13 best opening songs on debut albums from the 1990s

This list of the 13 best first songs on first albums from the 1990s shows that some bands and artists get it right on the first track of their debut album.
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Debut albums are tough. For every terrific debut that expertly expresses an artist’s overall style and ethos, there’s another first album that delivers poorly conceived song ideas and bad musical decisions. Other debut albums are not consistent and, while they might be home to a few amazing songs, they don’t often deliver the goods like some future albums do.

However, some debut albums are nearly perfect, and the first songs on those albums are instant classics that flawlessly encapsulate a group or artist – or at least hint at what triumphs may await the group or artist in the future. Read on to explore the 13 best opening songs on debut albums from the 1990s.

Music in the 1990s was dominated by “alternative” rock, the continued rise of hip-hop in the mainstream consciousness, as well as radio-friendly classics, bubblegum pop, and pop-punk as the decade continued. In the U.K., shoegaze gave way to trip-hop and then was overtaken by the behemoth that was Britpop. What a time to be alive!

The 1990s, and the music of the era, are experiencing something of a resurgence

Note: This list does not include EPs or first singles, as it is strictly limited to the first song featured on the track list of the group or artist’s debut album – simple as that. As such, this list also doesn’t count first tracks on a group or artist’s first “major label” album, discounting their “independent” releases.

“Son Of A Gun”– The La’s – The La’s (1990)

This rough and rowdy pop song kicks off The La’s brilliant debut album, which featured a bevy of all-time rippers from Lee Mavers and company. Careening between strutting rockers and tender ballads, headlined by the all-time classic “There She Goes,” The La’s is an archetypal ‘90s album – and one that many an artist would aim to surpass throughout the decade, oftentimes falling well short of the group’s canny songcraft and hook-laden melodies.

“We Die Young”– Alice in Chains – Facelift (1990)

While Alice in Chains’ follow-up album Dirt is usually regarded as the group’s magnum opus, their first album Facelift features a terrific one-two punch with its first two songs: “We Die Young” and the seminal “Man In A Box.” “We Die Young” perfectly encapsulated AiC’s style, which was equally comfortable in the zeitgeisty grunge genre as well as in the more established metal genre.

“Safe From Harm”– Massive Attack – Blue Lines (1991)

“Trip-hop” as a term has been flatly dismissed by many of the groups that were listed under its guise, such as Portishead and Massive Attack, whose 1991 debut Blue Lines was chock-full of classic numbers that sounded unlike anything that came before or after it during the group’s heyday throughout the ‘90s. Kicking off the beguiling album is “Safe From Harm,” which features beautiful soulful vocals interspersed with infectious rap verses – a delectable combination that more or less created a new genre out of thin air.

“Seagull”– Ride – Nowhere (1991)

Shoegaze was a huge force in the music industry for a short while in the early 1990s, and it has come back with a vengeance in the past few years. One of its most successful bands was Ride, who took the swirling clouds of guitar noise and stapled beautiful, boyish, Beatles-esque harmonies onto it as typified by the group’s opening salvo, "Seagull," from its debut album Nowhere. Featuring a bassline that sounds like it's from a lost Revolver-era Beatles track, Ride run through their entire ethos in just over six minutes: the harmonies, the jangle, the squalls of guitar noise. A strong start to a killer first album.

“Bring da Ruckus”– Wu-Tang Clan – Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) (1993)

An intriguing opening track from one of the best hip-hop groups of all time, featuring a bevy of gifted emcees including Method Man, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, RZA, GZA, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, and others, “Bring da Ruckus” certainly provides said ruckus whenever it is played. The over-four-minute-long song absolutely flies by, as the brilliant production work and venomously delivered bars complement each other perfectly – kicking off one of the most audacious and inventive hip-hop debuts of all time.

“So Young”– Suede – Suede (1993)

The first forays into the Britpop genre were likely made by The Stone Roses, but the first group to gain major chart success under the guise of that genre was Suede. Fronted by the beautifully androgynous and highly talented vocalist Brett Anderson, the group delivered all the saucy lyrical content that one would expect from Bowie disciples, all underscored by the muscular guitar work and well-rounded musicianship of lead guitarist and music writer Bernard Butler. A cracking opener from a masterpiece of a debut album.

“My Name Is Jonas”– Weezer – Weezer (The Blue Album) (1994)

One of the greatest debut albums of all time, The Blue Album by Weezer is a seminal release from the 1990s. “My Name Is Jonas,” the first track on the record, introduces you to all of the elements that make Weezer’s first album a masterwork in the field of rock recordings. A fun romp anchored by Rivers Cuomo’s always incisive yet inviting lyrics, the harmonica in the outro is what truly sets this song apart from others of the era. Harmonica, in a distortion-filled “rawk” song? Only Weezer could pull it off with such ease.

“Rock ‘n’ Roll Star”– Oasis – Definitely Maybe (1994)

Following up on the successes of Suede and Blur before them, Oasis emerged as the top Britpop act of the 1990s. Noel Gallagher and his brother Liam alongside a Spinal Tap-esque stable of rotating bandmates charged out of the gate with a cache of classic songs that rivaled some of the best ever written – and the group knew it, as their boastful and boorish behavior sometimes made more headlines than the music itself – but at the heart of it, everyone knew the tunes were worth the trouble. Their debut album kicks off with as anthemic a call-to-arms as one would expect from the retro revivalists: “Tonight you’re a rock and roll star!”

“Regulate”– Warren G – Regulate… G Funk Era (1994)

An all-time classic opening song featuring the inimitable laconic croon of legendary hip-hop singer/lothario Nate Dogg alongside the smooth, nonchalant rapping of Warren G, “Regulate” delivers some absolutely flawless early-to-mid  ‘90s rap vibes. Kicking off the album with aplomb, “Regulate” is the clear standout, but the album flows smoothly from track to track and provides a number of deep cuts that are sure to appeal to fans of this era of hip-hop.

“The State I Am In”– Belle & Sebastian – Tigermilk (1996)

A band that has delivered a slew of top-flight songs over the years, their debut album still sounds as intimate and sweet as it did nearly 30 years ago. Replete with a sheaf of self-deprecating doubts and thoughts set to music, B&S leader Stuart Murdoch practically birthed the “twee” subgenre with the group’s first album, which leads off with “The State I Am In,” a ruminative remembrance of Murdoch’s childhood set to a breezy and gentle arrangement with cutting lines such as: “Oh, love of mine; Would you condescend to help me? 'Cause I am stupid and blind; Oh, and desperation is the Devil's work; It is the folly of a boy's empty mind.”

“Losing a Whole Year”– Third Eye Blind – Third Eye Blind (1997)

An underrated masterpiece, likely due to the omnipresence of its biggest hit, "Semi-Charmed Life," being in roughly every film made from the years 1998 to 2000, Third Eye Blind’s eponymous debut album kicked off with one of the group’s best songs: “Losing a Whole Year.” Like much of the album, the lyrical content was likely not what parents would’ve wanted their impressionable children listening to, but 3EB made the smart decision of putting those lyrics to radio-friendly music with plenty of late ‘90s sheen.

“Daftendirekt”– Daft Punk – Homework (1997)

“Da funk back to the punk, come on,” begins Daft Punk’s first album, the hugely influential Homework. The group would scale grander heights on 2001’s Discovery and especially on their swan song, 2013’s Random Access Memories, but the group started off as a driven electronic/house group with aspirations of filling dance floors the world over. They certainly succeeded, and they left behind three classic albums and a terrific first song that introduced the world to the singular talents of Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter.

“…Baby One More Time”– Britney Spears – …Baby One More Time (1999)

Closing out this story on best debut songs from the 1990s is a bubblegum pop masterpiece from the inimitable Britney. Covered recently to great effect by Jack Black’s Tenacious D, the original song is a stirring pop confection with a killer chorus and a legendary music video.

It might not be the most stunning lyrical achievement, nor is it the “deepest” song on this list, but this song was inescapable in the lead-up to Y2K and it certainly deserves its spot on this list.