When it comes to love songs, it’s nearly impossible to be moved by the traditional ones that have been played ad nauseam. You know the ones: “At Last” by Etta James, “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston, “When a Man Loves a Woman” by Percy Sledge, and “Can’t Help Falling in Love” by Elvis Presley. Yawn. Yes, they were probably romantic and spoke to the audience at one time, but they’re completely past their prime now.
For a non-traditional approach to romance this Valentine’s Day, it might be more interesting to turn to a different decade for inspiration. While the grunge bands from the ’90s were mostly known for their harder sounds and sometimes raunchy lyrics, they too were incredibly capable when it came to expressing true feelings of love. They just did it in their own way.
Here’s a look at some of the best grunge love songs out there. Consider playing one of these for your special someone this year:
8. Iris — Goo Goo Dolls
Ok, the Goo Goo Dolls aren’t as hardcore as some other bands on this list, but they did have some pretty well-known hits during peak grunge time. So they definitely count. And “Iris” doesn’t just have the lyrics to make someone swoon a teeny bit. The melody is one that just never leaves your head.
‘Cause I know that you feel me somehow
You’re the closest to heaven that I’ll ever be
And I don’t want to go home right now
7. Interstate Love Song — Stone Temple Pilots
Oh, Scott Weiland, we could never quite get over how talented and adorable you were. STP’s lead singer’s death was tragic, like so many of his contemporaries (many of whom are on this list). But he did manage to give us a grunge-tacular love song before his passing. No, he’s not pouring his heart out to a woman. Instead, he’s expressing how much she hurt him. And the only people who can really hurt us are those whom we’ve let into our hearts, right? So, like we said: grunge-tacular love song.
With all I’ve said and all that’s dead for you
6. Heart-Shaped Box — Nirvana
Yes, Nirvana often had a harsher sound and some pretty descriptive lyrics, but Kurt Cobain and the boys had a softer side as well. Well, they did in their own way, of course. “Heart-Shaped Box” was one of the band’s hits, and it can easily be a happy, grungey couple’s love song. You just need to not be offended by the whole eating cancer line…
I’ve been locked inside your heart-shaped box for weeks
I’ve been drawn into your magnetar pit trap trap
I wish I could eat your cancer when you turn black
5. Glycerine — Bush
Not all love songs are sugar and spice, as Gavin Rossdale shows us in this gem. He loves her, he didn’t act the way he should have, and how he’s yearning. That about sums up love better than anything, doesn’t it?
You bruise my face
Couldn’t love you more
You got a beautiful taste
Could have been easier on you
I couldn’t change though I wanted to
Should I have been easier by three
Our old friend fear and you and me
4. Soul One — Blind Melon
It’s a terrible shame that we didn’t hear more from Blind Melon before Shannon Hoon passed away. There was so much more to this band than “No Rain,” which was obviously a solid song. If you don’t know “Soul One,” it is definitely worth a listen this Valentine’s Day.
Lord, you know she felt like
The only one.
She was the sun,
Her sky blue eyes,
She was my soul one.
3. Luna — The Smashing Pumpkins
Not everyone associates Billy Corgan with a romantic crooner, but he does a pretty good job with this song. (Ok, maybe crooner is taking it a bit far.) Many people have actually chosen “Luna” as a wedding song, so you know that it must be pretty great.
If you want me to
I’ll sing along
And it’s a chance I’ll have to take
And it’s a chance I’ll have to break
2. When It’s Time — Green Day
You may think of Billie Joe with green hair, singing “Basket Case” or “American Idiot,” but it turns out that Green Day actually has a perfectly romantic love song in its catalog. Just check these lyrics out and see if your heart doesn’t melt:
That when I take your hand, it’s ’cause I want to.
We are all born in a world of doubt
But there’s no doubt
I figured out…
I love you.
1. Last Kiss — Pearl Jam (originally recorded by Wayne Cochran in 1961)
While Pearl Jam isn’t the only band to record this song, they arguably did it the best. Eddie Vedder’s unmistakable voice takes us through this heart-wrenching scenario of a man losing the woman he loves in a car crash. It’s beautiful and sad and makes you want to just wrap your arms around Eddie the instant you hear it.
Oh, where oh where can my baby be?
The Lord took her away from me
She’s gone to heaven, so I got to be good
So I can see my baby when I leave this world.