Kurt Cobain’s Isolated Vocals For ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ Will Give You Chills

The force of the chorus will knock you flat.

kurt cobain nevermind smells like teen spirit photo

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This week, one of the most influential rock albums ever made turns 30.

Nirvana’s Nevermind — which housed extraordinary tracks liked ‘Come As You Are’, ‘Breed’, ‘In Bloom’, ‘Lithium’, and of course ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ — dropped on September 24, 1991. It’s hard to overstate the cultural importance of the record — it broke into the mainstream with the force of a fiery cannonball, made Kurt Cobain, Dave Grohl, and Krist Novoselic icons, and inspired countless artists from across all genres. Its legacy is raw and complicated, and 30 years on the songs still leap from the stereo with throat-grabbing intensity.

There are plenty of longreads about the album floating around this week if you want to dive in — we recommend you do, preferably while listening to it at full blast.

For his own part, Cobain had a complex relationship with the album, particularly its most famous single, which rocketed the band to a level of stardom they weren’t prepared for and didn’t particularly want. ”Everyone has focused on that song so much,” he told Rolling Stone in 1994. “The reason it gets a big reaction is people have seen it on MTV a million times. It’s been pounded into their brains.

“I think there are so many other songs that I’ve written that are as good, if not better, than that song, like ‘Drain You.’ That’s definitely as good as ‘Teen Spirit.’ I love the lyrics, and I never get tired of playing it. Maybe if it was as big as ‘Teen Spirit,’ I wouldn’t like it as much.”

As much as Cobain and the band were sick of it, and as much as ‘Teen Spirit’ is often left aside when discussing the band’s artistic legacy, the power of the song is undeniable. It’s a fantastic example of Cobain’s restraint and release, the assault and the softness.

Clips of Cobain’s isolated vocals do the rounds every few years, and today feels like an appropriate day to revisit those of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ — the full force of his voice in the chorus will knock you flat.

Photo Credit: Frans Schellekens/Redferns