Ranking the 10 Best 'MTV Unplugged' Performances of All Time

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For those who consider themselves a 90s kid or an 80s kid, this list of the best MTV Unplugged performances is for you. Stepping into a world without amplification, MTV Unplugged gifted us with intimate performances from some of the biggest artists in the music industry. It's an opportunity to experience some of your favorite music like never before, as artists do what they do best in an acoustic setting. Here, we’re ranking the top 10 performances that have truly stood out in the MTV Unplugged series. Grab your headphones and let's get going.

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10. Eric Clapton

Year of Performance: 1992

Eric Clapton’s performance was a masterclass in emotional blues. His rendition of "Tears in Heaven," a tribute to his late son, is a raw and moving performance that will forever be etched in the annals of music history.

9. LL Cool J

Year of Performance: 1991

In one of the absolute best MTV Unplugged episodes, LL Cool J brought the house down with his groundbreaking performance. His adaptation of "Mama Said Knock You Out" to the acoustic setting showed his versatility and just how boundary-pushing rap could be.

8. Mariah Carey

Year of Performance: 1992

Mariah Carey's Unplugged performance was a testament to her exceptional vocal range and ability to convey deep emotion. Her cover of The Jackson 5’s “I’ll Be There” showcased her as an artist beyond her years.

7. Bruce Springsteen

Year of Performance: 1992

"The Boss" served us a buffet of his biggest hits, all stripped back. His rendition of "Thunder Road" was a standout, with a slowed-down, introspective version that hit hard in the feels.

6. Pearl Jam

Year of Performance: 1992

With this performance, Pearl Jam revealed the depth of their artistry, bringing a vulnerability to hits like "Black" and "Jeremy" that amplified their impact.

5. Alicia Keys

Year of Performance: 2005

Alicia Keys' Unplugged performance highlighted her dynamic skills as a performer. Her duet with Adam Levine on "Wild Horses" was a highlight of the show, showing the strength of her vocals and her incredible talent on the piano.

4. Jay-Z

Year of Performance: 2001

Jay-Z's Unplugged session was a game-changer, proving that even hip hop could translate beautifully in an acoustic setting. Joined by The Roots, Hov's reimagining of "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)," "Don't You Know," and "Hard Knock Life" still reverberate.

3. Shakira

Year of Performance: 1999

Shakira's Unplugged performance was a mesmerizing blend of pop, rock, and traditional Latin sounds. The captivating performance of "Ojos Así" remains one of the most powerful in the show's history.

2. Alanis Morissette

Year of Performance: 1999

Alanis Morissette's intense and passionate performance showcased her raw talent. Her acoustic version of "Ironic" conveyed her deep-rooted emotions and storytelling prowess.

1. Nirvana

Year of Performance: 1993

When it comes to the best MTV Unplugged performances, Nirvana's Unplugged session is arguably the most iconic of all time. Kurt Cobain's incredible vocals on "The Man Who Sold The World" and "All Apologies," accompanied by the band's stripped-down grunge sound, created an unforgettable experience that still resonates today.

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