Released on September 21, 1993.

I figured an In Utero, ranked piece would be the way to go when lionizing Nirvana‘s third and final studio album.


Because let’s face it: the album is 30 years old now. Everything of substance that can be said or has been written about the album has been said and written. And there’s Wikipedia. Could I find a bunch of worthwhile In Utero reviews and thinkpieces and summarize them in honor of the album’s anniversary? I could. But that would take time and research and a whole lot of work. And I’m lazy.


I can share my own perspective on the album, though. And if you’re a Gen-Xer of a certain age like I am, you probably have a similar history with this one. In Utero was released worldwide on multiple formats on September 21, 1993. I was a junior in high school, fully immersed in all things Seattle, grunge, and alternative rock. I was a huge fan of Nirvana and their contemporaries. I wore the flannel.


To say this album was “highly anticipated” would be an understatement. This was the biggest rock band in the world following up their breakthrough album that changed the rock world. Sure, we got Incesticide in ’92, but that wasn’t a proper album. This one was. A new batch of new, Cobain-written songs, produced by the legendary Steve Albini. This was the release of ’93, which is saying something in a stacked year for rock.


All the Songs on Nirvana’s In Utero, Ranked

I bought it the day it dropped, on cassette tape. And the album eventually muscled Siamese Dream out of my Sony Walkman to become my soundtrack to the fall of ’93. The “Heart Shaped Box” music video was omnipresent on MTV. My and my fellow grunge disciples picked apart the lyrics and imagery. Which I guess is what I’m about to do below, in a way.

  • 12) "Tourette's"

    Kurt screeching in the context of an actual song works in context. Kurt screeching for 1:35 and calling it a song doesn’t really.

  • 11) "Radio Friendly Unit Shifter"

    Kurt & Co. get points for burying the two weakest songs toward the end of the album. Ironically, the album was indeed a radio-friendly unit-shifter: four proper, charting singles; 5 million copies sold.

  • 10) "Rape Me"

    I understand the inspiration behind the lyrics of the song. I understand that cribbing “Smells Like Teen Spirit” in the opening riff works toward what the song is trying to get across. I didn’t like it then and I don’t like it now.

  • 9) "Milk It"

    One of the few times the quiet-loud-quiet, drenched in howling dissonance formula just doesn’t land for me. I like the song. But I don’t love it.

  • 8) "Very Ape"

    A middle-of-the-pack track placed roughly in the mid-pack of my ranking. “Very Ape” is a very good In Utero song. But it’s not a great In Utero song.

  • 7) "Francis Famer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle"

    Gotta love a title that makes you do a little research. Which wasn’t easy back in ’93! Gotta love a lyric like “I miss the comfort in being sad.” Relatable when I was 16, relatable now that I’m 46.

  • 6) "Dumb"

    I love this perfect little two-and-a-half minute bummer. It has cello. I’d rank it higher if not for the fact that the next five songs in my ranking are so goddamn good.

  • 5) "Pennyroyal Tea"

    Maybe the best execution of the “quiet-loud-quiet” dynamic on the entire album. And Kurt caterwauling his harmonies over the chorus gives me chills every. damn. time.

  • 4) "All Apologies"

    An all-timer of a Cobain riff. Some of his finest lyrical turns of phrase. And the perfect way to end an album like this. That is, unless you bought the import version with the hidden track. Which I’m not ranking here.

  • 3) "Serve The Servants"

    Think of this: Kurt knew damn well that the world was waiting to hear this album. So the pressure to choose the opening cut must’ve been crushing. The fact that he went with an opening salvo like this told you both where Kurt’s head was at the time and what the vibe of this album and this era of Nirvana was going to be. Should’ve been a single.

  • 2) "Scentless Apprentice"

    Grohl’s booming drum intro. Cobain’s jagged guitar figure. Novoselic’s foundational bass, allowing Cobain to go anywhere and everywhere with his guitar and vocals. This isn’t just the second-best song on In Utero, it’s perhaps a Top 10 track in the entire Nirvana catalog.

  • 1) "Heart-Shaped Box"

    “Smells Like Teen Spirit” aside, if you were to ask me which song in the entire catalog best defines Nirvana? Or, rather, if you’d never heard the band and wanted me to give you an introduction? This is the song I’d choose. Quintessential Nirvana. Lead single, genre-defining, era-defining, still sounds timeless 30 years on.

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