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Here we go again! Another top 10 about Nirvana. I’ve been a fan of Nirvana since 1995, almost 25 years now (!), and yes, there were moments when I stopped listening to the band’s music.

But the great bands, the legendary ones, that marked music forever, always have great songs hidden or even in plain sight that are not always appreciated in favor of their big hits.

This list will not include songs like “Teen Spirit,” “Lithium,” or “All Apologies,” because among others, they had the recognition they deserved in their time and even to this day.

Recently, I started listening to Nirvana again as if there were no tomorrow but decades later, with streaming platforms available and much easier access to music, and with the deluxe editions that Nirvana albums have received, there has been a whole new experience. This list is essentially to rediscover one of the greatest bands of all time, Nirvana!

Check out our selection of the Top 10 Nirvana’s Best Underrated Songs (Ranked) below:

 


10. “Even In His Youth” (1989)

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“Even in His Youth” stands out as one of, if not the best, Nirvana B-sides. This lesser-known song is a favorite among hardcore Nirvana fans. Originally recorded in 1989 for the “Blew” EP, the song remained unfinished.

However, a different version was recorded in 1991 and released as a B-side on the ‘”Smells Like Teen Spirit” CD single, alongside “Aneurysm,”. The song’s lyrics embody the defiance and rebellion typical of Nirvana’s themes.

 


9. “Stain” (1989)

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Written by Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic, and produced by Steve Fisk, “Stain” first appeared on the “Blew” EP and later became part of the 1992 compilation album, “Incesticide.”

The lyrics portray a character who avoids certain activities due to bad luck. Despite being labeled as “badly written” in some forums fans appreciate its musical and lyrical qualities.

Crazy fact: Some of the best Nirvana songs are on “Incesticide.” And speaking of “underrated” things, it’s worth mentioning that the entire album “Incesticide” is underrated. What a bomb of an album. Many great bands would give anything to release an album with this level of quality.

 


8. “You Know You’re Right” (1994)

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After Kurt Cobain’s death, “You Know You’re Right” was only known from a bootlegged live version and a cover by Hole, fronted by Cobain’s widow, Courtney Love. Surviving Nirvana members intended to release the studio version on a posthumous box set, but Love blocked its release in 2001.

In September 2002, the song leaked online, leading to widespread radio play despite legal actions. The lawsuit between Love and the other band members was settled, and the song appeared on a greatest hits album later that year. It reached number one on both Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Tracks and Modern Rock Tracks charts.

This song leaves me with mixed feelings. On the one hand, I feel a rush of adrenaline when I listen to it, but on the other hand, knowing that this was the last song ever recorded by Nirvana also fills me with sadness and frustration. What path would the band have taken? What sound would their next albums have? We will never know…

 


7. “Blew” (1988)

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Can we take a moment to appreciate the monster that Krist Novoselic is on this particular track? Goosebumps from 0 to 15 seconds!

Written for the awesome “Blew EP” with the same name, “Blew” is also the opening track of Nirvana’s debut album, “Bleach”, which is sometimes overlooked. It showcases the band’s early grunge sound.

The song has been performed live, with notable versions including one from the “Live and Loud” concert in Seattle, in 1993, which you can see and hear here!

 


6. “Radio Friendly Unit Shifter” (1993)

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“Radio Friendly Unit Shifter” is one of the most aggressive songs in Nirvana’s catalog. Dave Grohl is incredible on this track, with guitar work that silences the critics who say Kurt couldn’t play. There’s a lot of muscle in this great track from the album “In Utero.”

The working title for the song was “Four Month Media Blackout,” reflecting the profound impact of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” on the charts, media, and music industry in late ’91 and early ’92. This was a period when Nirvana’s groundbreaking hit dominated conversations and discussions.

“Radio Friendly Unit Shifter” is considered underrated when included on an album with incredible songs like “All Apologies,” “Serve the Servants,” “Heart-Shaped Box,” “Rape Me,” “Dumb,” and “Pennyroyal Tea.”

 


5. “Lounge Act” (1991)

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“Lounge Act” is about Bikini Kill’s drummer Tobi Vail, Kurt’s girlfriend for a brief period coinciding with the writing of some songs for Nirvana’s second album, “Nevermind.”

The musical backing, which even starts with Krist Novoselic’s bass solo, was likened by him and Kurt to lounge music, hence the title.

Another song that got “lost” amidst so many heavy hitters in the “Nevermind” setlist. The song is much like the post-grunge songs that were very popular starting in the mid-1990s after Nirvana broke up. Foo Fighters vibes…

 


4. “Dive” (1990)

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Written by Kurt Cobain and bassist Krist Novoselic, “Dive” was released as the B-side to the band’s second single, “Sliver,” in September 1990.

Courtney Love considered “Dive” her favorite Nirvana song, describing it as “sexy, and sexual, and strange.”

Regarding the connection with Courtney Love, some sources suggest that the song “Dive” may have been inspired by shared experiences between Cobain and Love, considering the couple’s tumultuous relationship and Kurt Cobain’s struggles with addiction and mental health issues.

 


3. “Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle” (1993)

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The title and lyrics of the song reference Frances Farmer, an American actress from Seattle, Washington, who grappled with mental health challenges and endured involuntary commitments, claiming she suffered systemic abuse as a result.

“Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle” is unquestionably one of Nirvana’s most underrated songs! Among the song’s epic moments, the powerful words “I miss the comfort in being sad” will echo through eternity.

 


2. “Drain You” (1991)

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The song “Drain You” was released as a promotional single in late 1991 and also appeared as a B-side on UK retail editions of the first single from that album, “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

According to the 2001 Cobain biography, “Heavier Than Heaven” by Charles Cross, “Drain You” was one of many songs Kurt Cobain wrote after the breakup of his relationship with Tobi Vail.

In the video above, you’ll witness one of the best live versions of this song, featuring Kurt’s famous broken guitar leaving Pat Smear on command, followed by one of Kurt’s most intense screams ever recorded live!


1. “Aneurysm” (1991)

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And here we are at number one on the list of Nirvana’s most underrated songs, “Aneurysm”!

We were on the edge until the last minute deciding between this song and “Drain You.” Both were openers for Nirvana live shows for a couple of years between ’91 and ’92, and man, what a way to start a show and a setlist!

Another song that references Tobi Vail, especially in the line where Kurt expresses feeling nervous around her. The initial bridge with Dave Grohl’s fantastic drumming is absolutely addictive.

It’s worth listening to the Paramount version to kick things off!


Honorable Mentions

 

In the past few weeks, while curating the playlist below on Spotify initially I had over 30 songs in consideration! Here are 5 more tracks that almost made our top 10:

 

Negative Creep

From Nirvana’s debut album “Bleach,” “Negative Creep” stands out as a testament to Nirvana’s raw energy with its relentless guitar riffs and primal screams, the song channels the disillusionment and angst of a generation.

 

Very Ape

“Very Ape” is a mix of, soft verses and loud, rough hooks. It reflects the band’s signature sound. The track was initially titled “Perky New Wave Tune”. The lyrics describe being buried in contradictory lies and embracing being “very ape,” possibly referencing primal instincts or societal critique.

 

Where Did You Sleep Last Night?

From an unknown authorship, it dates back to at least the 1870s. The live show of Nirvana for MTV Unplugged finished with a rendition of this song inspired by the arrangement of blues musician Lead Belly, whom Kurt Cobain described as “his favorite performer ever.”

The rendition of Kurt Con stands as one of Kurt Cobain’s most remarkable vocal performances live.

 

D-7

“D-7” is a song by Nirvana, originally recorded by the punk band Wipers. Nirvana’s cover of “D-7” was released as a B-side to their “Lithium” single in 1992.

The song showcases Nirvana’s raw and gritty sound, with driving rhythms and intense guitar riffs. “D-7” is known for its energetic performance and has become a favorite among fans for its raw intensity.

 

Oh, the Guilt

“Oh, the Guilt” is a collaborative single released by Nirvana and The Jesus Lizard in 1993. It features two tracks, “Oh, the Guilt” and “Puss/Oh, the Guilt,” with the former being a Nirvana original and the latter a reworking of The Jesus Lizard’s song “Puss.”

The song is characterized by its intense and abrasive sound, typical of both bands’ styles. “Oh, the Guilt” features heavy guitar riffs, pounding drums, and Kurt Cobain’s impassioned vocals, while “Puss/Oh, the Guilt” incorporates elements of The Jesus Lizard’s signature noise-rock sound.


 

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