Friday, July 12, 2013

Song Meaning: Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana

ARTIST: Nirvana | ALBUM: Nevermind | RELEASED: 1991
Smells Like Teen Spirit is the debut single of Nevermind
"Smells Like Teen Spirit" is the definite rock anthem of the Generation X - my generation, and I'm pound to be represented by Nirvana.

The song is about feeling like teenagers even when are well past that age. This is reflected through nonsensical and incomprehensible lyrics. There's also the lazy uttering of Kurt Cobain to keep pronunciations vague, but this was done purposely to mirror the dialects of teenagers. It's also hard to pick out a central theme or message from the song - just like a day in the life of a teenager.  

The theme and style and genre itself were a new concept at the time. Although hard rock, which was quite popular in the 1980s, was sung with distortion, the words were pronounced clearly enough for the audience to understand. However, Nirvana's insistence on crating incomprehensible sounds and lyrics were very unique, and deserves a lot credit for what they managed to do.

On the downside, as a result of the unclear voice of Cobain, some radio stations initially refused to play "Smells Like Teen Spirit," but following some limited play on alternative rock radio, the song immediately crossed over to pop rock radio, and eventually to mainstream. The song is single-handedly responsible for shredding light on the alternative rock sub-genre. It also propelled the album, Nevermind, to commercial success. In fact, following the unpredicted success of the debut single, the album went on top charts in the US, Canada and several European countries. Where it wasn't No. 1, it was surely in the top 10 - a remarkable feat for Nirvana who never really expected much commercial success.


The impact of the song was so huge at the time, it even forced other artists to change their approach to music. They were asked by record companies to grow a goatee, and write songs that lyrically resemble "Smells Like Teen Spirit." This didn't sit well with heavy metal bands like Megadeth and Metallica, but that's besides the point. Furthermore, song's popularity went as far as hurting the band as well, ironically. In other words, this is the only that Nirvana's fans focused on. Thus, it ended up diminishing other good songs off the album like "Come as You Are", "Lithium" and "In Bloom." As a consequence, the band purposely left "Teen Spirit" out of the charts. This is the only rock n' roll song that I can think of that actually ended up really annoying the artist in the long run!

"Smells Like Teen Spirit" still enjoys vast amount of mainstream success. After 22 years later, it's still in heavy rotation on rock, classic rock and pop radios. 
So without further ado, let's to some alternative rock analysis:

Load up on guns, / Bring your friends - Kurt Cobain is referring to crazy things teenagers to with their friends, not necessary means shooting

It's fun to lose and to pretend -This lines sumps up the basis of the song: pretend to be a teenager when you are well beyond that age.  In this line, "lose" means something like losing your mind.

She's overboard self assured- I don't know what this means

Hello, hello, hello, hello - this is part of creating non-sensibility that I've talked earlier in the post.

With the lights out, it's less dangerous - partying?

I feel stupid and contagious - going to back to behaving like a teenager may come across as being stupid, and it's a disease that could spread to anybody around you :-)

A mulato!/ An Albino! /A mosquito! / My libido! - word to create more incomprehensible stuff

I'm worse at what I do best - I don't quite know what this means, but my guess is it's hard to be pretending to be a teenager. Correct me if you have a better explanation.

And I forget just why I taste - drugs? Again, not sure what this is.
That's what I can make of this song. I know there are a lot of a gaping holes in this articles, so if any of you Nirvana fans want to help me out, that's would be greatly appreciated.


Load up on guns,
Bring your friends
It's fun to lose and to pretend
She's overboard self assured
Oh no I know, a dirty word.

Hello, hello, hello, hello?
Hello, hello, hello, how low?
Hello, hello, how low, how low?
Hello, hello, hello.

With the lights out, it's less dangerous
Here we are now, entertain us
i feel stupid and contagious
Here we are now, entertain us
A mulato!
An Albino!
A mosquito!
My libido!
Yay! Hey! Yay!

I'm worse at what I do best
And for this gift I feel blessed
Our little group has always been
And always will until the end

Hello, hello, hello, hello?
Hello, hello, hello, how low?
Hello, hello, how low, how low?
Hello, hello, hello.

With the lights out, it's less dangerous
Here we are now, entertain us
I feel stupid and contagious
Here we are now, entertain us
A mulato!
An Albino!
A mosquito!
My libido!
Yay! Hey! Yay!

(Solo)

And I forget just why I taste -
Oh yeah, I guess it makes me smile
I found it hard, it was hard to find
Oh well, whatever, nevermind

Hello, hello, hello, hello?
Hello, hello, hello, how low?
Hello, hello, how low, how low?
Hello, hello, hello.

With the lights out, it's less dangerous
Here we are now, entertain us
I feel stupid and contagious
Here we are now, entertain us
A mullato!
An albino!
A mosquito!
My libido!

A denial!(x9)

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