Remember when everyone was really big into rapping and rocking and wearing backwards baseball caps all at the same time? Yeah, the ‘90s (and early ‘00s) were a weird era for music.
It’s probably best that nu-metal hasn’t made a huge resurgence on the back of ‘90s nostalgia, but here are 10 nu-metal singles that actually don’t suck. (We’re not counting Marilyn Manson or Tool as nu-metal. Why? Because we said so.)
10. Bored - Deftones
Deftones has always been a smart band. Its lyrics tend to have complex allusions and leave the songs open to many different interpretations. Deftones’ first album, Adrenaline, was a little more raw than some of their later works, and “Bored” is no exception. The song keeps some of the lyrical intelligence we’ve come to appreciate from Deftones, but stays on a (very) simple and clean path. Who doesn’t get bored?
9. Sugar - System of a Down
System of a Down might be, musically, the best nu-metal band in history. No, actually, they’re just the absolute best nu-metal band in history. Even though they were at their most nu-metal-y (nu-metallic? Nu-metal-est?) on their self-titled debut album, it was very clear from the beginning that these guys weren’t like every other ‘90s metal band with two singers. “Sugar” is a perfect example of what made early SOAD so much better than their contemporaries.
8. My Way - Limp Bizkit
Yep. We went there. On one hand, “My Way” exemplifies everything that’s terrible about nu-metal. On the flip side, the whole album (Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water) is generally viewed as the tipping point for nu-metal. With songs like “My Way,” “Rollin’,” and “My Generation” (not to be confused with the stuttering classic by the Who), nu-metal began to implode. And let’s be honest, “My Way” is totally the song you would’ve written in sixth grade when you were pissed at your social studies teacher for giving you a bad grade on your diorama of a Mesopotamian farming community.
7. Bodies - Drowning Pool
Want to fight someone? No? Alright, listen to “Bodies” and then read that first question again. If Drowning Pool’s biggest hit doesn’t make you want to punch someone in the face, then we’re wondering why you’d even read a list about nu-metal songs in the first place. Is it a well-crafted intelligent song? No. Does it make you super excited to get into a sloppy brawl? No doubt about it.
6. Outside - Staind
If you haven’t listened to the live Family Values Tour (the most nu-metal tour of all time) version of this, do yourself a favor and check it out. The studio version of “Outside” sounds like every other Staind song, but the live version is a top tier acoustic hard rock performance. It even comes complete with a shoutout of the unfortunate city they recorded it in (Biloxi, Mississippi).
5. Points of Authority - Linkin Park
Some people would argue that Linkin Park isn’t a nu-metal band because they got into the game later. Those people are wrong. Early Linkin Park has a few good songs, and their mashup album with Jay Z is pretty solid workout material, but “Points of Authority” is the band at their finest. It’s angry, but it’s not angry in the hyper-masculine way that most nu-metal is, which is exactly what makes Linkin Park more socially acceptable than almost anyone else on this list.
4. Bawitdaba - Kid Rock
If Kid Rock died at the age of 27, he’d be viewed as an artist full of potential who died young at the mysterious age that claims so many musicians. Unfortunately, he didn’t. There’s no denying that he burst on to the scene with the type of attitude and musical styling that can make someone a star. “Bawitdaba” might not be the coolest song out there, but it’s probably the most anthematic song with an unintelligible chorus (or at least tied with Missy Elliott’s “Work It”)
3. Wait and Bleed - Slipknot
By the time Vol. 3 came out, Slipknot had already gotten away from their nu-metal roots. Songs like “Duality” and “Vermillion” are tough to count as true nu-metal, but early Slipknot is about as nu-metal as metal gets. Whether you’re a nu-metal fan or not (hopefully you’re not), “Wait and Bleed” is one of the best hard rock songs of the last 20 years. It is what it is, and we all just need to appreciate the band that uses a “percussionist” just to bang on an oil drum once in a while.
2. Chop Suey - System of a Down
Remember when we said that SOAD is the best band to come out of the nu-metal scene? It’s still true, and Toxicity is their crowning achievement. Sure, hardcore SOAD fans might tell you that songs like “Chop Suey,” “Toxicity,” and “Aerials” are too mainstream (let’s face it, any other negative adjective used to describe the album is just a cover for not wanting to say they don’t like the album because their lame uncle is into it), but it’s the catchiness of the songs combined with SOAD’s speedy rocking delivery that make them some of the best. Hell, we could probably come up with a list of ten great SOAD songs on their own.
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1. Freak on a Leash - Korn
It’s the song that changed the game and (for better or worse) brought nu-metal to the homes of many angry teenagers in the ‘90s. If it had been done by any other band, it would still be a great hard rock song, but Korn’s funky style separated “Freak on a Leash” (and most of the band’s other work) from its competitors. In a world where rapping in the middle of a rock song is still tough to pull off, Korn seamlessly beatboxes in the breakdown of a metal jam (for no apparent reason) and it works so incredibly well.
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