Smells Like Teen Spirit (5:00)

Cover of Nevermind

From Nevermind and 343 other releases

Frequently cited as one of the most important songs in the history of rock music, Nirvana’s 1991 single “Smells Like Teen Spirit” almost single handedly popularized alternative rock and simultaneously brought the era of hair metal and pop metal to an end.

Often cited as an anthem for Generation X, the chord progression for this song is strikingly similar to that of More Than a Feeling by Boston, a fact which Kurt Cobain openly acknowledged.

Kurt Cobain said that this song was an attempt to write a song in the style of alternative rock band Pixies, which he was a devotee of. This song features characteristic “Pixies dynamics”, in that it alternates between soft, quiet sections (in the verses) and loud, heavy sections (in the chorus). Kathleen Hanna, the lead singer of the group Bikini Kill, gave Cobain the idea for the title when she spray painted “Kurt Smells Like Teen Spirit” on his bedroom wall after a night of drinking and spraying graffiti around the Seattle area. In his pre-Courtney Love days, Cobain went out with Bikini Kill lead singer Tobi Vail, but she dumped him. Vail wore Teen Spirit deodorant, and Hanna was implying that Cobain was marked with her scent.Cobain didn’t know it when he wrote the song, but Teen Spirit is a brand of deodorant marketed to young girls. Kurt thought Hanna was complimenting him on his rebellious spirit.


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