Saturday Songs and Stories

Can we talk about Nirvana for a second?

Kurt Cobain died when I was nine years old, in the fourth grade. By the time I got to middle school, Nirvana was still very much a thing, and though I had no idea what the song was, I heard Smells Like Teen Spirit a thousand times every year for the three years at Southwest Middle.

I think about Marcus, from About a Boy, and his attempts to understand why Ellie loves Kirk O’Bain.

I became more familiar with the song when Weird Al covered it. My friend Shelly told me, eons ago, that Nirvana was honored to be covered, and that they were surprised there was no mention of food. (This is in the food-heavy, early days of Mr. Yankovic, and before his policy of asking permission of/informing bands of impending parody.)

It is the best Weird Al parody, in my opinion.

This song is ingrained into Generation X, and we early Millennials. It lends itself to covers, like from the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain…

Smells like… you’re a teenager in love…

To mash-ups, like this one (notice the speed shift!)…

Destiny’s Child x Nirvana = Smells Like Bootylicious

to re-genrefication, like by Paul Anka…

On the album cut, he actually gets the lyrics correct.

I love this song, in all its forms. Is it interpretation or irony? Tribute or teardown? Where’s the line?

I was told I wasn’t cool enough to listen to Nirvana, which I believed, and still maybe do. But is it about being cool? I think not–look at how much fun Dave Grohl has, look at his passion. Is he passionate AND cool, or cool because he’s passionate, or in spite of it? What is hip, anyhow?

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