As some of our favorite pop-punk bands continue to show us, we have a lot to thank 1990s alternative music for. Not only did the mainstream explosion set the foundations for the genre collective as we know it, but it put quite a number of women on the forefront.
While the gender distribution across the alternative genre was (and remains) lopsided, there’s no denying that women have left their mark in music. In honor of Women’s History Month, we’ve decided to examine the legacies they established during the uprising of modern alternative culture.
Read on for 10 greatly influential ’90s albums put out by women.
Goo – Sonic Youth
Sonic Youth dove headfirst into the ’90s with Goo and furthered their mid-career transcendence into punk-laced alt-rock. Ultimately, the relative success of the album helped push the genre up through the cracks of the mainstream’s basement and solidified the foundation on which the movement would grow throughout the decade. Kim Gordon took the lead on a handful of tracks, including “Tunic (Song For Karen)” and “Kool Thing.”
Exile In Guyville – Liz Phair
Liz Phair‘s Exile In Guyville was a bit of a cultural phenomenon following its release in 1993. As her first full-length release, the record didn’t try too hard stylistically. But it did offer profound and forthright narratives that resonated with the feminist movement of the time. In the context of ’90s indie rock, it was a marked diversion that catalyzed the progression of the genre into its modern form.
Live Through This – Hole
If we’re being honest, nothing fronted by Courtney Love could ever be less than iconic. That said, Hole‘s sophomore album, Live Through This, is particularly standout. The record expanded on their already established thrash-y punk sound, incorporating grunge elements and catchy hooks. For good reason, it pushed the band into the mainstream alternative spotlight. Of course, Love, with all of her glorious, feministic aggression, was front and center.
No Need To Argue – The Cranberries
No ’90s playlist is complete if it doesn’t include the Cranberries. That’s just fact. Regardless of where you stand on “Zombie,” it’s hands-down one of the most iconic songs to come from the decade. Of course, No Need To Argue was pretty memorable as a whole. Propelled by vocalist Dolores O’Riordan‘s stylistic yodeling, the record pulled a sort of folk-rock quality into a scene that otherwise generally lacked the flair.
Jagged Little Pill – Alanis Morissette
Alanis Morissette had started gaining steam in the Canadian music scene years before releasing Jagged Little Pill. However, her preceding two albums were grounded in dance-pop roots that feel oddly reminiscent of Robin’s past in How I Met Your Mother. JLP diverged considerably, introducing the world to the unique, grunge-informed blend of ’90s pop-rock that we’d come to know her for. Its breakout global success cast Morissette as a woman on the forefront of alternative music for years to come.
Garbage – Garbage
In any realm outside of alternative music, the phrase “you sound like garbage” is going to be at least mildly insulting. When addressing alt-rock bands, though, it’s a compliment of the highest order. Garbage made their iconic debut with their self-titled album in 1995, finding immediate success with its danceable, grunge-y take on alt-rock. Genre-defying and hooky as hell, the sounds present on the album continue to inform alternative efforts, even decades later.
To Bring You My Love – PJ Harvey
PJ Harvey took what we knew about the ’90s mainstream alternative wave and made it her own. Her third album, To Bring You My Love, harnessed her dark and brooding prowess and took it into blues-heavy territory. It was a unique beast that rightfully cast Harvey as a beacon of both eloquence and edge.
Tragic Kingdom – No Doubt
Would it be a list of trailblazing women if we didn’t include Gwen Stefani? Before our favorite 2000s pop act rose to superstardom, she helped bring ska punk into the mainstream spotlight with No Doubt. Tragic Kingdom was nothing short of pioneering in that respect, blending their more traditional ska foundations with elements of ’90s radio rock. Safe to say, it informed quite a number of future Warped Tour bands.
The Score – Fugees
It may seem like we just took a drastic turn here. Let that be indicative of Fugees‘ distinct contribution to mainstream alternative music. The hip-hop group made significant waves in 1996 with their breakout sophomore album, The Score. Blending a far-reaching variety of genres with Lauryn Hill at the helm, the band brought an eclectic breed of rap into the alternative spotlight and set the stage for future groups such as Gym Class Heroes and twenty one pilots to flourish well into the future.
Blurring The Edges – Meredith Brooks
Women everywhere rejoiced when they heard “Bitch” for the first time. Seriously, what a mood—and one that was prevalent throughout Meredith Brooks‘ Blurring The Edges. The alt-rock showcase was a stunning showcase of the “bad bitch” mentality that largely defines the alternative scene. No doubt, her fiery energy has inspired many aspiring women to date.
What are some of your favorite ’90s albums released by women? Let us know in the comments below!