Rock News

Rock News

Rock News

The “Unplugged” trend was all the rage in the ‘90s thanks to MTV Unplugged, which featured some of music’s biggest names going acoustic.

The series aired on a regular basis from 1989-1999. From 2000-2009, the show was billed as MTV Unplugged No. 2.0 and aired less frequently. There have only been limited Unplugged specials that have aired since 2009.

The very first episode of MTV Unplugged featured Squeeze, Syd Straw and Elliot Easton. In the years that followed, some of the biggest names in music took to the Unplugged stage to wow fans with their stripped-down performance. These artists included Aerosmith, Elton John, Paul McCartney, R.E.M. Eric Clapton, Nirvana, Annie Lennox and more. (Frankly, that small list of artists doesn’t even scratch the surface of some of the icons that went “Unplugged.”)


MTV Unplugged performances were often released as albums. Including recordings from MTV Brasil, there have been over 100 MTV Unplugged albums released from 1991-2020.

The ’90s truly saw a boom of artists taking part in the show. On top of that, many of the albums released from MTV Unplugged episodes went on to be platinum hits. Among the artists to score a platinum album from their MTV Unplugged performances include Mariah Carey, Tony Bennett, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, Shakira, Lauryn Hill and more. Carey even had a No. 1 hit from her special thanks to her cover of The Jackson 5’s “I’ll Be There.”

Additionally, the show received a Peabody Award in 1994. In a synopsis about why the series earned the honor, the Peabody Awards noted, “‘MTV Unplugged’ has brought the unique talents of some of our finest contemporary artists to center stage. Recordings of these sessions have become influential in their own right.”

With all of this in mind, here’s our list of 10 unplugged albums everyone should own.

  • Nirvana - ‘MTV Unplugged in New York’ (1994)

    Recorded just five months before the untimely passing of Kurt Cobain, Nirvana’s performance would later be released as the live LP MTV Unplugged in New York.  It was Nirvana’s first release following Cobain’s death, and it would go on to win the Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album.

  • Alice In Chains - ‘MTV Unplugged’ (1996)

    Equal parts extraordinary and bitter-sweet, AIC’s 1996 performance on MTV Unplugged was the band’s first performance together in over two years due to Layne Staley’s issues with drug abuse.  It would also be one of the band’s last high-profile gigs with Staley. In spite of that and Jerry Cantrell famously battling food poisoning, AIC’s set served as a reminder of why they were the first band to really break out of the fruitful Seattle music scene. 

  • Rod Stewart - ‘Unplugged...and Seated’ (1993)

    Stewart’s appearance on MTV Unplugged also featured former Faces bandmate Ronnie Wood and marked the first time in about two decades they shared the stage together. The album features unplugged versions of some of Stewart’s biggest hits, including “Hot Legs” and “Maggie May.” The LP also features moving covers of Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready” and Van Morrison’s “Have I Told You Lately.”


  • Eric Clapton - ‘Unplugged’ (1992)

    Clapton’s Unplugged was a massive commercial and critical success. The LP won three Grammy Awards in 1993: Best Male Rock Vocal Performance, Best Rock Song for the acoustic version of “Layla and Album of the Year. Clapton’s Unplugged has sold a whopping 26 million copies worldwide. Of course, we’d be remiss in not mentioning the Unplugged version of “Tears in Heaven,” which remains devastatingly moving to this day.


  • Page and Plant - ‘No Quarter: Jimmy Page & Robert Plant Unledded’ (1994)

    No Quarter was a 90-minute special for MTV featuring a reunited Robert Plant and Jimmy Page. While there were some electric elements, this performance also received some extra oomph thanks to string and orchestra musicians local to Morocco, Wales and London where the special had been recorded. A number of Led Zeppelin tunes made up the tracklisting including “Kashmir,” “The Battle of Evermore” and “That’s The Way.” 


  • Pearl Jam - ‘MTV Unplugged’ (2020)

    Pearl Jam simply crushes it in this set from March 1992, about seven months after the release of Pearl Jam’s debut album Ten. The band’s Unplugged set would finally get an official release as part of Record Store Day in 2019.


  • KISS - ‘KISS Unplugged’ (1996)

    KISS’ 1995 appearance on Unplugged featured the four original band members on stage together for the first time since the late ’70s. It was so popular that it led to KISS’ famed 1996 reunion tour.

  • Bob Dylan - ‘MTV Unplugged’ (1995)

    The iconic singer-songwriter recorded his performance for MTV Unplugged in November 1994. The album release of the performance came out in May 1995 and featured some of Dylan’s biggest songs including “The Times They Are a-Changin’.”

  • Neil Young - ‘Unplugged’ (1993)

    Recorded in February 1993 and released just four months later, Young’s Unplugged set also featured some of his most classic tunes. Among them were “Harvest Moon” and “The Needle and the Damage Done.”

  • Paul McCartney - ‘Unplugged (The Official Bootleg)’ (1991)

    Fun fact about Sir Paul’s appearance on Unplugged: It was completely unplugged.  Most other performances featured artists playing acoustically with the help of amps. It was also one of the first performances in the show’s history.


Sign me up for the MMR VIP email newsletter!

Get the good stuff sent straight to your inbox, and be the first to know: concert presales, exclusive contests, and behind the scenes photos and video.

By clicking "Subscribe" I agree to the website's terms of Service and Privacy Policy. I understand I can unsubscribe at any time.