Who are the 5 best bands of the 90s?

top 5 band sof the 90s headerLast Friday I was in a bar with a few of my friends and, as often happens in bars, a statement of “fact” was made. It was stated that “Toad the Wet Sprocket” was one of the 5 best bands of the 90s. Now I’m perfectly fine with the concept of to each their own, but this struck me as complete and total hyperbole. We talked about it a bit and eventually he backed off the top 5 ranking, settling Toad into the top 15. Look Dave, I told that whole story without throwing you under the bus!

This occasion led to thinking, always dangerous, who are the best 5 bands of the 90s?

Having just finished my quantitative analysis of NFL DVOA for my thesis there was an opening in my calendar for some data collection and analysis. (Or as Jay would say, “you just wanted to start a new spreadsheet.” He isn’t wrong.) So I figure, I know a lot of people who like music, who liked music in the 90s, so why not ask them on Facebook? I wasn’t sure what sort of response I would get, or if I would really get any. Music is such a personal qualitative thing for so many people how can the term “best” be applied quantitatively? Well by asking people for their top 5 and counting the votes. So I asked for the top 5 and then made a spreadsheet and starting tracking the 5 bands each person voted for.

Before I get into the results, as I said, “best” is a very loose term. I was hoping, and think I got from a lot of people, initial reactions, just a list of 5 bands. From a data point of view this was perfect. I plug in the names and add the vote and boom. Then something sort of strange happened. People who don’t know each other, except through the auspices of me and the questions and answers laid before them started to talk about the results.

One of my oldest friends mentioned Red Hot Chili Peppers and 2 minutes later one of my Jazz Band mates from college acknowledged that as a “Good Call.”

Then one of my high school friends mentioned K’s Choice for my unplanned future column of Top 5 one hit wonders. And 1 minute later my friend from the drinking club with a running problem said K’s Choice wasn’t a one hit wonder, although he did relent that they were certainly close.

We are at a weird time in our country’s evolution and often times even the littlest of topics sparks a divide between people the size of the Grand Canyon, and there is no place that can be more evident than the internet, and particularly FaceBook. This had none of that.

Yes there was disagreement, mostly about Anderson’s joke that Nickleback should be included, and if we had lynched him for it, I’m not sure we would have been wrong, but we didn’t, we all laughed and moved on. The biggest debate was about what qualifies as a 90’s band, and I wasn’t being picky about “oh this band released an album in the 80’s so they don’t qualify as a 90’s band” so I asked people just to say the best 5 bands to the respondent, define band how you want, define 90’s how you want.

It fascinated me anthropologically, which I didn’t expect. I just wanted to play with the spreadsheet. Seeing people interact in this way, some that know each other, more that don’t though, in a positive, fun way felt to me like the best that Facebook has to offer. We need more polite, positive, public debate about things far more important than the best bands of the 90s, but we have to start somewhere and this gives me hope.

Now for what you really care about the stats!

First we had 42 respondents (amazing!) they ranged in age from 27 to over 60.

Second we had 74 bands/artists/groups receive votes!

So let’s group these up and look at some actual totals!

The “Hey at least we got one more vote than Smashmouth” bands
Blind Melon, Sleater Kinney, Bikini Kill, Jeff Buckley, Tree, Sam Black Church, Snot, Nonpoint, Audioslave, AC/DC, Queen, Bon Jovi, Lauryn Hill, Alanis Morrisette, Janet Jackson, Michael Jackson, LFO, RUSH (thanks My Friend Craig), Built to Spill, Reel Big Fish, Soul Coughing, The Cranberries (The pride of Middleboro, not really), Toad the Wet Sprocket (I vote Dave, and it wasn’t even from you), Pavement, Liz Phair, Jane’s Addiction, NWA (only one of you didn’t forget about Dre), Run DMC, Public Enemy, Wu Tang, Silverchair, Dave Matthews Band, Bush, Barenaked Ladies, Pixies, Yo La Tengo, Dinosaur Jr., Guided By Voices, NOFX, Oasis, Morphine, Deftones, Beck, Guns N Roses, Goldfinger, Slipknot.

That’s 46 out of 74 bands, a 62% clip. I think this percentage speaks well about a couple of things, the diversity of my friends and the fact that the top 38% of the bands we pretty well agreed upon.

The “Hey we got two more votes than Sugar Ray” bands
Less than Jake, U2, 311, Pantera, Phish, Ben Folds Five, Rancid.

7 out of 74, 9.4%. I was surprised at the U2 ranking and at the same time not surprised at all.

The “Hey 3 more votes than Everclear is pretty great” bands
No Doubt (try not to cry Dana), Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tori Amos, Foo Fighters, Tool

5 out of 74, 6.7%. That’s a total of 58 or 78.1% of the bands accounted for. Top 16 here we come!

The “Hey we got 4 more votes than Harvey Danger, but wait, that’s not saying much” bands
Soundgarden, Beastie Boys, Sublime

3 out of 74, 4%.
The “2 bands, 5 votes” bands
Stone Temple Pilots, Alice in Chains

2 out of 74, 2.7%.

Now the “Tied for 6th, 6 bands all receiving 6 votes” bands
Green Day, Smashing Pumpkins, Nine Inch Nails, REM, Weezer, Rage Against the Machine

6 out of 74, 8.1%. A total of 69 or 92.9% of the bands.


NUMBER 5 – The Counting Crows receiving 7 votes. This is the biggest surprise for me out of the whole thing. My Friend Craig once skipped seeing the 4th band on this list to see the Counting Crows, maybe he wasn’t wrong.

NUMBER 4 – The Mighty Mighty Bosstones receiving 8 votes. I’m questioning the answers on this one, maybe because I asked the question this influenced people to vote for my favorite band. I’m not sure I would put them in the top 5 of the 90s. And amazingly Mark didn’t even vote because he is sailing! Or maybe even I’m the one who has underrated the Bosstones, that’s it, I’m putting Clueless on!

Full disclosure, this is the wall to my left as I write this.

Full disclosure, this is the wall to my left as I write this.

NUMBER 3 – Radiohead receiving 10 votes. This seems about right. Maybe if Kid A comes out in the 90’s they vault to number 1 easily because if Pablo Honey, The Bends, OK Computer and Kid A all come out in the 90’s I’m not sure anyone can top the quality of those 4 albums in any decade.

NUMBER 2 – Pearl Jam receiving 16 votes. It was a close in the end, one vote separated first and second place and will likely strike you all, as it did me, appropriate.

NUMBER 1 – Nirvana receiving 17 votes. I mean, of course, right?

So that’s what science has told us, please consider this a scientific document and the definitive top 5 best 90s bands list.

Now did I forget anything? Oh right my top 5 bands of the 90s. It would hardly be fair to ask all you that question and then not throw my 2 cents in. So here it is.

5 – The Presidents of the United States of America
4 – Weezer
3 – Rage Against the Machine
2 – Radiohead
1 – Pearl Jam

Special thanks to:






Mike G.
Sarah W.





Mike E.

Mike M.
Mike C.

Sarah E.


Partial credit to comedians



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4 thoughts on “Who are the 5 best bands of the 90s?

  1. Good work Sull, a very thorough analysis of crowd sourced data regarding a highly subjective subject along with a nice color commentary regarding the process. I’m sure if you were to pose this question to a larger demographic or varying locales you would receive very different answers.

    However after reading this my only real thought is; you have entirely too much time on your hands….

    • haha I finished my thesis and wasn’t sure what to do with that time! I was so used to sitting at the computer and compiling data!

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