A new generation is heard

Grunge music gave Generation X their anthem
Grunge music gave Generation X their anthem

The defining sound of Generation X

Our photography shows the all-female band L7, a part of the grunge music scene. If generations can be said to have a soundtrack, then it is this music that many have seen as the defining sound of Generation X.  Gen Xers rejected the Baby Boomers’ rock’n’roll, seeing it as either over-the-top theatrical or too polished.  While many viewed grunge – grounded in angst-filled and honest lyrics paired with a raw energy delivered by distorted, moody guitars – as ‘real’ compared to what had come before.  

1991 was seen as the watershed moment with the release of Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’ album, personifying the grunge sound being filled with tormented guitars and guttural vocals. When the lead track ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ topped charts around the world grunge was propelled into the mainstream and gave Gen X their anthem.

Of course the music of the time wasn’t just about grunge – if you wanted to hear more of the soundtrack of Gen Xers in the early 90s here’s one list of significant albums:

  • Nirvana, “Nevermind” 
  • Pearl Jam, “Ten” 
  • Dr. Dre, “The Chronic” 
  • Radiohead, “OK Computer” 
  • Rage Against the Machine, “The Battle of Los Angeles” 
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Blood Sugar Sex Magik” 
  • De La Soul, “3 Feet High and Rising” 
  • No Doubt, “Tragic Kingdom” 
  • Smashing Pumpkins, “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness” 
  • REM, “Out of Time” 
  • The Notorious B.I.G., “Life After Death” 
  • Depeche Mode, “Violator”
  • Jane’s Addiction, “Ritual de Lo Habitual” 
  • 2Pac, “All Eyez on Me” 
  • Alanis Morissette, “Jagged Little Pill” 
  • Fugees, “The Score” 
  • Soundgarden, “Superunknown” 
  • A Tribe Called Quest, ‘The Low End Theory” 
  • Green Day, “Dookie” 
  • Wu-Tang Clan, “Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)”
  • Snoop Doggy Dogg, “Doggystyle” 
  • Beastie Boys, “Ill Communication” 
  • Lauryn Hill, “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” 
  • U2, “Achtung Baby” 
  • Massive Attack, “Blue Lines”
Grunge was propelled into the mainstream and gave Gen X their anthem

Key facts


of Acclaimed Music's top 100 albums of all-time, five of them come from 1991.

152 minutes

Guns N' Roses put out two whole double albums  a combined 152 minutes of music  on the same day in September, 1991.

Dear Loser.

The early grunge movement revolved around Seattle's independent record label Sub Pop, whose blunt rejection letters to aspiring artists opened with "Dear Loser".

16 weeks

"(Everything I Do) I Do It for You" by Bryan Adams topped the charts for seven weeks in the US and 16 consecutive weeks in the UK in 1991.

11 February

Massive Attack release their single "Unfinished Sympathy" under the name of Massive to avoid a radio ban of the word attack during the Gulf War.

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