Top 10 Courtney Love Songs

The best works from the outspoken, underrated artist

Beyond the tabloid relationship with deceased husband Kurt Cobain of Nirvana, Courtney Love has penned an impressive collection of music over three decades that weaved, bobbed and clobbered. Her signature scream and tough-cookie lyrics are idolized by droves of young women looking for an unconventional hero. It’s no wonder Fender made a guitar model in her likeness— Courtney Love was the real deal when it came to singing her pain. Here are her 10 best songs— with her groundbreaking band, Hole, and solo.

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Mick Hutson/ Redferns/ Getty Images

There was something deliciously dank about this one. The sinewy dirge made an appearance on the Tank Girl soundtrack, curated by Courtney Love herself. The song complemented the comic-book adaptation in its dreary hopelessness. As Love cackled, “Just you wait till everyone is hooked!” the number gave off a dystopian “Soylent Green is people!” vibe. Eerie but enticing. More »

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DGC

With naught but an acoustic guitar supporting her through most of this slow-burning tune, Love demonstrated rare vulnerability in a career built on ferocity. She veered from megalomania (I want to be the girl with the most cake) to emotional abandon (“Someday you will ache like I ache”). These lyrics would decorate countless teenage notebooks and inspire young feminists to be open about their ambitions and insecurities. More »

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Geffen

The opening track to Hole’s breakthrough, Live Through This, was an all-out assault on the boys club of alternative rock. For those who thought she was riding the coattails of husband Kurt Cobain, she cut them down to size with a vicious guitar lick. Also taken to task by “Violet”: Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins, her former boyfriend, occasional music collaborator and continuous foil. “Go on, take everything! Take everything, I want you to,” Love growled in the tirade. At this point, the world was Hole’s for the taking. More »

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Geffen

The title track to Hole’s 1998 album was a blast of radio-friendly rock (well, minus the slut-shaming of Cinderella). Some credit the inclusion of new(er) bassist Melissa Auf der Maur for the more whimsical turn on Celebrity Skin. Whatever was the lighter-hearted element that steered Hole in the new direction, it made for more mainstream success— this was Love’s only number one Billboard Modern Rock entry. More »

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Geffen

Courtney Love, mellow? It might have seemed a shock in 1998 when the scream queen released this sugar-pop single. (Even bigger shocker? Corgan co-wrote it, alongside Love and Hole guitarist Eric Erlandson.) The ode to California’s idyllic beachside community became one of her biggest hits, peaking at number three on the Modern Rock charts and garnering a Grammy nomination. More »

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Geffen

Another deep cut from Live Through This, “She Walks on Me” sprang like a hungry cougar upon an unsuspecting public. It was punk to the max, and its free-form feminist poetry rivaled that of Patti Smith’s. Love rallied around the outcasts as she shouted: “Geeks do not have pedigrees or perfect punk rock resumes or anorexic magazines!” This blazing offering was a middle finger to beauty standards perpetuated by American media. More »

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Geffen

Love’s undermining of “normal” girlishness (thanks to her popularizing the kinderwhore look) came full circle with this taunting tune. With a classical-sounding intro, “Miss World” then plummeted into an alternative vortex full of diet pills, unnatural beauty enhancers and bubble-headed fragility. She’s been quoted as saying about the piss-taking song and the tongue-in-cheek cover of Live Through This: “I have hemorrhoid cream under my eyes and adhesive tape on my butt, and I had to scratch and claw and fuck my way up, but I won Miss Congeniality!” More »

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Virgin

America’s Sweetheart, Love’s only official solo album, got a bum rap. Known more for her inebriated state during the recording process than its material, the record spawned some of the most cohesive and daring songs of her career. This touching tune sounded a lot like latter-day Veruca Salt and perhaps a little like spitfire Avril Lavigne. The auteur challenged herself in the lyrics to write a real love song, and she succeeded. More »

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Geffen

The unsung hero of Hole really was Erlandson. To many, he was the “token man” in the female-heavy band, but his gift for creating gutsy riffs was genius. The tinny, stark acoustic arpeggios flittering about in "Northern Star” served as the emotional core of Celebrity Skin. Then came Patty Schemel's thundering, echoing drums and solemn violins. Erlandson had lit a bonfire in Love’s already quaking heart, prompting her to give one of her most awesome vocal performances in her catalog. More »

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Geffen
If Hole’s music prior to Celebrity Skin was made for moshing and tearing things up, the 1998 makeover was made for singing into hairbrushes. “Awful” is the cream of the palatable crop, all tasty major chords and words about candy-flavored boyfriends. But it’s not entirely innocent: Love warns teen girls not to get suckered in by the empty promises of leering men. It’s a bit of mall madness for a group that flourished in dirty rock clubs, but still, the pristine bubblegum of this track isn’t “awful” at all. More »