If you didn't like Aerosmith's '80s catalog, there's a good chance you hated their '90s output.

After achieving a miraculous comeback with 1987's Permanent Vacation, the newly sober rockers were eager to keep the good times rolling. They continued riding high with 1989's Pump and 1993's Get a Grip, the latter becoming their first No. 1 album in the United States. They returned after another four-year gap with Nine Lives, which underperformed its predecessors but still sold a respectable 2 million copies. In hindsight, it was just a warmup for their first and only chart-topping single, the divisive "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing."

There were two joint factors largely responsible for Aerosmith's career revival: outside songwriters and super-sized power ballads. Unsurprisingly, these melodramatic love songs — which became even more prominent in the '90s — turned off many of their day-one fans who yearned for the sleazy, drug-fueled hard rock of their '70s heyday.

But critics who write off Aerosmith's '90s catalog risk missing out on several underrated hard rock gems, along with some admittedly excellent ballads. It's time to suspend your disbelief and revisit the Top 15 '90s Aerosmith Songs.

15. "Hole in My Soul"

From: Nine Lives

The tentpole ballad off Nine Lives only reached No. 51 on the Billboard Hot 100, but it certainly sounds like a smash hit, full of huge choruses and vivid storytelling. The lead guitar work is more than a little reminiscent of "Dream On," but Steven Tyler compensates with some clever vocalizing and slick turns of phrase, like: "I know there's been all kinds of shoes underneath your bed / Now I sleep with my boots on, but you're still in my head."

 

14. "Walk on Down"

From: Get a Grip

Joe Perry takes a welcome turn at the mic on this Get a Grip B-side, reminding listeners why he's an integral component of Aerosmith's sleazy blues-rock boogie. The guitarist is the picture of cool here, offsetting the high-watt riffage with his low Boston drawl. The extended outro solo is one of his most fiery; it's a damn shame Aerosmith retired this song from their set lists after the Get a Grip tour.

 

13. "Kiss Your Past Good-bye"

From: Nine Lives

Aerosmith embraced alt-rock on Nine Lives to great success, scoring a Grammy for the breezy single "Pink." "Kiss Your Past Good-bye" operates in a similar mode: a mid-tempo ballad with jangly guitars and wistful lyrics. But it's just a shade less overtly commercial, trading harmonica for quasi-psychedelic lead guitars and some of Tyler's best yowls.

 

12. "Falling in Love (Is Hard on the Knees)"

From: Nine Lives

With its winking double entendres, slash-and-burn riffs and blustery horn arrangements, "Falling in Love (Is Hard on the Knees)" bridged the gap between Aerosmith's hard-rocking '70s heyday and their late-'80s renaissance. And with lines like "My old libido has been blowin' a transistor / I feel like I have been hit by a fuck," the 48-year-old Tyler proved he had no interest in "aging gracefully."

 

11. "Shut Up and Dance"

From: Get a Grip

Tyler and Perry cowrote "Shut Up and Dance" with Tommy Shaw and Jack Blades, resulting in a slick slab of raunchy pop-metal. The song coasts on a blunt-force groove, fiery guitar work and some gleefully ridiculous lyrics ("When you're splittin' hairs with Mr. Clean / It's like gettin' head from a guillotine"). Bonus points for appearing in Wayne's World II.

 

10. "Fever"

From: Get a Grip

What greater symbol of validation in the mid-'90s than having your song covered by Garth Brooks? With a breakneck tempo and relentless riffs, "Fever" is one of the hardest rockers on Get a Grip, but its blustery harmonica and bucking-bronco energy reveal its country DNA. And lest anybody think Tyler was mellowing out in his middle age, "Fever" includes the hall-of-fame lyric: "The buzz that you be gettin' from the crack don't last / I'd rather be O.D.in' on the crack of her ass."

 

9. "Get a Grip"

From: Get a Grip

Aerosmith gets back in touch (sorta) with their '70s hard rock roots on Get a Grip's title track, a groovy raunch-rocker that's dripping with attitude. Joey Kramer lays down a martial beat, while Tyler's tight, braggadocious raps recall the unrepentant sleaze of "Walk This Way." The distorted guitar squalls in the song's middle are a refreshing change of pace from the album's more studious moments.

 

8. "Cryin'"

From: Get a Grip

"Cryin'" wastes no time with subtlety. It opens at a "10" with a gigantic horn arrangement and slams listeners with one lighter-waving hook after another. Tyler sings with such larynx-shredding conviction that it sounds like his head might pop off his neck. It's peak pop-rock melodrama and the quintessential comeback-era Aerosmith ballad (if not the best).

 

7. "Something's Gotta Give"

From: Nine Lives

Aerosmith caught a lot of flak from purists in the '90s for "selling out," but Nine Lives is far weirder and heavier than most fans give it credit for. Case in point: "Something's Gotta Give," a walloping rocker full of grimy guitar and bluesy harmonica riffs. The drums hit like a freight train, and Tyler's call-and-response vocals are seductively catchy. The chorus lyric — "Does the noise in my head bother you?" — even provided the title for the singer's 2011 memoir.

 

6. "Crash"

From: Nine Lives

Hands-down one of the heaviest songs Aerosmith ever wrote, "Crash" is a full-throttle thrasher boasting some of Tyler's most deliriously nonsensical lyrics. "Doin' tons of colon blow / Stuffing it in every hole / Mile high and so am I / Watching Jimi kiss the sky." It only gets weirder from there. Coupled with a pair of scorching guitar solos, "Crash" is a high-speed middle finger to critics who accused Aerosmith of going soft.

 

5. "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing"

From: Armageddon: The Album

We know you're upset. We know this chart-topping, Diane Warren-penned ballad is anathema to old-school Aerosmith fans. But here's the thing: We don't care, because if you divorce "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" from Aerosmith's hell-raising past, it's a masterful pop song with one of Tyler's all-time greatest vocal performances. Just listen to the final chorus, where he wails, "'Cause even when I DREEEEAAAAMMMMMM of you." Nobody else could sell this song the same way.

 

4. "Nine Lives"

From: Nine Lives

Naming your album Nine Lives would have come off as total cliche in the hands of a lesser band, but it made perfect sense for a group of rock 'n' roll veterans like Aerosmith. The album opens with the defiant title track, full of blistering cat-in-heat screams from Tyler. Perry and Brad Whitford trade gut-punching riffs, and Kevin Shirley's raw production emphasizes the track's heaviness. When Tyler sings, "Nine lives, live for 10," you can't help but believe him.

 

3. "Crazy"

From: Get a Grip

Structurally, "Crazy" is practically a carbon copy of "Cryin'," right down to the five-letter title starting with the same two letters. Slotting them just one song apart on Get a Grip only emphasizes their similarities. But "Crazy" is the slightly more organic of the two, harking back to Aerosmith's blues-rock roots with Tyler's talk-singing verses and mournful harmonica flourishes. His falsetto vocalizing near the song's end is the icing on the beautifully melancholy cake.

 

2. "Eat the Rich"

From: Get a Grip

There's a palpable irony to Aerosmith, a band of multimillionaires, putting an anti-capitalist rock anthem on an album that sold 20 million copies worldwide. But "Eat the Rich" succeeds partly because of its tongue-in-cheek nature, and partly because no matter how many millions they made, Aerosmith was always a band of gutter-minded hedonists at heart. More importantly, the track boasts some of their most aggressive riffs and a King Kong-sized stomp. The climactic punchline — "So take your Grey Poupon my friend and shove it up your ass!" — has aged like fine wine.

 

1. "Ain't That a Bitch"

From: Nine Lives

In a more just world, "Ain't That a Bitch" would have been one of the biggest ballads of Aerosmith's career, as it puts most of their lovesick hits from the previous decade to shame. Smoky, soulful and tinged with after-hours regret, it's one of the rawest tracks from their post-comeback era. Tyler screams his heart out in one of his career-best performances; it's frankly offensive that he sounds this good pushing 50. The scat-singing outro is unlike anything else they'd ever done, and reminder that even when they worked with outside writers, their sound was still one of a kind.

Aerosmith Albums Ranked

Any worst-to-best ranking of Aerosmith must deal with two distinct eras: their sleazy '70s work and the slicker, more successful '80s comeback. But which one was better?

Gallery Credit: Ultimate Classic Rock Staff

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