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‘60 Songs That Explain the ’90s’: Chuck Klosterman, Alice in Chains, and Grunge


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‘60 Songs That Explain the ’90s’: Chuck Klosterman, Alice in Chains, and Grunge


Grunge. Wu-Tang Clan. Radiohead. “Wonderwall.” The music of the ’90s was as exciting as it was diverse. But what does it say about the era—and why does it still matter? On our show 60 Songs That Explain the ’90s, Ringer music writer and ’90s survivor Rob Harvilla embarks on a quest to answer those questions, one track at a time. Follow and listen for free exclusively on Spotify. This is Episode 60 featuring author Chuck Klosterman discussing Alice in Chains. We’ll be doing a run of 30 more episodes after a short break.

Can I share with you a disturbing fact, this chart I stumbled across like an hour ago? Let’s get back to Jehovah’s Witnesses. I wanna talk about “active rock” again, for just a second. This was not surprising, but it was shocking. So Nielsen, the gargantuan media data company, they measure radio airplay. Here, now, are Nielsen’s Top 10 Mainstream Rock Radio Songs of the 2010s. From 2010 through 2019, the 10 most-played songs on mainstream rock radio are as follows:

10. Nirvana, “Lithium”
9. Soundgarden, “Black Hole Sun”
8. Metallica, “Enter Sandman”
7. Nirvana, “In Bloom”
6. The Offspring, “Self Esteem”
5. Pearl Jam, “Even Flow”
4. Stone Temple Pilots, “Plush”
3. Nirvana, “Come as You Are”
2. Alice in Chains, “Man in the Box”
1. Nirvana, “Smells Like Teen Spirit”

Anything strike you as odd about that list of the most played songs on mainstream rock radio from 2010 to 2019? The newest song, the youngest song—“Self Esteem”—came out in April 1994. Not even the fall of 1994. The spring. I was a sophomore in high school. How mad would I be about this list if this list weren’t catered to me specifically? Arguably even weirder, is that “Man in the Box” is the oldest song on that list. November 1990. The entire “active rock” radio format, as it exists right this second—I just checked on 99.7 The Blitz, they just played “Daughter,” by Pearl Jam—the entire active rock radio format in 2022 is built on songs from the five-year span from 1990 to 1994. Kids from today should defend themselves against the ’90s. This is…



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