There was once a time where, when you stepped out onto the cold pavement of the dark streets, you would find yourself looking at androgynous nobodies with long, teased hair dressed in fishnets and tights (also possible: fishnet tights), African-esque peoples with Jeri-curls strutting their stuff while wearing colorful military jackets, and asymmetrical hairstyles sitting on the tops of heads dressed in brightly-hued shirts and ties, neon pinks and blues. I’m not inventing some sort of bizarre dream for you here—this was the 1980’s. And towards the end of that circus, there was a sort hailing from Seattle, USA, that had their hair long and plain, wore loose clothes, and looked bare and dirty. Just like the sound of their music.
The foundations of the grunge movement had begun: in DIY tours around the country, in the trading of home-recorded cassette tape mixes with friends, and in the spirit of the youth all over the world.
The Winds Have Changed
As the final gasps of the decadent pop and hair metal culture of the ‘80s, (Michael Jackson, Madonna, Guns ‘N’ Roses, Mötley Crüe, Def Leppard, Skid Row, White Lion, et cetera) was signaling its death, Nevermind by Nirvana was released to finally end it. This was on September 24, 1991 and grunge had taken center-stage. Before them, nearly all the songs people heard were about having love, about having sex, about having a great time, reaching its peak during the late ‘80s. And if it didn’t have those lyrical themes, it must have had some politically-charged lyrics. None had bothered to write songs about not getting love, not having sex, and not having a great time. It took “Smells like Teen Spirit” to let the world know that there’s something wrong with the then-current music scene. That there are kids that didn’t have love, didn’t have sex, and didn’t have a good time. Sure, it was featured in other bands’ songs before, like Metallica, but none had real mass appeal. Even if this type of music is popular now, it wasn’t really common sense at that time. If you think about it, would a song about feeling stupid with all forms of popular entertainment sell? And if it would, sell well? That was the magic of Nirvana and Nevermind. It created this kind of music for mass consumption, taking the audaciousness and pomp out of the current rock music (which had to feature intricate guitar solos that hit every note possible) and bringing it back to the ground. They took the sound of metal, the simplicity of punk, and the angst in everyone’s hearts at that time to create this paradigm-changing album in the history of popular culture.
Passing the Torch
Since then, you heard Toni Braxton “unbreaking” her heart, you heard Green Day come around, you heard Beck calling himself a loser, you heard Tupac complaining about changes, you heard Eminem telling you how Stan died, you heard Incubus wishing you were here, you heard Westlife thinking about letting you go, you heard Matchbox Twenty being unwell, you heard Urbandub alert the armory, you heard Usher’s confessions, you heard Alicia Keys warn you about karma, you heard My Chemical Romance saying they’re not okay, you heard Fall Out Boy bring someone down, you heard Katy Perry think of you, and you heard of Lady Gaga’s bad romance.
Nirvana paved the road for these other artists to sing about the sadness in their souls, the anger in their artistry, the madness in their minds. Never mind that Kurt Cobain hated the album production. Never mind that Kurt Cobain killed himself with a shotgun. Never mind that Kurt Cobain was a mentally-crazed musical perfectionist. Just mind the music and how it changed what you hear nowadays. It was twenty years since the album was released. Twenty years and still influential.
Has Nevermind reached enlightenment? Give the album a listen.
Photo taken from ReverbNation.com and musicvideosanddvd.blogspot.com