Home Music Music Lists

Readers’ Poll: The Best Smashing Pumpkins Songs

Your picks include ‘Starla,’ ‘Today,’ ‘1979’ and ‘Soma’

smashing pumpkins

Jim Dyson/Getty Images

The Smashing Pumpkins release Oceania, their first full-length album since 2007, next week. The record is the latest entry in the band's sprawling discography, which includes everything from double-disc epics and rarities box sets to concept albums, EPs and assorted free MP3s. We asked you to name your favorite Pumpkins songs, and the response was so overwhelming and varied that instead of the usual Top 10 list for readers' poll results, we're expanding this week's results to a Top 20. Click through to see your picks, and listen to our Spotify playlist below.

– By Matthew Perpetua

Play video

20. ‘Starla’

"Starla" started off relegated to B-side status very early in the band's career, but over the course of the past two decades, it has gone on to a setlist staple and fan favorite. The song is Billy Corgan's first true epic, building from a slow, meditative ballad to an extended instrumental outro with blaring, intensely emotional solos.

Play video

19. ‘Set the Ray to Jerry’

Billy Corgan was at his peak during the Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness era, turning out so many excellent songs that plenty of top-shelf tunes had to be cut from the 28-track double album. "Set the Ray to Jerry" is the best of the Mellon Collie outtakes, but it's understandable why it didn't make the cut. It's gorgeous and has an excellent bass groove, but its tone is a bit too subtle and ambiguous for Mellon Collie, a record that goes at full blast even on the quietest numbers.

Play video

18. ‘Rhinoceros’

"Rhinoceros" is the jewel of the Gish era, an expansive psychedelic rocker that gracefully transitions from a delicate, feminine tone to a colossal riff at its climax.

Play video

17. ‘Muzzle’

Billy Corgan essentially explains his motivations as a songwriter in this anthemic cut from Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, confessing to a fear of being ordinary in the opening verse before confiding in the listener that all the words in his songs have been written "for the girl I've loved all along."

Play video

16. ‘Thirty-Three’

Though "Thirty-Three" was the fifth single from Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, it was never an obvious hit. The song, one of Billy Corgan's most graceful and haunting ballads, was far too soft and delicate to fit in with anything on rock radio at the time, but the band was able to get it on the air anyway since they were coming off four consecutive smash hits.

Play video

15. ‘Ava Adore’

"Ava Adore" is a bit more rocking than most of the tracks on the dark, atmospheric Adore, but its blend of sinister vibes and raw sensuality cut to the core of that record's aesthetic. As you can tell by watching this clip, the Pumpkins take the song to a much heavier place when it's performed in concert.

Play video

14. ‘Porcelina of the Vast Oceans’

There are a handful of epic tracks on Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, but none of them match the scope of "Porcelina of the Vast Oceans." The song takes its time before dropping its ecstatic main riff, over which Corgan sings "without a care in this whole world" with a degree of joy that rarely turns up on Pumpkins records.

Play video

13. ‘Geek USA’

"Geek USA," the centerpiece of Siamese Dream, is one of Corgan's more fierce rockers. The riffs are brilliant and the lyrics stand out as some of the very best of his career, but the song is ultimately a showcase for Jimmy Chamberlain's astonishing drumming, which seamlessly shifts from heavy hitting beats to light, jazzy fills.

Play video

12. ‘Zero’

"Zero" boasts one of Billy Corgan's most inspired and memorable riffs, but the song is too nimble and clever to linger on just one really cool part. The song has great momentum, zipping from one hook to the next like the joy-riding nihilist of its lyrics.

Play video

11. ‘Drown’

Billy Corgan was always an incredibly confident musician and songwriter, to the point that he was willing to put one of his very best songs, "Drown," on the soundtrack of the movie Singles rather than save it for Siamese Dream. The gamble paid off in his favor – plenty of grunge fans had their first exposure to the Smashing Pumpkins on that record.

Play video

10. ‘Thru the Eyes of Ruby’

"Porcelina of the Vast Oceans" is the joyful epic on the first disc of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, and "Thru the Eyes of Ruby" is its dark mirror on disc two, operating on the same epic scale but with a tone of melodramatic misery. It's romantic, too, framing Corgan's sorrow as a seductive force.

Play video

9. ‘Today’

The Smashing Pumpkins' breakthrough hit is built on a devastating bit of irony, as the seemingly cheerful hook "today is the greatest day I've ever known" frames lyrics contemplating failure and suicide. There's a sense of triumph over that intense misery by the end of the track, but it's very hard-won.

Play video

8. ‘Hummer’

"Hummer" was written after overcoming a period of crippling writers' block, so it makes sense that it sounds like a huge sigh of relief. The whole song feels like a glorious epiphany – there's a calm before the storm, a cathartic release and then, most beautifully, a gentle wind-down to true serenity.

Play video

7. ‘Bullet with Butterfly Wings’

The Smashing Pumpkins' most famous song is as over-the-top as Nineties rock gets, with grim verses leading to a ridiculously bombastic chorus ("Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage"). In retrospect, it's sort of amazing that a song this crazy and extreme managed to become one of the biggest hits of the year. It was a different time!

Play video

6. ‘Tonight, Tonight’

"Tonight, Tonight" is one of Corgan's most optimistic songs, a pep talk about refusing to give in to cynicism set to a grandiose string arrangement. "We'll crucify the insincere tonight," he sings, sounding like some kind of rock superhero.

Play video

5. ‘Disarm’

There are several variations on "Disarm" – the string arrangement on Siamese Dream, stripped-down versions, a heavy metal version – but no matter how Corgan plays it, his deep sorrow as he reflects on childhood trauma is always potent and devastating.

Play video

4. ‘Soma’

"Soma," the ballad at the center of Siamese Dream, is one of Billy Corgan's most graceful compositions, gliding between slow, gorgeous instrumental parts, stately verses and a gut-punching chorus as he belts out "I'm all by myself as I've always felt."

Play video

3. ‘Cherub Rock’

"Cherub Rock" is one of the best album openers of all time, kicking off Siamese Dream with a series of escalating riffs that build a whole world before Corgan even begins singing the first verse. The song, a brutal takedown of phonies and hipsters, somehow seems more relevant today than it did back in the early Nineties.

Play video

2. ‘1979’

"1979" is Corgan's most wistful pop hit, a mid-tempo tune that looks back on the aimless fun of adolescence with a touch of melancholy and longing. Funny enough, many of the teens who obsessed over this song upon its release in 1995 were born in 1979.

Play video

1. ‘Mayonaise’

"Mayonaise" – yes, it is officially spelled incorrectly, deal with it – won this poll by a significant margin. It's easy to understand why. The melody is straight-up lovely, and Billy Corgan achieves a balance of distinct noise and traditionally beautiful guitar playing in this song unmatched by anything else in his catalog. In some ways, it's the ultimate Smashing Pumpkins song.

Show Comments