Grunge Rock

With Rock N’ Roll having been formed out of the best bits of some of America’s most historically iconic genre’s, it seems most fitting that after its conception, Rock music birthed a plethora of sub-genres. From Glam Rock to Folk Rock, Punk Rock to Alternative Rock, there is a niche of Rock N’ Roll for just about any music listener. At the top of this list, ranking as possibly one of the most popular, or at least amongst the highly significant, is Grunge Rock.

When exploring this unique musical nook, it may be best to begin by examining its title.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines “grunge” as:

A general term of disparagement for someone or something that is repugnant or odious, unpleasant, or dull; also, dirt, grime.

Similarly, in regard to this word as a genre of music, the OED states:

A style of rock music characterized by a raucous, often discordant guitar sound, lazy vocal delivery, and downbeat, frequently nihilistic lyrics, and (in later use) influenced by heavy metal and punk rock.

It quickly becomes apparent that the term “grunge” is far from a compliment, possibly even an insult. I’d even go as far to say that the music was initially looked down upon, that no one, not even the musicians themselves, could have anticipated the millions of people Grunge Rock would go on to influence and impact.

When we begin examining its conception, Grunge and Seattle go hand in hand. There would be no Grunge Rock without the consistently rainy days engulfing Seattle, and we would have never fully appreciated Seattle without the electrifying music of Grunge Rock.

With that being said, by the late 1980’s, the aggressive and expressive Punk Rock was dwindling in popularity, and the same can be said for the lead guitar loaded, driving beats of Heavy Metal. As most things “Rock N’ Roll,” it was only a matter of time before these genres aligned and transitioned into a new and exciting form.

Adapting the distorted sounds expelled by the guitars in Metal, and modifying the “we don’t care what you think” attitude of Punk, teenagers in the late 80’s and early 90’s crafted a genre harkening back to the music they grew up on, but established a fresh sub-genre of Rock that pushed all prior limits, inevitably becoming the anguished voice of a generation.

Pioneered by the Melvins, Grunge was popularized by bands such as, Nirvana, Mudhoney, Screaming Trees, Sound Garden, Pearl Jam, and many more. With rapidly increasing audiences, and music that was oddly catchy and radio worthy, the bands of Grunge Rock were met with contracts to major labels, numerous appearances on MTV, and a legacy that remains impressionable onto current day.

Unlike most musicians or groups within a genre of music, Grunge bands each portrayed a sound uniquely and distinctly they’re own. This individualized nature within Grunge highlighted that it was far more than a genre of music, that it was in fact an attitude, fashion statement, and individualized culture of people.

The look that is most often associated with Grunge initially had nothing to do with taste and everything to do with location. Seattle is, and was, a notoriously rainy, muddy, and chilly environment. Hiking boots, flannels, and durable jeans were not much of a statement, but rather, a common necessity. Funnily enough, as Grunge bands began touring the United Stated, people all over the country were adapting to this Seattle trend, proving Grunge’s influence pervaded far beyond their sounds that emitted out of boom box speakers.

Interestingly, the term “grunge,” though unflattering and quite a bit condescending, appears to fit the genre like of custom made glove. Showcasing that there is power, influence, and connection within the “dirt” and “grime.” That there is in fact, no better term that could ever define such a cultural and musical phenomenon. To me, “Grunge Rock” sounds just about right.

–Victoria Shaffer





Passage, Northwest. “Northwest Passage.” The Origin of “Grunge” | Northwest Passage,

Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Grunge.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 4 Apr. 2018,


9 thoughts on “Grunge Rock

  1. Great article, and I love your analysis of the word “grunge”. It occurs to me that so many Rock & Roll words started out as derogatory. (Even the term “rock & roll” really is another word for sex.) Punk, heavy metal, blues, lol! None of it sounds very nice, but the music is awesome!

    Thanks for another great post 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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