“Smells like Teen Spirit” by Kurt Cobain Essay Example

Performing this literature research project, we would like to consider such a well-known song as “Smells like Teen Spirit” written by Kurt Cobain, the leader of the legendary American band “Nirvana.” We decided to choose this song since it has become the anthem of the X-generation. The unexpected success and popularity of this song allowed the album “Nevermind” to occupy the first place in the charts in the early 1992. This song has become the first and one of the most popular Nirvana’s hits. It achieved the 6th place in the list of the Billboard Hot 100 and occupied the 9th position in “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.” This song received two premiums on the MTV Music Awards for its clip. After more than 20 years, it remains one of the greatest songs ever.

In the name of the song, Kurt Cobain immortalized the famous deodorant “Teen Spirit” of Mennen, without receiving a penny from it. Moreover, it happened quite by accident. One day, his friend Kathleen Hanna wrote on the wall of the Kurt’s house the phrase “Kurt smells like teen spirit” bearing in mind that Cobain smells by deodorant of his girlfriend. However, Cobain took her words literally since he had no idea about this brand. He loved the rebellious connotations of expression, and he used it in this song. According to the leader of Nirvana, he wrote “Smells like Teen Spirit” trying to write a very pop song in the spirit of the Pixies, a group that he really liked. In the initial version of the song, it consisted of a guitar riff and vocal chorus. The other members of the group did not like the creation, but Kurt insisted them to work on it. As a result of one and half hours of the joint efforts, there has been created the final version of “Smells like Teen Spirit.”

The song is often considered as a teenage anthem, and Cobain has said that it is about his comrades. He stressed, “We still feel as if we’re teenagers because we don’t follow the guidelines of what’s expected of us to be adults. It also has kind of a teen revolutionary theme” (Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit). Later, Kurt asserted that he wanted to describe how he perceived his environment, the generation and people of his age. He also claimed, “The entire song is made up of contradictory ideas. It’s just making fun of the thought of having a revolution. But it’s a nice thought” (“Nirvana – “Smells like Teen Spirit”).

Music critics and fans of the band Nirvana tried to find other interpretations of “Smells like Teen Spirit.” Dave Grohl has even stated that he did not believe in the existence of some kind of meaning in it since Kurt often wrote the lyrics for a few minutes, picking up good rhymes and filling the gaps with more or less appropriate words. In general, people who write about music professionally receive payment for finding something interesting in the well-known songs, and the fans are ready to take any crazy idea, if they like it.

“Smells like Teen Spirit” was chosen the first track and the main single of the album “Nevermind.” Suddenly for Cobain and his colleagues, the song became super popular. As it was expected, the wildly popular song made the deodorant “Teen Spirit” the sales’ leader in its segment. Currently, one of the antiperspirants by Lady Speed Stick is called “Teen Spirit.” The video for the song was created by director Samuel Bayer, who was inspired by the Jonathan Kaplan’s movie Over the Edge and Rock ‘n’ Roll High School by Alan Arkusha. The video was awarded with two awards at the MTV Video Music Awards in 1992, and later channel VH1 chose it fourth in the list of the 100 greatest videos. When Kurt Cobain firstly showed this song to his colleagues, it consisted of a guitar riff and chorus melody only, which was characterized “ridiculous” by Nirvana’s bassist Krist Novoselic. Then, Cobain forced the band to play the riff one hour and a half. In an interview of 2001, Novoselic remembered that, playing a riff, he thought that it would be cool to play it a little slower. As a result, all three members of Nirvana were the authors of the song.

Kurt Cobain admitted that the riff from “Smells like Teen Spirit” was an unconscious borrowing from the Boston’s hit “More Than a Feeling.” During one of the concerts, Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic performed the chorus “More than a Feeling.” Only one thing is not clear about the song: it is why it was called so. Generally, the name is not mentioned in the song’s text. Also, the title does not concern to the text. The answer is quite simple. Bands, playing grunge and alternative rock songs, often give names, which have nothing in common with the text of the song. “Smells like Teen Spirit” is not the single song by Nirvana, when the song’s name is not related to its text.

In order to realize the sense of this song, it would be reasonable to decipher every line of it. The first line is “Load up on guns and bring your friends,” where the sense is quite banal: take drugs, booze and move with one’s friends at a party. The next one is “It’s fun to lose and to pretend” (“Nirvana Lyrics”). For example, when a person is loaded with booze and dope, it seems, he or she loses itself and becomes someone else, i.e. he is pretending, forgetting about reality, and relaxing. That is why, Kurt is singing that it is fun, but it is not.
“She’s over-bored and self-assured” (“Nirvana Lyrics”). Here, the author, probably, has had in mind his girlfriend, who also came at the party, but she is bored, she is too boring and self-confidence to deal with all these tricks and teenage things. Additionally, maybe, the face of this “girlfriend” means the representatives of the other, the older generation who has already burned this spirit of teenage rebellion and fun, they just “grew up” and look at these things with condescension.

In the following line “Oh no, I know a dirty word,” the author could have wanted to show that he does not care about the opinion of “senior” in the face of his girlfriend (“Nirvana Lyrics”). This line does not sound like “I know a dirty word,” but “I do not care everything.” It is not strange. When a person is drunk, from one’s point of view, everything does not matter.
The next line “Hello, hello, hello, how low?” could have been transformed to the next one “Hello, hello, hello, why are you so upset?” (“Nirvana Lyrics”). It is a question to adults, i.e. “We are here making merry and why are you sad?”

The line “With the lights out it’s less dangerous” means that dark is the friend of youth (“Nirvana Lyrics”). As it is known, teenagers like when it is dark, night, and all like that. The next line “Here we are now, entertain us,” probably, means that adolescents came at the party and required the entertainment. “I feel stupid and contagious” (“Nirvana Lyrics”). Here, the author may have in mind, “I am not smart enough just to drink as much stuff, or just not as smart compared to other older people.” Using the word “contagious,” the author, probably, means teenage contagious “disease” (drugs, booze) transmitted to all (through friends) who do not have a certain moral immunity against it.
The line “A mulatto, an albino, a mosquito, my libido” can be translated as to another one “brunette, blonde, cocaine, sex” using slang and metaphors (“Nirvana Lyrics”).
The next line “I’m worse at what I do best” is quite simple to understand since, for example, a person knows something (no matter what) and does one’s best from own point of view, but there is always someone who does it better than this individual (“Nirvana Lyrics”).

The line “And for this gift I feel blessed” is quite understandable. In the line “Our little group has always been and always will until the end” Kurt Cobain, probably, had in mind the group Nirvana because it is small (“Nirvana Lyrics”). As it is known, the band with the same name existed prior to Kurt’s appearance. Also, Nirvana will always exist in the hearts of fans.
The line “And I forget just why I taste, oh yeah, I guess it makes me smile” means that under extreme degree of intoxication, the author could have forgotten why he tried drugs, but it does not matter to him since he now smiles for ten persons (“Nirvana Lyrics”).

The line “I found it hard, it’s hard to find” is quite understandable as drugs are really hard to find, and besides they are not cheap (“Nirvana Lyrics”). However, after such thoughts, the author says to himself “Oh well, whatever, nevermind.” The last line included in the song’s text is “A denial” (9 times) (“Nirvana Lyrics”). It means rejection of anything: maybe, the author was at the first good idea about the booze and drugs, and suddenly changed his position, and also requested all others to refuse this. Finally, this song tells the story about a simple teenage party. All words are said with irony, and it is really silly, and it is better abandon this way of life. This is my personal understanding of this song.

In this part of research, we would like to create a story in order to show the consequences of Nirvana’s existence and its effect on the new generations. The story was 19 years ago after the Kurt Cobain’s death. There were three good friends – Brandon, Dylan, and Steve. Brandon and Steve were friends from childhood since they studied at the same school. Dylan was 4 years younger than other guys. They liked the band Nirvana and its songs, and once they decided to organize the tribute party dedicated to Nirvana. It was quite difficult to earn money organizing such a party, and they did not want it. Firstly, they wanted to make such party in order to pay tribute to the legendary group. That is why, they did not expect big benefits; rather they wanted to have Nirvana party for themselves since such occasions were quite rare.

Thus, the decision was made, but the process of organizing stopped at the stage of discussion. Fortunately, their common friend Ann, who knew a lot of local rock bands, organized the meeting with the leader of one small band. Brandon and Steve were quite satisfied because they thought it was a great success. They hasted to make an agreement with this small local band Game regarding the group’s performance at their party. The date of performance and payment were fixed at that meeting. Game’s leader Randy advised them the great club for organizing this celebration.

The next day, Brandon and Steve went to the administrator of that club to deal about all details of potential party. They told to administrator Dave, “We want to organize the tribute Nirvana party, and we have already dealt with such rock band as Game.” However, Dave was quite unsatisfied by such choice and he told them, “If you want to do it badly, it would be better not to organize it at all.” According to Dave’s words, Game is a bad band and their vocal does have voice neither vocal nor hearing. Also, he advised them two other bands, which are able to perform Nirvana’s covers in the best possible way since some Nirvana’s song are already included into their cover program. As a result, friends should refuse from the collaboration with the Game. Brandon was the most straightforward, and he told the Game’s leader all things said by the club’s administrator Dave. He told Randy that Dave does not want to confirm the Game’s performance at his club. There were a lot of resentment between Game’s leader Randy and Brandon. Nevertheless, the friend did not have a choice and, thus, they agreed with Dave’s proposals and invited the recommended bands. Unexpectedly for friends, the payment for the new band’s performance was less than the Game required despite the promoted high quality of new bands.

In the evening on the day before the party, Brandon and Steve raged, and the party was doubtful. The quarrel was so significant that Brandon thought they would never speak again. However, the next day, Brandon decided to perform his commitment and make the movie of the different Nirvana’s concerts. Dylan helped him, and they made the movie till the deadline, when they should go to the party, but the movie was not saved yet. Hence, they saved the movie in the bus during the movement from home to the club. The movie was saved at the last moment. Notwithstanding the difficulties in the process of preparing and organizing the party, it was great. There were about 180 people who love Nirvana’s songs. It is a very big number of similar tribute parties. Dylan was an announcer at the party: he declared the bands and conducted the different competitions.

Therefore, the party was done very well and Brandon and Steve reconciled. The bands and audience were quite satisfied. Of course, all people who were at the party made merry, but without drugs. They drank beer, but were fun because people were able to hear their favorite songs in live performance of great local bands. We provide this story to show that teenagers can be happy without booze and drugs. The happiness was quite close, and it often was where we do not expect to see it. Furthermore, we wanted to emphasize the popularity of the band, which ceased to exist in 1994. Before the party, all friends thought that the potential audience was consisted of the people of their age, but they had been wrong. There were a lot of young people, which were born after Kurt Cobain’s death.

In the above story, we used six characters such as three friends Brandon, Steve, and Dylan, club’s administrator Dave, the Game’s leader Randy, and Ann who organized the meeting between Randy and friends. We would like to consider such character as Brandon in details since he was one of three organizers of the party. According to the task’s description, we should list at least three characteristic traits of the main character. Brandon has such features as emotionality, straightness, and responsibility. Brandon is emotional as the day before the party he raged with Steve. He is also rectilinear because he told the Game’s leader randy all bad things said by the club’s administrator Dave. However, he is responsible, as well: despite the quarrel, he decided to finish his commitment and make the movie.

In addition, we would like to describe settings used in the story. First of all, the story’s events were after 19 years of Kurt Cobain’s death and, that is why, we would like to show the contribution of this amazing band in the further music development. Even though much time passed, there are a lot of fans, which still love the band’s music. It means that Nirvana’s songs are great hits checked by the time. Besides, story’s events were in the small town from another country. Consequently, the band is popular not only in the USA, but also in other countries worldwide.

Moreover, we used symbolism in the story such as tribute ban’s party. This symbol means all people who stayed as Nirvana’s fans despite the time. Quarrel between the friends, saving movie during the movement from home to the club is the example of difficulties, which will always be. However, we should overcome these obstacles if we want to achieve results. Also, the party symbolizes the way of having fun without drugs.

What is more, we used the point of view from the third person since perspective is able to describe events without any prejudices. We would like to show the possible ways of entertaining without any substances harmful to health. People are able to have fun just by listening to the favorite songs. We wanted to emphasize as well the contribution the legendary band made in people’s life and music development in general.

The style of writing is quite descriptive: we describe the events in the process of preparing and organizing the Nirvana party. We did not use irony in the story, but we applied a lot of other tools. The tone of writing is quite calm.

To conclude, we considered such well-known song as “Smells like Teen Spirit” written by American band Nirvana. In addition, we researched many facts about this famous song. We created the story about organizing the Nirvana party by three friends, which love its music a lot. We wanted to demonstrate the popularity and legendary of this band, as well as possible ways of making fun without any harmful to health substances.

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