|Yes, this is Charles Barkley w/ Nirvana at Saturday Night Live|
The ‘now life is confusing’ line of that tweet is an understatement. I fully understand that changing up the chords and what not can make any song different, but suddenly this 90’s anthem of teen angst, which was the dagger in the heart of hair bands (sorry Brett Michaels, Rock of Love was a wildly entertaining show though!) had turned into…a happy-go-lucky, cheery, go-get-em type of song? The first time I listened, I immediately wanted to go buy a pack of bubblegum and go for a nice stroll. This is music’s bizzaro world.
I’ve been asking people what it sounds like to them, and everyone seems to be right. It sounds like the beginning of Nicki Minaj’s 'Starships', it sounds like B*Witched’s b*loved smash hit single ‘C'est la Vie’. There is a bit of Hanson’s ‘MMMBop’ tossed in there. The guitar solo, which inspired many a grunge kid to buy a guitar to try and nail suddenly sounds like Big Country’s song ‘In A Big Country’.
This version of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit; could be the theme song for a ‘Friends’ ripoff sitcom circa 1998. It could feature in one of those classic Coca-Cola ads where everyone is suddenly happy. This could play during the closing montage that tells the audience what every character ends up doing in the future of one of those teen movies with starring a young Jennifer Love Hewitt and Seann William Scott (total aside, I had no idea he spelled Seann with two n’s, did anyone else notice this?). I imagine this playing at the house party when the couple that should be together finally gets together, while the goon in the film is tending to a nosebleed, and the dorky kid, probably played by Seth Green, finally becomes cool. I now want to watch “Can’t Hardly Wait” or anything starring the great Alicia Silverstone. My friend, and past contributor to this blog, Julie Strano said that listening to that made her feel like she should be in a convertible wearing a crop top, probably in southern California. I tend to doubt anyone has said that about the normal version of the song. You could even substitute this for Wham!’s ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go’ in Zoolander when the gang is riding in the Jeep before having a gasoline fight, which ends in disaster when one of the male models sparks up a cig.
I think that part that is so shocking about this version of the song is just how catchy and amazing it still is, despite how different it is. I have listened to this song on repeat quite a few times over the past few days, and it just doesn’t make any sense. Nirvana has never really been known for cheer. ‘Come As You Are’ can make a beautiful June afternoon in Punta Cana turn gray and depressing. ‘Polly’, at first listen, seems to be a nice song about a parrot, but listen to the lyrics and it is quite darker than that. Maybe ‘In Bloom’ could count as cheery? Maybe guitar-wise it is, but I just remembered the opening line of that is ‘sell the kids for food’, so Nevermind (see what I did there!). My personal favorite Nirvana song is ‘About A Girl’ but I still wouldn’t listen to that when I’m all pumped up and ready to seize the day.
This really makes you think. Would Kurt have been around still had all his songs sounded like this? Would Foo Fighters still be as big as they are had ‘Everlong’ or ‘Monkey Wrench’ been autotuned in a major chord? Would Nirvana’s picture with Charles Barkley been less awkward if this version of the song was out there in 1991? Would bands like Everclear, Gin Blossoms and, bless them, Sugar Ray have just thrown in the towel and given up knowing they could never right a pop-rock song like this? We may never know, but for once, Twitter actually provided us with something delightful. That may be the real shocker here.