Courtney Love's 10 Top Songs

These are some of the best works from the outspoken, underrated artist

Love her or hate her, there's no doubt Courtney Love has earned her success as both a solo artist and as the lead singer/guitarist of the seminal '90s rock band Hole. Every fan has an opinion about which songs are her best, and we're no exception. Beyond the tabloid relationship with deceased husband Kurt Cobain of Nirvana, beyond her struggles with addiction, and beyond even her own brash public personality, Love has penned an impressive collection of music over the past three decades. Her signature growl and tough-cookie lyrics were idolized by droves of young women looking for an unconventional hero—and the work will hopefully inspire more generations to come. It’s no wonder Fender made a guitar model in her likeness—Courtney Love is the real deal when it comes to singing her pain. Here are our choices for her 10 best songs, whether produced with Hole or as a solo artist.

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"Drown Soda"

Courtney Love playing guitar on stage
Mick Hutson/ Redferns/ Getty Images

There is something deliciously dank about this one. The sinewy dirge even made an appearance on the "Tank Girl" soundtrack, which Love was asked to curate. The song complemented the comic-book adaptation in its dreary hopelessness. When Love cackles, “Just you wait till everyone is hooked!” listeners can't help but feel a “Soylent Green is people!” vibe. Eerie, but enticing.

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"Doll Parts"

With an acoustic guitar supporting her through most of this slow-burning tune, Love demonstrates rare vulnerability in a career built on ferocity. She veers from megalomania (“I want to be the girl with the most cake”) to emotional abandon (“Someday you will ache like I ache”) as she crafts one of the most searing feminist statements in rock and roll. These lyrics would decorate countless teenage notebooks and inspire young women everywhere to be open about their ambitions and insecurities.

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As the opening track to Hole’s breakthrough album, Live Through This, "Violet" is an all-out assault on the boys club of alternative rock. Those who thought she was riding the coattails of husband Kurt Cobain, were cut down to size with her vicious guitar licks and gut-wrenching lyrics. It is said the song takes to task 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 growls in the chorus. At this point, the world was Hole’s for the taking.

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"Celebrity Skin"

The title track to Hole’s 1998 album of the same name, "Celebrity Skin" is a trenchant comment on the dangers of celebrity culture, all the while masking as a blast of radio-friendly rock. Some credit the inclusion of new(er) bassist Melissa Auf der Maur for the more whimsical turn, although having Corgan on board as co-writer for five of the songs likely helped to craft a more accessible sound as well. Either way, it made for more mainstream success: This was Hole's—and Love's—only No. 1 single on Billboard's Modern Rock chart.

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Another "mellow" track from "Celebrity Skin" that hides a bite underneath its So Cal sugar-pop vibe. Co-written by Corgan, Hole guitarist Eric Erlandson, and Love, it's at once an ode to California’s idyllic beachside community and a plea to a lover not to "crash and burn." Some thought Love was referencing Cobain, but she denies it and says it was about one of her first boyfriends. While it didn't soar to No. 1, it did hit No. 3 on the Modern Rock chart and earned the group a Grammy nomination.

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"She Walks On Me"

“She Walks On Me,” from Live Through This, sprang like a hungry cougar upon an unsuspecting public. It's punk to the max, and its free-form feminist poetry rivals that of Patti Smith’s. Love includes herself among the outcast as she shouts: “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.

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"Miss World"

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 plummets into an alternative vortex that takes society to task for its impossible standards of beauty and behavior. Love's been quoted as saying about the piss-taking song, as well as the album's tongue-in-cheek cover, that she wanted to capture the hypocrisy inherent in seeking the limelight: “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!”

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America’s Sweetheart, Love’s first solo album, got a bum rap. Known more for the fact that the singer was high on drugs during much of its recording than for its material (and, indeed, Love's voice sounds not so much aged as damaged), the record nonetheless spawned some of the most cohesive and daring songs of her career. This was due in no small part to the assistance of hit-maker extraordinaire Linda Perry (also of the group 4 Non Blondes), as well as Love's ever-gripping lyrics. This is a love song? Okay, sure, but filtered through, well, Love's always-scathing vision.

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"Northern Star"

Eric Erlandson might have been the "token male" in Hole, but he was also in many ways its unsung hero. His gift for creating gutsy riffs, like the ones here, was genius. The tinny, stark acoustic arpeggios flittering about in "Northern Star” served as the emotional core of the album. 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 on record.

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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.