10 Best Pearl Jam Songs
The best Pearl Jam songs are drawn from a career that began as one of the hardest rocking bands of the early '90s grunge scene, but has evolved dramatically over time. With singer Eddie Vedder's ability to paint a picture with a lyric or cut straight to the heart of the subject matter with his powerful delivery, Pearl Jam became one of the voices of their generation. Whether it be a high-energy rocker, a melodically intimate mood-setter or a statement song that addresses a significant social topic, the band continually delivers and in the process have become rock icons. We salute Pearl Jam by taking a look in the rearview mirror at some of the great work the band has done with this list of the 10 Best Pearl Jam Songs:
If there was a statement song on Pearl Jam's debut album, it was the eyebrow-raising track 'Jeremy' that Eddie Vedder penned after reading about a Texas teen who committed suicide in front of his high school classmates. Though the clip for the song was one of the most popular videos of the year, Pearl Jam eschewed the video making process for many years after. Musically, the track is notable for Jeff Ament's driving bass line and Vedder's powerful delivery.
‘Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town’
Eddie Vedder's songwriting evolved with Pearl Jam's second album 'Vs.' and 'Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town' deserves its spot amongst the 10 Best Pearl Jam Songs thanks to the singer's vivid description of two people reuniting after years apart. The song drips with the reflection and regret often experienced when seeing someone once close who has followed a different life path.
'Even Flow' was initially an instrumental demo that finally came to fruition once Vedder joined the band and added his lyrical take. It became one of the first ten songs he recorded with the group during his first week in Seattle and went on to be one of their biggest hits. The driving guitars, the familiar Jeff Ament bass pluck at the beginning and Vedder's somewhat difficult to decipher lyrics — they all made this into one of the band's most beloved and memorable tracks.
Though it didn't appear until Pearl Jam's third album, 'Better Man' was actually penned by Vedder in his teens. The singer pulled from his own experiences with his stepfather while writing the track. The song begins with Vedder's solitary strumming, but eventually turns into a melodically rocking track about a woman settling in life for the presumed betterment of her family.
Pearl Jam was in need of a creative rebound in 2009 and 'The Fixer' provided it in a big way. Ironically, the track focuses on the desire to fix situations in life and Vedder revealed in a Toronto Globe and Mail interview, “This is a reminder song to me, to stop fixing.” The infectiously catchy riff that drives the track started from drummer Matt Cameron, with the band as a whole taking on a more collaborative approach to the song and their 'Backspacer' album.
‘Given to Fly’
Pearl Jam offer a not-so-subtle nod to Led Zeppelin on 'Given to Fly,' loosely pulling from 'Going to California' for the song's structure. Guitarist Mike McCready penned the wave-like music for the song. Vedder, meanwhile, provided the lyrics, which he told the Philadelphia Enquirer he viewed as a children's fable. “I really love singing the part at the end, which is all about rising above anyone's comments about what you do and still giving your love away,” said the singer.
'Alive' was the song that started it all for Pearl Jam and definitely deserves its spot among the 10 Best Pearl Jam Songs. With the siren-like guitar of Stone Gossard leading the way, Pearl Jam signaled their entry into the rock music scene. Lyrically, Vedder said on VH1 Storytellers that he wrote the song about his discord with his stepfather, but over time the way the fans embraced “I'm still alive” as a life-affirming lyric changed the way he personally viewed the track.
Vedder's fingerprints are all over 'Rearviewmirror,' one of the standout tracks from the band's sophomore set, 'Vs.' The singer told the Los Angeles Times of the track, “We start off with the music and it kinds of propels the lyrics. It made me feel like I was in a car, leaving something, a bad situation. There's an emotion there. I remembered all the times I wanted to leave…” The track starts with a repetitive bass line that's only enhanced as the guitars are added, but it's Vedder's emotional abandon that really drives the song.
'Yellow Ledbetter' has become a fan favorite over the years, despite never appearing on one of the band's original studio albums (It finally turned up on the 'Lost Dogs' rarities collection). The track, originally a B-side to 'Jeremy,' has become a sing-along favorite with somewhat incomprehensible lyrics that Vedder likes to change on occasion. During a 2008 performance, the singer told the audience that the song was penned about a kid whose brother died at war amd sees an elderly couple with a flag in their yard. He waves, sensing a connection, but they don't respond after glancing at his appearance.
The band's full range is explored on 'Black,' making it our top pick on the 10 Best Pearl Jam Songs list. The track starts off melodic with a swirling narrative about a relationship evolving to the point of reaching a breaking point. As the lyrics become darker, so does the music, with the band subtly picking up the pace and providing a harsher attitude. By the end of the track Vedder is howling with full abandon and guitarist Mike McCready jamming out a killer solo.