Our blog is called LifeAfterNirvana. My favorite group for the entirety of my formative junior high years was Nirvana. With the recent passing of the twentieth anniversary of the release of Nevermind, I feel like I have to say something about the record (this probably won’t end up being about the record at all!)
Everyone always says that any one of those songs could be a hit. It’s true really. If any of the copycat bands that arose post-Nirvana (Bush, Silverchair, that one that did “Sex and Candy”, Stone Temple Pilots…..) had written, say, “Drain You” or “On A Plain”, they would be more than simply post-Nirvana one-offs with singers who tried to mimic Kurt’s voice. Kurt’s voice was not a voice that could be mimicked, that’s why anyone who tries to do so fails. It’s a fact. I wish the same could be said for Kurt’s voice as a person, not as a songwriter.
His songs were brilliant. So much has been said about them, about how Nevermind brought alternative rock and punk to the mainstream, yada yada yada (90’s references galore). If you walked onto a high school campus today, most of the students will have heard at least one Nirvana song. What most couldn’t tell you is who Kurt Cobain was, what he stood for, why he was such an influential and critical icon for Generation X. The Beavis and Butthead generation, a generation fed up with the waste of their baby-boomer parents, their baby-boomer politics, war and Reaganomics and hair metal. Cobain’s voice was the voice of a revolution, a revolution that never quite happened. He spoke out against homophobia, against sexism, against the patriarchal assumption of macho male superiority that still permeates the fabric of American society to this day. He dressed in drag, he kissed his bassist on national television. He told Axl Rose to fuck off. He advocated for female musicians, for artists with similar visions and similar passions. He captured the angst felt by so many children of divorced parents, kids who hated their dads and who hated the male authority figure in general. He hated mainstream publications and MTV. His band wore dresses to appear on the network’s “Headbangers Ball”.
Today, the only controversial figures in mainstream music are Lady Gaga and Odd Future. Lady Gaga is controversial because she dresses strangely. Odd Future, and this is a whole other can of worms, are controversial because they want to be and they like the attention. Nobody is controversial for their beliefs. Nobody is a martyr. I’m not suggesting that Cobain was Christ, but compared to the personalities of popular culture today he was just about the closest thing. Where is today’s hero of the underground, the musician who gains the affection of arrogant jocks yet blatantly alienates them, his own fans, by chastising them for their homophobic tendencies? Where is the voice of a generation fed up with the conflict in the Middle East, by the abomination that was the Bush administration? Fed up with the economic woes, with the failure of the government to realize that globalization is crippling everything the United States supposedly stands for as a nation? We need somebody who recognizes the modern day civil rights disaster embodied by groups such as the Westborro Baptist Church. We need an icon who is universally respected, who has the voice to reach millions. We need a Kurt Cobain.
Today’s culture might not allow for that. We as a society are becoming increasingly isolated, living in our own technological spheres and not recognizing the consequences. Adults and kids alike are misinformed or not informed at all of current global events and current national events for that matter. We are an ignorant nation, and technology allows for it. While it can be said that we are able to get more information and connect with more people than ever, devices such as Google and Facebook actually limit the scope of knowledge that is gained. They know if you are liberal or conservative, they know what you like and which sites you are likely to visit. Taking this into account, they limit your search results and thus your ability to access wide ranges of opinion and basic facts. Mainstream media doesn’t publicize or often ignores the truth. We live in bubbles. Can one person simultaneously pierce these exteriors that have been constructed around all of us? Can one figure’s views and visions reach the masses as Kurt was able to? Even if someone did, would people listen? Would anything happen as a result?
Nevermind changed the music industry. Kurt Cobain revolutionized the idea of who a rock star could be. He was radical, visionary. He let his opinions be known and didn’t care if you didn’t side with them. His time was brief. Here’s to hoping for a new Cobain, we sure as hell need one.