Top 10 Best Pearl Jam Songs

What are the best Pearl Jam songs of all time? See the results from our weekly poll right here.

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Pearl Jam have been one of the most influential rock acts in history. Since they emerged alongside their peers in the Seattle grunge scene like Nirvana and Soundgarden around the early 1990s, they've been a driving force in independent music that grew strong enough to topple over the mainstream and become leading artists in their own right.

Pearl Jam continue to rock on today decades later, with a catalogue to match - but what at the best Pearl Jam songs of all time?

That's what we asked UG readers in our weekly poll, and their expert opinion has done us proud. Listen to their opinion on the greatest Pearl jam songs right here, and let us know if you like it in the comments.

10. "Animal"

"Animal" started life as an instrumental demo by guitarist Stone Gossard, and ended up as the third single from "Vs." Legend says that the record label wanted the vocals in the song to be turned up - until they heard from Eddie Vedder what the disturbing lyrical topic was about.

9. "Porch"

Eddie Vedder loves climbing around the stage setting, and uses the lengthy intro on this track to make the most of swinging from the scaffolds. On one occasion at Lollapalooza, he leapt 40 feet into the crowd.

8. "Garden"

"Garden" was one of the last songs to be recorded for their album "Ten," with most other tracks being recorded during demo sessions, but became one of the album's best loved songs.

7. "Rearview Mirror"

One of the first songs for singer Eddie Vedder to appear on guitar. Listen for drummer Dave Abbruzzese throwing his drum sticks at the wall in frustration at producer Brendan O'Brian who worked him to exhaustion. He proceeded to smash up his snare drum and throw it off a cliff.

6. "Release"

How would you feel if you found out that your father was really your step-father? That's what happened to Vedder as a teenager, which pours out in this emotionally charged track.

5. "Even Flow"

The band took over 100 takes of this song during recording sessions, but were never happy with the end product. "It was really tough for me," said drummer Dave Krusen later. "I don't know why. Not sure why we didn't use that one from the demo as well, but I know it felt better."

4. "Jeremy"

Perhaps the most controversial Pearl Jam song, "Jeremy" is about a student who shot himself in front of his class mates. Vedder spotted the story in the corner of a newspaper and wanted to give it some significance.

3. "Alive"

Another story about discovering your father isn't biologically related, though this one is a fictional mini-opera about incest and crime which plays out across the songs "Once" and "Footsteps."

2. "Yellow Ledbetter"

B-sides don't often go on to be more popular than their A-side, but that's exactly what happened after "Yellow Ledbetter" first appeared on the "Jeremy" single. The fans over it, and it eventually went from mainstream radio to the Billboard charts.

1. "Black"

The record label knew it would be a hit, but the band refused to release "Black" as a single And yet, as with "Yellow Ledbetter," the song found its way onto the Billboard charts anyway. It has one of the great sing-along melodies in rock, and today, it's the best Pearl Jam song of all time.

What do you think of the results? Would you rank these Pearl Jam songs differently? Let us know how you'd stack them up in the comments.

142 comments sorted by best / new / date

    knew it would be black. also knew the majority would come off vs and ten.
    I think that Better Man could have been on the list, Corduroy, I really like the song Dissident. But overall a good list, how could it not have been?
    This is what's so difficult about a band like Pearl Jam. They have so many great songs, that it's hard to pick just ten of them. Though I am disappointed that all but one of the songs were off the first two albums. Vitalogy should have at least been represented as well as Yield.
    Fuck yeah Black! Though I prefer the unplugged version. The entire Ten album is a masterpiece. That is all.
    Also, wasn't Eddie Vedder's Porch Jump at Pink Pop '92?
    It wasn't the 40' drop they're referring to. The Pink Pop jump was from a crane the was holding a camera man and was panning over the crowd. It was probably only ten feet or so.
    Don't agree with this list at all actually. Makes them seem like a one trick pony.
    So many other songs to pick from, even though I did vote for Black, there are literally TONS of other songs that are better than the ones they play frequently that are just as good. Off He Goes, Do the Evolution, Brain of J, Save You, Severed Hand, it goes on and on. I'm disappointed in this list. Everything Pearl Jam is great.
    It had to be Black. Really surprised to see some of Ten's deeper cuts and not that many albums covered though. Good list though.
    EVERY Peral Jam song is GREAT... That been said "Do the Evolution" is WAY better than rear-view mirror.. But that's just my opinion... people has spoken.... I prefer the Unplugged version of Black... But i guess we all agree "Black IS the best Pearl Jam song EVER... Lets see what does the next album brings to the table!!! XD Great list UG!!
    Im dissapointed with this list.7 songs from Ten.Theyre all really good songs but what about some from other albums. Betterman Light Years Thin Air Off He Goes Do The Evolution The Fixxer Wishlist Around The Bend Hail Hail Corduroy Not saying this is my top ten or should even be the top 10 i just wish their other stuff got more recognition.
    Would have been good to see indifference on here but black and release definitely deserved their spots
    If I was a member of Pearl Jam I would be a bit disappointed: "A top 10 where there are only songs from our first two albums?? What about the other seven???? Do you think they're crap??? I hate you!!!"
    This would have been a good list if the band had broken up before recording Vitology. Where the **** is Corduroy, Not for you, Betterman, Immortality, Off he goes, Given to fly, Do the evolution, Long Road, I got id? The band has 20 years of material and Ten is nowhere near their best record. If this were a list of the greatest guitar tracks from PJ this list might make sense.
    agreed. Absolutely love Given to fly, corduroy, hard to imagine, and others as well.
    Lol brother, Ten is objectively their best album.
    I'm not sure how you're applying Objectivity to something as infinitely subjective as music. It sold the most, sure, I'll give you that. But, I would hardly use that as the basis for determining how good or bad an album is. By that measure, the Bodyguard soundtrack is better than anything Pearl Jam or the Beatles for that matter ever released. Ten was the album that was shoved down our throats by Mtv and modern rock radio. It made the most money but also had the most financial backing. Ten is the record every teenager's uncle tried to bring up to seem hip because they liked "that 'Evenflow' song". It was the only Pearl Jam record to have 3 videos to sell it to the public. It was arguably their most derivative album. Musically, It was a record of limited influence. Ten was Stone Gossard rewriting similar 70's riffs that could have just as easily been for Mother Love Bone. In my opinion, Pearl Jam didn't really come into their own, as a band and as far as songwriting is concerned, until Eddie Vedder pushed more of his influence into the mix. Again, I'm not sure of the criteria by which you are measuring what it is that makes an album good, objectively. If it is gross net profit you are absolutely right...I'm sure Ayn Rand would agree with you 100%. If by objectively you mean it subsequently created dozens of really, really shitty bands I will agree with you there as well - subjectively I think that is worst thing about Ten. That it made 'My own prison' a viable commodity for the Ten fans that Pearl Jam left behind years before. But, if you measure albums by the criteria that essentially says Sgt. Pepper/Exile on Mainstreet/Highway 61 revisited/Pet Sounds/Are you experienced are great albums , I don't see how Ten could be considered Pearl Jam's best album. Personally, I like all of their albums, but, I think Vitology is their most unique statement as a band. Just my opinion. But, I find it hard to believe, out of 9 fine albums, that 7 of the top 10 Pearl Jam songs came from their debut album. That seems steeped more in nostalgia and MTV airplay than objective greatness.
    Any professional music teacher, theorist, or composer can illustrate to you why Ten is objectively their best album. When you hear people talk about someone having "good taste", what they mean is that the person aligns with professional critics. It is entirely fine to like inferior music more than superior music, but it does not change those values in an objective "world of forms" sense.
    I'll not lie, I like some arguably unpleasant music. But, any professional music teacher? That is the saddest defense of any argument I have ever heard. Opinion still plays a huge role in their, for lack of a better term, occupation. An occupation that is usually based on a completely subjective skill set that 99.9999% of the population do not care about. Their station in life does not make them the ultimate judge of what is objectively good or bad in art. I've met quite a few professional music teachers, and the fact that they attained a job in that field was 9 times out of 10 luck or outright nepotism. I would honestly have a lot more respect for you if you had said that it sold more, the market has chosen it as their best record. That is an objective measure. Bringing up music teachers or professional critics as authorities of anything is just sad, that you place that much emphasis on the whims of people who offer virtually nothing to society but their opinion. My music teacher in high school loved Ted Nugent and hated Jazz. In his spare time he played hand percussion (i.e. cowbell, jam block et cetera) and occasionally trumpet for a bar band that was founded on the belief that music began and ended with Stevie Ray Vaughn. He was a teacher because he couldn't do anything else and his brother-in-law was the vice principal. Critics are usually people who can't come up with their own material to present for criticism. I would also assert that an album is more than just music. So if I take a random sample of authors and illustrators or Literary critics and art critics, people who are paid a wage or earn their living based on either creating or criticizing a work, if they agree that Vitology or No Code...or any album or art for that matter, have better overall narrative themes or better album artwork, does that make those elements of either album objectively superior? I'm going to go out on a limb and say "Fuck No, it doesn't". It's still opinion. Brother, you like Ten. You like it bunches apparently. That's great, But, don't try to defend your opinion by saying critics or professional music teachers agree with you - making that somehow an inarguable case. That is not objectivity, that is not a measure of external or material reality...Far from it. You could have responded to my post by stating and defending your opinion. But, instead you had to be that condescending d-bag that wonders boards and comment areas at three in the morning, asserting your intellectual dominance with bullshit rhetoric. Next time just say why you like something the best and you may not seem like such a dick. Hold on, are you a music teacher?
    Quite honestly, Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town should have made it.. as far as stripped down songs by Pearl Jam go, it's my favorite.
    NO. This list is a non- PJ fan list. Sorry but their best music isn't anything you hear on the radio. Not that these songs suck.. but whatever.
    not a great list-this band has a ton of great material, but I'm not suprised that it all came off of 10 and vs.
    Whoever made this list is a pretty shallow PJ fan. No songs from Vitalogy, No Code, Yield, Binaural, or Riot act? Really? A list that doesnt include: "Nothing as it seems," "Immortality," "Off He Goes," "In Hiding," "Wash," etc. makes for a lame list. Also, I dont recall "Porch" having a "lengthy intro." 1/10
    While these aren't bad songs my personal list would have been a lot different. Lukin, Off he Goes, Brain of J, Indifference, Blood, Unemployable, Man of the Hour, Not for You?????
    Brain of J. Just awesome. Yield is my favorite album of theirs hands down.
    One, two three four, one, two, three, four! Sorry. One, two three four, one, two, three, four!
    I get why people dig the first two records but as a fan albums like Vitalogy, Yield, etc. and many, MANY of them official bootlegs are just as important to the whole Pearl Jam experience. You see them live and there's a bit of everything. If they'd kept trying to make the same type of album over and over again they wouldn't be the one of a kind band they are today. Thank god they came to that realization from early on That being said I'm glad they've also embraced their past. There's always been a place for the early material within their sets. Stay classy guys!
    They have a huge discography with so many great songs, it seems difficult to me to have to pick out just 10, but I expected most of the 10 to be from ten when it comes to a list showing popular opinion.
    Alice in Chains > Pearl Jam. Sorry guys, had to say it.
    I'm sure if UG knew your stance on who is better they would have made this about AIC.
    Wow, this list is brutal. Nothing from any other album except Ten and Vs (unless you want to count Lost Dogs for Ledbetter)? They have so many good songs past those two albums and it's a shame a lot of them got left out.
    Great List. So glad to see BLACK at No. 1
    Awesome list. Still a but surprising that smells like teen spirit wasn't included...
    I totally got you. Pearl Jam's Smells Like Teen Spirit was the pop single that bridged other British acts to come over to America in the 1960's. It was truly the beginning of the British Invasion and modern Pop Music as we know it.
    Holy crap, that just destroyed my brain. It's like you've uncovered the truth about modern music :o
    I think you might be talking about Love me Do
    Actually, you're thinking of I Want to Hold Your Hand.
    This list is not that great, I think that you should at least have more albums. So my list is top ten Pearl Jam songs that were not recorded during the Ten sessions. Daughter Corduroy Off He Goes Given to Fly Betterman I Am Mine Nothing's As It Seems Man of the Hour Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town I Got Id
    Solid list. Some of my personal favorites: Indifference, Daughter, State of Love and Trust, Last Kiss, Just Breathe.
    This poll should have been named: Top ten pearl jam songs from 1991-1993. Shocked that Better man isn't on here as well as other great songs such as hard to imagine.
    though i can't conceive a list like this without gems such as nothing as it seems, man of the hour, or the song you just mentioned, it truly speaks of how great this band is.
    Why is every song off the first 2 albums? you realize they been making albums for the last 20 years right?
    Dissident, Oceans and Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town could be on here, IMHO (since we are only allowed to do Ten and Vs songs...)
    I personally would put Yellow Ledbetter at the top spot but aside from that my only issue with it is that Dissident should have been on there.
    True! Yellow Ledbetter is their masterpiece!
    Black and Yellow Ledbetter are each one of their many masterpieces. Black deserves #1, still my favorite and most cathartic song from Pearl Jam.