1996 was a memorable year for alternative rock. It was a time when MTV was highlighting “Buzz Bin”-worthy bands and granting heavy rotation to artists on Alternative Nation and 120 Minutes. Influence ranged from grunge, punk, pop, rap rock, funk, dance and ska.
Get ready to feel nostalgic.
311 “All Mixed Up”
“You’ve got to trust your instinct and let go of regret”
The third single off 311’s breakthrough self-titled album peaked at No. 4 on the Alterative Songs chart. Frontman Nick Hexum said the song “was a really innovative combination of styles that hadn’t been tried before.”
Beck “Where It’s At”
“Bottles and cans and just clap your hands”
Dave Matthews Band “So Much To Say”
“Open up my head and let me out”
In 1996, DMB was well on their way to becoming mainstream, following the success of “What Would You Say?” from MTV Buzz Bin, Volume 1. The second single off their second studio album, Crash, peaked at No. 19 on the Alternative Songs chart and won a Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.
Red Hot Chili Peppers “Aeroplane”
“I like pleasure spiked with pain”
Anthony Kiedis, Flea and special guest Dave Navarro brought the Red Hot Chili Peppers‘ sixth studio album, One Hot Minute to life and its third single “Aeroplane” peaked at No. 8 on the Alternative Songs chart.
Garbage “Stupid Girl”
“All you had you wasted”
MTV certified “Stupid Girl,” off Garbage’s self-titled debut album, “Buzz-Bin” status and it peaked at No. 2 on the Alternative Songs chart. The song was also nominated for two Grammy Awards and the visual was nominated for an MTV Video Music Award for Best New Artist in 1996, but lost to the next artist on this list.
Alanis Morissette “Ironic”
“It’s like 10,000 spoons when all you need is a knife.”
In 1996, Alanis Morissette was named Billboard‘s Artist of the Year. “Ironic,” the third single off Morissette’s No. 1 album Jagged Little Pill peaked at No. 4 on the Hot 100 chart and No. 1 on the Alternative Songs chart. The memorable visual was nominated for six MTV Video Music Awards and won three, including Best New Artist the same year.
Soundgarden “Burden In My Hand”
“I lost my head again, would you cry for me?”
Soundgarden went “less heavy“ for their fifth studio album Down on the Upside, which peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 chart. The album’s second single, “Burden In My Hand,” peaked at No. 2 on the Alternative Songs chart and No. 1 on the Mainstream Rock Songs chart. Following its release, the band took a 16 year break, during which frontman Chris Cornell pursued other projects, including a solo career.
No Doubt “Don’t Speak”
“Don’t tell me cause it hurts”
The third single from No Doubt‘s Tragic Kingdom peaked at No. 2 on the Alternative Songs chart and No. 1 on the Radio Songs chart for 16 weeks, a record at that time. It was also nominated for two Grammy Awards, including Song of the Year. In 1997, the visual won an MTV Video Music Award for Best Group Video and was nominated for Video of the Year, but lost to the next artist on this list.
Jamiroquai “Virtual Insanity”
“It’s a crazy world we’re living in”
Jamiroquai‘s monumental “Virtual Insanity” visual (directed by Jonathan Glazer) was nominated for 10 MTV Video Music Awards and won four, including Breakthrough Video and Video of the Year in 1997. The song also won a Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal and peaked at No. 38 on the Alternative Songs chart.
Oasis “Champagne Supernova”
“Slowly walking down the hall, faster than a cannon ball”
“Champagne Supernova,” from Oasis‘ second album, (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?, hit No. 1 on the Alternative Songs chart. Noel Gallagher said, “some of the lyrics were written when I was out of it. That’s probably as psychedelic as I’ll ever get.” In 1996, the band won a Brit Award for Best Group and Best Album and won an MTV Europe Music Award for Best Group.
Luscious Jackson “Naked Eye”
“Knew I had to say goodbye to all the old things held inside”
The first single from Luscious Jackson‘s second album, Fever In Fever Out, peaked at No. 36 on the Hot 100 chart and No. 18 on the Alternative Songs chart. The visual was shot inside New York’s World Trade Center, not an airport.
Stone Temple Pilots “Trippin’ on a Hole in a Paper Heart”
“One more trip and I’ll be gone”
The second single off Stone Temple Pilots‘ third album, Tiny Music… Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop, peaked at No. 3 on the Alternative Songs chart and No. 1 on the Mainstream Rock Songs chart. The song was also nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance.
Radiohead “Street Spirit” (Fade Out)
“All these things we’ll one day swallow whole”
Radiohead‘s second studio album, The Bends, made quite an impact on the music world, appearing on several greatest of all time tallies. “Street Spirit,” which frontman Thom Yorke described as “the dark tunnel without the light at the end,” failed to chart, but the album peaked at No. 88 on the Billboard 200. The dream-like visual, full of artistic expression, was directed by Jonathan Glazer.
The Smashing Pumpkins “1979”
“They’re not sure just what we have in store”
“1979” is the Smashing Pumpkins‘ highest-charting single to date. It peaked at No. 12 on the Hot 100 chart and No. 1 on both the Alternative Songs and Mainstream Rock Songs charts. The song was also nominated for a Grammy Award for Record of the Year and Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, and won an MTV Video Music Award for Best Alternative Video. Frontman Billy Corgan described the visual as “the closest we’ve ever come to realizing everything we wanted.”
Sublime “What I Got”
“Let the lovin’, let the lovin’ come back to me”
The visual for Sublime‘s biggest radio hit pays tribute to late frontman Bradley Nowell, who died of a drug overdose two months before the band released their successful eponymous album. Billboard deemed the band’s posthumous success “a tale of tragic irony.” The single hit No. 1 on the Alternative Songs chart and No. 11 on the Mainstream Rock Songs chart.
“If I had it all again, I’d change it all”
The fifth single released from Bush‘s debut album Sixteen Stone, peaked at No. 4 on the Alternative Songs chart and Mainstream Rock Songs chart. It was also nominated for an MTV Video Music Award for Best Video from a Film (1996’s psychological thriller Fear). In 1997, the band won the MTV Movie Award for Best Song from a Movie.
Fiona Apple “Shadowboxer”
“If I let you get too close, you’ll set your spell on me”
The debut single from Fiona Apple‘s debut studio album Tidal was released when Apple was just 19 years old. The song peaked at No. 34 on the Alternative Songs chart, with critics praising her vocal and songwriting ability. The simple black and white visual showcases Apple singing in a studio.
Alice In Chains “Heaven Beside You”
“You’re just see through faded, overrated and out of your mind”
?The third single from Alice In Chain‘s self-titled No. 1 eponymous third album peaked at No. 6 on the Alternative Songs chart and No. 3 on the Mainstream Rock Songs chart. In 1996, the band performed “Heaven Beside You” on MTV Unplugged. This was the last album to feature frontman Layne Staley, who died of a drug overdose in 2002.
Dishwalla “Counting Blue Cars”
“Ask her why we’re who we are”
Dishwalla enjoyed mainstream success in 1996 when “Counting Blue Cars” exploded on radio and peaked at No. 15 on the Hot 100 chart, No. 1 on the Alternative Songs chart and No. 2 on the Mainstream Rock Songs chart. The same year, the band won the Billboard Music Award for Top Rock Song.
Green Day “Brain Stew / Jaded”
“My senses dulled, passed the point of delirium”
In 1996, two tracks from Green Day‘s fourth studio album, Insomniac combined to peak at No. 3 on the Alternative Songs chart and No. 8 on the Mainstream Rock Songs chart. Later that year, the band was nominated for an American Music Award for Favorite Alternative Artist and Favorite Artist of the Year. The band was also nominated for a Brit Award for Best International Group.