Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Nodding my head like "yeah"...to Smells Like Teen Spirit?

One of the more interesting aspects of humanity is how we are often territorial over art.  Over the past few days, the above video has stormed its way through the intertubes, mostly receiving negative reaction from people in my age bracket, including myself.  When I first watched the clip of Miley Cyrus covering Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (the unofficial anthem of my generation), I was immediately appalled and figured Kurt Cobain would be rolling in his grave.  I quickly disseminated the video to friends, expecting similar reaction so we could commiserate in the atrocity.  Hannah Montana is covering Nirvana?  Why not just hang me by my testicles!  And they all agreed. 
But when contemplating it later, I suddenly was struck by how much I cared and, more importantly, why.
A song is an expressive form of art that provides identity, even to someone who did not write or sing it.  And this particular Nirvana tune defined a generation of angry youths who yearned to separate themselves from the ones above.  The song is loud, the song is powerful, it’s unique for the time, and managed to capture a collective feeling that other generations could not understand. In fact, the song still has emotional effect all these years later.  I still can remember the first time I ever saw the video for “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and immediately thought, “fuck…yeah!”
But Miley Cyrus (who I really have nothing against, I think there’s actually a song of hers on my iPod) was not a part of this movement, and was incredibly young when the song was released.  Her brand of pop music may be the voice of another generation, and will probably be a relic of this younger generation’s childhood, but her music is nothing more than a novelty to ours; causing her to seem like an insignificant footnote.  We subconsciously assume she’s unworthy of our battle cry and would prefer she find her own (even if this is batshit crazy).  Not to mention, Miley sings a certain brand of pop that caters to the lowest common denominator, which is at odds with Nirvana’s rebellious attitude.
So why is disgust my visceral reaction when I see she has performed it at her concert?  Simply put, because it’s not hers.  For her to perform it and own it, it feels like she’s speaking on behalf of my generation, making her a representative of an entire group of people she is actually not a part of.  And though it’s unfair and even a bit nonsensical, her version of it is disingenuous because of this, even if it were an awesome cover (which it’s not, but that’s beside the point).
I’m truly am not sure what Kurt Cobain would think of this, I think he’d actually appreciate the fact that his art has lived on and younger generations have taken to it.  I’m sure he’d enjoy that it’s still relevant.  But to the rest of us, we still wear it like a badge of honor, and we want that to remain unique to us.
Well, that’s all I can come up with anyway.

1 comment:

  1. Meh, something tells me Curt wouldn't particularly care for some no talent assclown offspring of a country yokel singing his song. He'd probably rather have a garage band of 15 year old's singing it with the same intensity as he did. Miley speaks for this generation in the same way the Backstreet Boys did 12 years ago, and Vanilla Ice 20 years ago. Which is to say, they don't. Her music lacks depth, so I find it highly unlikely it can speak to anyone over the age of 12.

    Of course if she starts singing AIC's Dirt I might have to go on my own personal jihad. Or maybe celebrate since if she understands what she's singing she's a heroin addict and isn't long for this world.