Smells Like Teen Spirit”
Culture is society. It is the way parents raise their children. Culture is a belief system, but more importantly culture is the factor that either separates or joins people together. The teenage culture of the 90’s was thought to have been defined by one band led by Kurt Cobain, and still some believe that the words written and sung by this band still define the younger generation’s culture and point of view. Kurt Cobain was the grunge legend of the 90’s era, who formed the popular band known as Nirvana. He was known to teenagers as a soulful song writer who knew about life and what they in fact faced as a generation. The one song that boosted Nirvana into main stream music was “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Though many interpretations have been made about this song, one interpretation seems to stand out above the rest. Kurt Cobain had a rough childhood and felt that he could relate to the average young person, and through this song he connected not only with younger society but also made a point to the older people in society. He understood the culture of the average teenager and what it entailed. Much of the culture of the 90’s reflects on today’s culture of teenagers and young adults clashing with older society members. The video made for “Smells Like Teen Spirit” shows it. The video depicts many youth gathered and singing along to Cobain’s anthem. Just as in the 90’s, teenagers often feel as though the older generations look down on them for their actions and means of expression and that they do not understand what it is like to grow up in today’s society. The general feeling is that of unrest and of
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distrust by older society members. More often than not this includes parents, and some teens find it difficult to deal with the idea of their parents not trusting them. Therefore, culture is split into opposing factions, and appropriately enough, the theme of this anthem was struggle. Through “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, Kurt Cobain was able to give an anthem to teenagers which basically snubbed the beliefs that older people had and still have about the behavior of young people and that also depicted the separation of groups in society.
The very first few words of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” are, “Load up on guns, and bring your friends.” In all honesty what do those words convey to the average person? Usually they send across messages of violence among teenagers, but that is exactly what Cobain was aiming for with those words. He wanted to be sarcastic with those lyrics to show adults that young people are not always out looking for trouble, and though violence is never the answer, sometimes the world just inflicts it mercilessly. Some are, but not all teenagers, should be put into the stereotypical group of violent teens. Usually with violence comes stupidity. Stupidity is also something that adults seem to think is rampant among young people, almost as though it were a disease. The lyrics, “I feel stupid and contagious. Here we are now. Entertain us”, get this point out into the open. Teenagers today tend to be belittled by those older than they. They are often thought to be completely lazy and therefore useless, which is quite far from the truth. The lyric, “Mosquito” is heard. This word symbolizes laziness. It puts across the idea that teenagers mooch off of other people, and they are not willing to work for what they want and what they need. In the minds of young adults, their culture does not symbolize any of these things. Life for most teenagers has become a struggle to get others to understand them and trust them.
Many adults do not trust teenagers because they think they are lazy and violent, while others seem to be prejudiced towards certain minority groups which are rising in number. Even young adults find it hard
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to accept these people into their culture. In the chorus, the words, “A mulatto, an albino, a mosquito”, are clearly heard. Mulattos are a mix of Caucasian and African American descent which leads to a creamy coloring of the skin. They are not completely black or completely white. Although they are differently colored than most and are of different heritages, they are still people looking to be accepted. They cannot help what color skin with which they were born. Adults and also other members of society including teenagers tend to look at such people differently. The word albino presents itself in the lyrics as well. An albino is a person who has lost all skin pigment and appears to be ghostly white with red eyes. Just as with mulattos, albinos are often looked down upon simply because they are different, and many people do not understand why they look the way they do. This part of the song was intended to show the struggle in today’s culture of these groups versus the world. Through these lyrics, Cobain was not specifically saying that today’s culture looks down on just those groups of people but that in general society needs to become more accepting.
The most common thing pointed out in culture today is sexuality. Having sexual relations used to mean that you were in a stable monogamous relationship where love was involved. Cobain, as well as many young adults saw that people looked down upon them for their expressions of sexuality. Yes, some teenagers participate in sexual acts that seem unnatural and wrong, but not all teenagers are sexual. They can be in a room for more than ten minutes alone without jumping on top of each other. In fact, most are not like that at all. The lyrics, “With the lights out, it’s less dangerous”, and,”libido”, suggest sexual tension and practices, but that is exactly his aim. Through sarcasm, Cobain wanted to convey to the world that today’s youth are all not hormonally raging. The theme of struggle is conveyed well through this part of the song. The youth of today finds it hard to get older people to understand their sexual culture. People are more open about sexuality and are more willing to talk about it. In the
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eyes of older society this means that wrongful sexual acts are being committed when this more often than not is clearly not the case.
Through “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, Cobain and his band, Nirvana, were able to give the younger generation an anthem to which they could cling. The song truly conveys the culture of struggle and distrust in today’s society between the opposing factions of young people and older society members. In the 90’s this song was a huge success because teens could relate to the words, and still today, teens find themselves singing along to the powerful words of this song, a song representing their generation, a generation that is often times misunderstood. Culture today includes conflict and struggle because of misrepresentations of groups through stereotypes and because of the varying opinions and viewpoints of different age groups. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was a song that captivated a culture and continues to captivate the culture of today.

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Comment by alicia[<3]tm on October 5, 2009 at 10:50pm
i love nirvana!! Kurt Cobain is my idol!!!!








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