“Smells Like Teen Spirit” is arguably legendary American rock band Nirvana’s signature track. The track was the band’s biggest hit, which lead the band to hate their success and the aftermath of fame and attention sadly led to the frontman of the band (Kurt Cobain) committing suicide in 1994.
Despite the track having a worldwide following, and in some cases still believed to be one of the greatest songs in the history of rock music, Cobain had expressed his dislike for the track in an interview in 1994 with Rolling Stone magazine: “”I still like playing ‘Teen Spirit’, but it’s almost an embarrassment to play it … Everyone has focused on that song so much.” In the same interview, Cobain tells journalist David Fricke about the infamous track. “I was trying to write the ultimate pop song. I was basically trying to rip off the Pixies. I have to admit it. When I heard the Pixies for the first time, I connected with that band so heavily that I should have been in that band—or at least a Pixies cover band. We used their sense of dynamics, being soft and quiet and then loud and hard.” Cobain had previously stated that the song’s title came from his friend Kathleen Hanna (who was the lead singer of a feminist pop punk band “Bikini Kill”), who wrote “Kurt Smells Like Teen Spirit” on his wall. Apparently, Hannah meant that Cobain smelt like a deodorant called “Teen Spirit”, which Cobain’s then-girlfriend Tobi Vail used to wear. Unaware of the deodorant until months after the track was released, Cobain used the song’s title as a sort of slogan for the younger generations – particularly those who were part of the punk rock scene.
The music video was directed by Samuel Bayer, and was Bayer’s first ever project. Bayer was believed to be hired as his test reel was so poor, the band were hoping that the video would turn out more punk rather than mainstream. The music video is based on a school concert that ends in anarchy and a riot, which was inspired by the 1979 film “Over the Edge”, and had an estimated budget of $30,000 to $50,000. The video received positive feedback, and the won Nirvana “Best New Artist” and “Best Alternative Group” awards at the 1992 MTV Music Video Awards. In 2000, the Guinness World Records stated that the music video was the most played video on MTV Europe. As of April 2019, the music video has over 892 million views, and almost 5 million likes.
Release Date: 10th September 1991
Songwriter/s: Kurt Cobain, Krist Novoselic, Dave Grohl
Producer/s: Butch Vig
Music Video Release Date: 1991
Music Video Director: Samuel Bayer
Chart Rankings, Certifications & Accolades: The track received Gold certification in Australia, Germany, New Zealand, Sweden, the US and Denmark (but only in digital streaming). The song also went Platinum in the UK, US, and Denmark as well as double Platinum in Italy. Within a year of it’s release, the track went to #1 in Belgium, France, New Zealand, Spain and the US. It is in the “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s list of “The Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll” in 1997, VH1 ranked it #41 on its “100 Greatest Rock Songs List” in 2000. In 2002, NME Magazine ranked the song at #2 on their list of “100 Greatest Singles of All Time”.