Nu-metal may have given us some essential albums, but at its core, it was a singles game, driven skyward by radio and MTV. Regardless of what you think of bands like P.O.D. or Papa Roach, for instance, it's hard to deny the infectious hooks of once-ubiquitous smash hits like "Alive" and "Last Resort." So what is the movement's single greatest song? We posed this daunting question to you, and you hit social media with nominations both obvious (Korn's "Freak on a Leash") and obscure (Primer 55's "Loose"). Below are the ranked results.
Mudvayne's debut single "Dig" came at the height of the nu-metal craze and quickly solidified the band's status as one of the most extreme among their peers. The wacky, brightly lit video contrasted starkly with the darker images being utilized by genre stalwarts like Korn and Deftones, and the song's funky bass lines gave the band a sound more in line with Primus than Slipknot. The group's clownish face paint certainly aligned them with the latter, and Mudvayne stands today as one of the easiest to mock yet most enduringly popular acts to emerge from the turn-of-the-century fascination with everything nu.
"Wait and Bleed" is the sonic equivalent of a radio spontaneously combusting. The beauty of Slipknot throwing nine members on a single track is the resulting dense, manic sound, spanning rock, metal, pop and hip-hop in a percussion-heavy approach that few others can attempt. The best thing about the song is just how heavy it gets (at least in the single's non–radio edit version) without sacrificing its irresistible hook. Indeed, few vocalists can scream melodically like Corey Taylor can.
While the Deftones have plenty of material for fans of atmospheric, shoegazing art-rock, the band fucking kills it when it comes to writing the heavy shit. "My Own Summer" features what's maybe the best riff nu-metal has ever produced, yet it's a legitimately strange, schizophrenic track, and beguilingly so. Moody yet massive, at turns whispery and lacerating, it serves as a microcosm of all that's great about the band.
Korn's "Blind" clocks in at No. 1 not only because it's a serious banger, but because it also basically kick-started the nu-metal revolution that arose as the overtly testosterone-driven metal world was decomposing into a bloated corpse of a joke. Jonathan Davis' vocal sensitivity and the band's overt hip-hop influences helped revitalize a genre, and "Blind" is ground zero.