DC101, a local rock station in (duh) DC, came up with a list of their top 500 "modern rock" songs, whatever that means. It was supposedly voted on by the fans, though I imagine the suits at the radio station had something to do with it. Their top five ended up being "Creep" by Radiohead, "Come As You Are" by Nirvana, "Under The Bridge" by Red Hot Chili Peppers, "Jeremy" by Pearl Jam, and "Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana. With the caveat that I'm focusing on influence as much as quality, here is my own top five:
5. "Freedom" by Rage Against The Machine -- DC101 probably put "Killing in the Name" on the countdown, but that's absurd. The radio edit is horrible and this song was the initial hit off the band's eponymous debut. The Judgment Night soundtrack is probably what revolutionized the rap-metal genre that went on to spawn Limp Bizkit, P.O.D., and other such crappy bands, but Rage was the first huge band that brought it to the mainstream. Sorry, Biohazard.
4. "Head Like a Hole" by Nine Inch Nails -- Don't give me this "Closer" crap. Maybe the most overrated song ever? It's not even the best song on The Downward Spiral ("March of the Pigs" or "Hurt") and it's certainly not the best NIN song. Electronic rock has been a huge genre for the last decade or two and Trent Reznor stands as an obvious forerunner in that.
3. "Longview" by Green Day -- Don't sleep. Maybe Green Day was derivative of the Ramones, but their popularity turned pop punk into the monster it is today. Everyone from Blink 182 to Fallout Boy has Green Day to thank for that.
2. "Alive" by Pearl Jam -- It's the song that made the band. While "Jeremy" had the popular video, "Alive" was the real basis for what probably still remains as my favorite album ever.
1. "Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana -- I remember where I was when I first heard this, one of the few songs for which that is the case. I was listening to Casey Kasem and he played it as a song that hadn't hit the Top 40 yet, but was bound to soon. I remember thinking immediately that everything I thought about music had changed.