The Best Of Pearl Jam Songs are represented by 1. Alive 2. Even Flow 3. Black and more. Pearl Jam was one of the biggest musical acts of the 90s.
Alongside Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam made up the BIG FOUR of the 90s Grunge movement. This “movement” was really groups hailing from or around Seattle, Washington, who were moving in a different direction than the Glam and Hair Metal of the preceding decade.
Stylized by long hair, flannel shirts, and a general disregard for the pomp and pomposity of the Glam era, the music they created was also more simplistic, rawer, and bereft of pretension.
Of the four bands, Pearl Jam is the longest-lasting, still making music to this day. They are also the most influential as everything, from singer Eddie Vedder’s vocal inflection to the band’s musicality, has been copied ad infinitum by all bands that followed.
The Best Of Pearl Jam Songs
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Sirens is the most recent addition on this Top Ten Pearl Jam Songs list. It is the second single off their 2013 album, Lightning Bolt.
Released on September 18, 2013, the song saw the band trying to emulate Roger Waters of Pink Floyd, after they witnessed his The Wall Live Tour in 2011. It was written by guitarist Mike McCready and singer Eddie Vedder, and produced by Brendan O’Brien.
The lyrics talk about mortality, which was something Eddie was and remains very concerned by, and what the future looks like for the generations who have come after him. A music video for the song was released the same day as the single.
Chart-wise, the song peaked at #76 on the Hot 100 but topped the US Adult Alternative Songs chart. Concurrently, it also reached #11 on the Hot Rock & Alternative Songs Chart and #4 on the US Mainstream Rock Chart.
9. Better Man
Better Man is an underrated gem on any Pearl Jam Best Songs list. It is the eleventh song on their third album Vitalogy, released in 1994.
The song was written entirely by Vedder and produced by both Brendan O’Brien and the rest of the band. A sorrowful and soulful tune, it is considered by many as one of their most haunting tracks.
Lyrically, it tells the story of a woman who is trapped in an abusive relationship but keeps trying to find good things about her partner. According to a statement Vedder himself made during a 1994 concert, it is written about his stepfather, Peter Mueller, who married and divorced his mother in the early 1980s.
Though it was never released as a single, the record ironically became their most popular song off its parent album. It reached #13 on the Billboard Mainstream Top 40 charts and even topped the Mainstream Rock chart.
Daughter is simply the best of Pearl Jam when it comes to heart and soul. It was the second single off their second album Vs.
Released on December 20, 1993, the track was written by Vedder and the band’s lead guitarist, Stone Gossard. The former wrote the words while the latter wrote much of the music.
Once again, the track was produced by O’Brien. Lyrically, the song tells the story of the titular daughter who is clearly a girl with learning disabilities, but sadly, everyone around her, from her family to teachers, thinks she is misbehaving and end up disciplining her.
The record was a huge success in Rock circles as it peaked in both the Mainstream Rock and Alternative Airplay charts. It even managed to sneak in at #97 on the year-end Hot 100 list.
7. Just Breathe
Just Breathe is a top Pearl Jam song in terms of how heartwarming it is. Released on October 31, 2009, it is the second single from their 9th album, Backspacer.
Another of Vedder’s sole creations, it is a Platinum record in the US where it has sold over a million units, and a Gold record in Italy where it has sold over ten thousand. Despite this acclaim, the song is actually a sleeper hit as it took a while to gain popularity.
Chart-wise, it peaked on the Canadian Rock, Polish Singles, and US Adult Alternative Charts. However, it only managed to make it to #78 on the Hot 100.
The song is also particularly remembered for its lyrics, or perhaps for how vague and full of many meanings they are. Fans have continuously asked what its about, to which Vedder has only replied one word: Sentimentality.
6. Yellow Ledbetter
Yellow Ledbetter is counted among Pearl Jam Top songs despite being a B-Side. It was released on August 1992 alongside their single, Jeremy.
Written by Vedderm McCready, and also the band’s bassist Jeff Ament, this track was curiously produced not by long-term producer O’Brien but by Rick Parashar. A bluesier track than most of their songs, it stands out precisely because it is unlike anything they have made.
Lyrically, the song is very open to interpretation and many fans have done as much, filling in their own stories to it. The most popular one is that it is about someone receiving a letter stating their brother has been killed in an overseas war.
What adds credence to this theory is that Vedder wrote it around the time of the Gulf War, and calls it an anti-patriotic song. However, he is also known to either mumble or outright change lyrics when played live.
5. Last Kiss
Last Kiss is a truly heartbreaking Pearl Jam love song. It is a cover of a 1961 song by Wayne Cochran.
Lyrically, the song tells the story of a boy borrowing his father’s car to take his girlfriend out, getting into an accident when he comes upon a car in the middle of the road and losing control while swerving to avoid it. In the aftermath, his girlfriend loses her life in his arms.
The original version failed to see much success, but two years later, J. Frank and the Cavaliers covered the song, and their version reached #2 on the Hot 100. Pearl Jam then released their version on June 8, 1999, and like the Cavaliers’ version, theirs also went to #2.
Jeremy is the third single from Pearl Jam’s iconic debut album Ten. The single was released on August 17, 1992.
One of the three songs that put the group on the map, both of which will appear on this list, was written by Vedder and composed by Ament. It is one of the darkest songs in their catalog.
Inspired by the true story of Jeremy Wade Delle, it tells the tale of the titular Jeremy who, due to a lack of love and support from his family and the bullying he faced at school, decides to end his life in front of his class. The subsequent music video was very controversial but also helped the song become a huge success.
The song made it to #5 on both the Mainstream and Alternative Airplay Charts, and peaked at #79 on the Hot 100 three years later in 1995.
Black is one of Pearl Jam top songs despite not being an official single. It too is off their acclaimed debut album Ten, released in 1992.
It is the fifth track on the record and was written by Vedder and Gossard. The success of the song is inspiring because though the label wanted it to be a single, the band refused, yet the song became a success regardless.
Chart-wise it reached #3 on the Mainstream Rock charts and #20 on Alternative Airplay. It is also certified Gold in Italy, where it sold over 35,000 equivalents, and Silver in the UK, where it sold over 200,000 equivalents.
Lyrically, Black is a break-up song about letting someone go. It takes that aspect a step further by wishing their ex-lover to meet a better person later on.
2. Even Flow
Even Flow is the second single off of Ten. It was released on April 6, 1992, but has recently seen something of a resurgence.
Another creation of Vedder and Gossard, the song is one of their most beloved tracks both among fans and the band, as they did over 50-70 takes to get the song right.
Lyrically, the song is about the experiences of being homeless and having to beg. The person may also be mentally ill and not be able to keep coherent thoughts.
In February of this year, the song started seeing a rise in resurgence due to a TikTok meme where people played this song while playing the 2010 video game, Skate 3. In the game, there is a character that looks like Jesus, who can do the Christ Pose, and people have put this song in the background.
Alive is not only Pearl Jam signature song but what put them on the map. It was the first single off their debut album Ten.
Released on July 7, 1991, it was also written by Vedder and Gossard. The track immediately caught the people’s attention due to its stark subject matter.
Based on Vedder’s own life where he discovered the man he thought was his biological father actually turned out to be his stepfather and had left the family. However, the singer takes it to the next step as in the second verse he describes the mother, who has been narrating the song, engaging in an incestuous relationship with her son.
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