An umbrella term used to describe a style of music that emerged in the late 80's and early 90's. Alternative Rock is usually characterized by bands who have a "do-it-yourself" or non-conformist attitude; hence "alternative".

It originated with the jangle pop guitar sounds of R.E.M. and the loud/soft dynamic of the Pixies and gained popularity when Nirvana brought it into the mainstream with their album Nevermind. Ironically, it became probably the most popular music of the time period, which was a paradox of sorts in itself -- although purposely anti-mainstream and "against the norm", it became commonplace for people to conform to non-conformity.

Today, the term is often thrown around by people who don't really understand what it means and think that it can be applied to any band of their choosing. This is not true -- for a band to be truly Alternative, they have to follow the Alternative mindset; that is, they must either perform in a style of Alternative Rock already established (see Grunge or Britpop) or be avant-garde and completely throw what it considered usual or average out the window.

The name is often wrongly associated with "Modern Rock". This is wrong because whereas Alternative Rock is a genre and follows a specific style, Modern Rock is a radio format and simply refers recent bands.

Note: discrepancies with categorizing bands as "Alternative Rock" come from the fact that most Alternative bands fit easily into an Alternative Rock subgenre (Nirvana - Grunge, Modest Mouse - Indie) and can be classified as either the subgenre or "Alternative Rock" in general; if a band covers more than one style instead of sticking to one in particular, they are usually just called "Alternative Rock".
It was ironic that Alternative Rock became as popular as it did, considering its entire purpose was to be the opposite of what everyone wanted to hear.
by Username is taken July 10, 2008
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A genre of music containing many different styles of rock. It began with punk, but contains many other sub-sub-genres, like electronic, folk rock, grunge, etc. It is known to be less popular than mainstream music and always has been. Many alternative acts make a few hit singles on pop charts though.
REM was the first true alternative rock band. There are tons of great ones now, like the Killers and Jack White
by funwillfunwill June 14, 2015
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Alternative Rock is a genre of rock 'n roll that was developed during the 80's, but became popular in the 90's. Early Alt-Rock artists include the Pixies and the Violent Femmes, as well as early proto-Grunge artists like the Melvins and Green River. Alternative Rock did no make much commercial success until Nirvana's release of Nevermind, which not only broke out in the Grunge movement with Stone Temple Pilots, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and Hole, but also the Indie-Alternative scene for acts like Oasis, Dinosaur Jr, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Green Day, Rage Against the Machine, and the White Stripes, Radiohead, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Coldplay (from the Britpop, Indie, LA, Garage rock, and Art Rock movements respectively). Today, because of the death of Grunge, Indie-Alternative and Pop music have fought over the airwaves for the New Millenium, with the rise of Boy Bands and Pop Princesses, to the Indie-Pop acts of Franz Ferdinand and Hive. More recently, 'Powerpop' and Pop-Punk acts like All American Rejects, Fall Out Boy, and new Green Day have been at the forefront of Pop music, while groups like Kings of Leon, the Foo Fighters, and Modest Mouse have stood on the side of Art Rock, Modern Rock, and Indie Rock, all subgenres of Alternative.
Nirvana was grunge, Modest Mouse is indie, and Oasis is Britpop, but all are Alternative Rock. Much of Alt-Rock has been influenced by the Punk music of the late 70's, but not all Alternative rock falls under Punk Music, nor does much Punk fall under Alternative.
by Maxsta211 June 16, 2009
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Music usually influenced by punk, grudge, goth, indie, as well as classic rock. Sometimes called Modern Rock. It’s not designed specifically to be popular, usually doesn’t include any synthesizers or mixed music, and is usually less “harsh” than what one would classify as Hard Rock.

The label “Alternative” often applies to new music/bands before they become more widely popular due to creative people whose music does not fit into current genres.
Examples of Alternative Rock Bands: Interpol, NIN, Queens of the Stone Age, Beck, Audioslave, Garbage, The Mars Volta, Green Day, Weezer, Hot Hot Heat, The Killers, Coldplay, The White Stripes, Gorillaz, DMB, Modest Mouse, Moby, Chemical Brothers, Franz Ferdinand.
by devious69grl May 11, 2005
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Also called Post-Grunge, Alternative Rock was a style that record labels and media embraced after the short lived but dominant Grunge movement by the Seattle four (Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Mother Love Bone/Pearl Jam). The very early and very heavily umfluenced are the only I would call post-grunge, such as: Stone Temple Pilots, Bush, Candlebox. Alternative Rock has become the most played music on modern rock stations and has in the last about 20 years has essentially with few exeptions has taken over the world of rock as it was once known. Like it or not it's all over the radio, and all over the stores.
(Rest in Peace: Layne Staley, Kurt Cobain, Mike Starr, and Andrew Wood. You were truly the inspiration of a generation along with: Jerry Cantrell, Chris Cornell, Eddie Vetter, and David Grohl who are still rocking.)
There are to many Alternative Rock bands to list but a few include: The Smashing Pumpkins, Foo Fighters, Staind, Queens of the Stone Age.
by fitzy123 January 23, 2012
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A musical genre that is basically a "grab-bag" of very different styles of Rock that because very popular in the mid-90's. The genre is totally useless. If you're going to put shit like Nickleback or (post 80's) Metallica into the same genre with great bands like Tool or Fuel, then why even bother catagorizing in the first place?
Mike: So what kinda' music do you like?
Fred: Mostly alternative rock stuff.
Mike: Oh, cool. So you like Local H and Tool too?
Fred: Actually, I was talking about Puddle of Mudd.
Mike: ... Fuck you.
by Phildo January 20, 2005
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A catch-all phrase categorizing whatever music dorky high school kids listen to despite the fact that alternative rock can be quite varied musically. For example, the Red Hot Chili Peppers sound much different than Disturbed, yet both may be considered alternative rock. On the other hand, Disturbed sounds exactly like 3 Days Grace and Nickelback.

As punk was defined more by an attitude and an ethos than a particular style of music, so is alternative rock. That ethos is bands joining together all over America to make bland, passionless insincere rock music with lyrics about depression and breakups to cash in on teenage angst and stupidity.
Listening to alternative rock past high school is good indicator of a mental disability
by djangoshootsfirst July 10, 2008
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