that needed more content.
Lyrically, this one makes no sense, but that’s just all part of the band’s charm.
Nirvana was remarkably versatile. They wrote certifiable chart toppers, slow-moving depressing tunes, and heavy nonsensical stuff that should be played with the car windows down. Just like this one. A little something for everyone.
14. “All Apologies”
The band had a tendency to put breathtakingly beautiful songs like this one right next to chaotic tracks like “Tourette’s.” Not sure what that was about, but you have to admire a band that keeps you on your toes.
13. “Love Buzz”
The further you dig into Nirvana’s catalog the more you realize their cover game was on point. They were so good at doing other groups’ songs that they could have easily been the dopest cover band of all time. Wasted potential.
12. “Scentless Apprentice”
This song itself may not get stuck in your head like that Chumbawamba song, but Dave Grohl’s hypnotic opening drum beat most certainly will.
If you made AI write a Nirvana song it would probably spit out something like this one. Classic Nirvana formula that’s easy on the ears.
10. “Territorial Pissings”
The last 30 seconds of this song should be studied in collegiate-level music theory programs. Quite possibly as its own standalone course.
9. “Negative Creep”
The sickest Nirvana riff.
“Breed” almost feels like an underrated track on “Nevermind.” I guess that happens when it’s sandwiched between world-renowned smash hits.
Nirvana never overthinks what makes a good song. This one is a perfect example of that.
6. “Drain You”
“Drain You” is secretly the best Nirvana song of all time but almost too modest to rank itself as such.
5. “In Bloom”
This is “Smells Like Teen Spirit” for people who didn’t want to sound too mainstream. The song was also proof that the band was not going to be a one-hit wonder but, in fact, a 25-hit wonder.
If you had a time machine, you’d probably go back and kill baby Hitler. But on your way to 1889, you’d be foolish not to stop off in the early 1990s to see Nirvana perform this song live.
3. “Smells Like Teen Spirit”
I think the Beatles once said this song was more popular than Jesus. They might be right.
2. “Come As You Are”
Ranking Nirvana songs sounds fun until you have to sit down and actually do it. This one could range from first to 25th depending on how you’re feeling that day. We’re feeling good today.
1. “Heart-Shaped Box”
This one perfectly showcases all the different facets of the band in one song. Quiet and loud. Soft-spoken and yelling. Radio-friendly yet raw. It’s quite possibly the most Nirvana of the Nirvana tracks.