10 Best Albums Of The 1990s

What is the best album of the 1990s? Thousands of you voted, and the results are in - see the full top 10 here.

Ultimate Guitar

The 1990s was a magical time for music.

While big business beamed commercials at us from an ever-growing fleet of cable-connected TVs, music and the counter-culture rebelled with all the energy of the early punk movement.

Perhaps it's ironic that the best-loved records achieved their fame through major record labels, but whatever the medium, it was an inspiring time.

Most of us will remember the 1990s one way or another; either as an adult and seeing these bands for themselves, or as a kid and seeing them through the commercial lens of TV. Either way, we all remember the rush of seeing real underground music breaking through - and there were plenty of surprises from genres we didn't expect as the decade wore on.

On Wednesday we asked you to nominate and vote for your favorite albums of the 1990s. Thousands of you took part, and now the results are in.

Who released the best album of the 1990s? Read on to find out.

10. Nirvana "Nevermind" (1991)

Nirvana purists might find "Nevermind" too clean-cut and polished, but there's no denying it sparked a revolution. It knocked Michael Jackson off the top of the charts, and peeled the lid on a world of underground rock waiting to be discovered by the mainstream.

9. Green Day "Dookie" (1994)

Their early fans branded Green Day as sell outs when they signed to Reprise Records for "Dookie", but the resulting record didn't skimp on punk integrity. It was fast, exciting, young, and the perfect antidote to increasingly commercial times.

8. Megadeth "Rust In Peace" (1990)

Dave Mustaine had already made his name as part of the Metallica lineup, but it took this album - their fourth LP - to break Megadeth into the metal mainstream. It also marked the first time they got through an album recording without firing the producer before the end.

7. Radiohead "OK Computer" (1997)

One of music's great ironies could be how Thom Yorke warns against our technological future on a bed of cutting-edge electronic production. Almost every inch of this record is cold, frightening and bleak - a set of emotions that few could emulate again, including Radiohead themselves.

6. Alice In Chains "Dirt" (1992)

It's a wonder this album was ever finished. Singer Layne Staley would shoot heroin in front of everyone in the studio, then get mad when people told his to clean up; two other members battled drink problems, and Jerry Cantrell suffered from depression following the death of his mother and best friend. "I was going through a tough time, everyone was, but that's what made the album stronger and more intense," he later said.

5. Tool "Aenima" (1996)

To think an album as experimental and dark as this went to number 2 on the Billboard chart is incredible. The recording might be looser and fuzzier than later releases, but that's part of why many Tool fans still adore it.

4. Pearl Jam "Ten" (1991)

"Ten" may have been as instrumental in bringing alt-rock to the masses as Nirvana's breakthrough with "Nevermind". Most of the songs started as instrumental jams, with singer Eddie Vedder adding lyrics about his experience of depression and homelessness later.

3. Red Hot Chili Peppers "Blood Sugar Sex Magik" (1991

On prior album "Mother's Milk", the band felt restricted by its producer Michael Beinhorn who pushed for Anthony Kiedis to sing radio-friendly lyrics. With this album, producer Rick Rubin took them to an old mansion and encouraged them to be themselves. The result was an honest, authentic record that stands out as one of their best

2. Rage Against The Machine "Rage Against The Machine" (1992)

If the burning monk on the cover didn't signal the political motivation behind this record, Zach De La Rocha's fiery vocals certainly did. They had a rare anger and urgency that commanded attention, and Tom Morello's experimental guitar taught a whole generation that their studio equipment could do things they had never imagined.

1. Metallica "Metallica" A.K.A. "The Black Album" (1991)

Metallica's fifth album took a step away from their fast thrash metal roots, but it was hard to complain when their new sound was so beautifully timeless. To date, it is the best-selling album of the SoundScan era with over 30 million units sold.

That's the end of your top 10 albums of the 1990s. Which one is your personal favorite, and what would you add to the list? Let us know in the comments.

469 comments sorted by best / new / date

comments policy
    Oh, the lack of Siamese Dream... how disturbing. Anyways, I know it was a poll, so bitching about it makes no sense. The list is pretty good though.
    "Who released the best album of the 2000s?" C'mon guys...
    It would take exactly one extra read-through to notice a mistake that big. They wouldn't even need to hire an editor, just make it a habit to double-check the article with an extra read-through.
    I don't think that's UG's policy, given the amount of typos in almost every single article
    Not bad, but it's mostly just exceedingly commercial stuff. I don't deny that the Black Album was great, but Number 1 from the 90s? Doubtful. Also, I hate to be the one hipster in the room, but Neutral Milk Hotel, My Bloody Valentine, Dream Theater, Sonic Youth, and Soundgarden get nowhere near the respect they deserve.
    Any one calling you a hipster because of the bands you listed needs to be slapped.
    NEUTRAL MILK HOTEL. FUCK YES. In the Aeroplane Over the Sea is easily top 5. See also: Failure - Fantastic Planet
    it IS #1, regardless of what anyone's opinion of its "artistic merit" it is still the number one selling album of the Soundscan era (in 1991 they changed the method in which record sales were tracked to be more accurate referred to as the beginning of the soundscan era). No other album since '90 till today has sold that many copies. That album was a milestone in what any band could achieve as well as being wildly popular immediately upon its release and even up until today- still inspiring countless kids to pick up a guitar, bass, or drums. Its a flawless album, and just because the songs are good, structured very well and have memorable melodies does not make it uncool compared to their early stuff.
    mikel123 - re-read what the list is titled: "10 best albums of the 1990's" best refers to quality. "most popular" refers to sales. Best means that people think it's a great album, not that tons of people like it. As for the later portion of what you said, the album is far from "flawless", in fact, I can't find a single aspect of the album that I think was done well at all. Their early stuff is clearly better. I was inspired by Iron Maiden, Pantera, and Death to pick up a guitar. The Black Album actually served as a detriment to my inspiration as a musician.
    Darth Wader
    Pretty good list, though #9 & #10 are my favorites. Here is my top 50: 1. Green Day: Dookie 2. Nirvana: Nevermind 3. Red Hot Chili Peppers: BloodSugarSexMagik 4. Pearl Jam: Ten 5. Weezer: Blue Album 6. Rage Against The Machine: S/T 7. Smashing Pumpkins: Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness 8. The Beastie Boys: Ill Communication 9. Nirvana: In Utero 10. Sunny Day Real Estate: Diary 11. Radiohead: OK Computer 12. Blink 182: Enema Of The State 13. R.E.M.: Automatic For The People 14. Metallica: The Black Album 15. Counting Crows: August & Everything After 16. Alice In Chains: Dirt 17. STP: Core 18. Soundgarden: Superunknown 19. Smashing Pumpkins: Siamese Dream 20. No Doubt: Tragic Kingdom 21. Guns N Rose: Use Your Illusion I & II 22. Foo Fighters: The Colour & The Shape 23. NIN: The Downward Spiral 24. Live: Throwing Copper 25. Sublime: S/T 26. Presidents Of The United States Of America: S/T 27. Pearl Jam: Vs. 28. Garbage: S/T 29. Ben Folds Five: Whatever And Ever Amen 30. Reel Big Fish: Turn The Radio Off 31. U2: Actung Baby 32. The Cure: Wish 33. Foo Fighters: S/T 34. Beck: Mellow Gold 35. Soundgarden: Badmotorfinger 36. STP: Purple 37. Collective Soul: Hints, Allegations, and Things Left Unsaid 38. DC Talk: Jesus Freak 39. Nirvana: Unplugged In NY 40. Oasis: (Whats The Story) Morning Glory? 41. Goo Goo Dolls: Dizzy Up The Girl 42. Green Day: Nimrod 43. Bush: Sixteen Stone 44. Weezer: Pinkerton 45. Hole: Live Through This 46. Blink 182: Dude Ranch 47. R.E.M.: Out Of Time 48. Soul Asylum: Grave Dancers Union 49. Judgment Night Soundtrack 50. Radiohead: Pablo Honey
    You've put way too much thought into this..
    Brilliant list. I only wish I could tame my ADHD for long enough to sit and consider my favorite albums. There is no way I will ever learn to sweep.
    Darth Wader
    In my haste, I forgot to add Rancid's ...And Out Come The Wolves, which was one of my favorites.
    dude you need Pantera and Megadeth -_- otherwise very very well thought out, although it's mainly ALL alternative.
    Great list, and I love that you're the first one here to include Automatic for the people! And it's nice that you include live albums too! Only criticism I have is that you apperantly included Pablo Honey from Radiohead, but not The Bends. Seriously, how can you desclude an album with "Fake plastic trees", "Planet Telex", and "Street spirit", for an album with only had two truly memorable songs, "Creep", and "Blowout"? IMHO, almost all songs on The Bends (discluding "Sulk", and "Bones") are better than "Creep".
    Darth Wader
    I actually have to agree with you. I like The Bends much better than Pablo Honey. But I proofread my list like Ultimate Guitar (which is to say I did not haha). The Bends is a great CD.
    wow. your clearly not a real music fan... i don't think i could name 50 albums of the 90s, but i'd consider that a good thing. You've probably got a massive music collection of cds right??
    "Clearly not a real music fan..." yet names 50 albums. PLEASE elaborate. Second thought, don't.
    Your logic suggests that the less music you listen to, the more of a fan you are? So do you only listen to one song or something? You've got it backwards dumbass...
    YOU are not a real music fan. Seriously, that comment proves it. I will back that up with impeccable logic from my own brain tubes dudes, ****ing come at me bitch. FUCKING BITCH!
    Insanity ninja
    Bro, umad. Edit: Back on topic, that list is great. I counted 43 out of 50 of those albums in my collection. And I'm still not sure why I don't have a hard copy of Siamese Dream. TO AMAZON!