Nine Inch Nails, “Closer”

picture-20105-1372868162By: Jolie Ruben // August 19, 2014

In 1994, the distinction between “mainstream” and “alternative” evaporated. Green Day and the Offspring brought hook-heavy punk to the Billboard charts, middle-of-the-road acts such as Soul Asylum and Live helped calcify “alt-rock” into a blockbuster radio format, and Nirvana’s fate as future classic-rock legends was sealed with Kurt Cobain’s death. Beck rebranded “loser” as a badge of honor and Trent Reznor said he wanted to… well, you know. Plenty of songs had a hand in making ’94 alternative’s biggest year — we’ve ranked the 100 best. [Ed’s note: We limited it to one song per artist.]

Stick with us for the full countdown, and stream every one of the tracks highlighted (minus a small handful) on our Spotify playlist, found on the No. 1 slide.

This is the first installment in SPIN’s look back at 1994, a watershed year for alternative culture. Stay tuned for more coverage in the weeks to come.