Here’s a Thought: Your Nirvana Shirt Is Not An Identity


Eric Galan, News and Opinion Editor

Eric Galan

Here’s the thing. Yes Nirvana had an identity. Yes they were unique. Yes they were one of the best bands of the ‘90s and possibly the century although everything’s debatable.

But here’s the other thing: you’re not Nirvana.

1990 was a weird time for music. The kings of the 80’s were still gigantic. Van Halen, Ratt, and Mötley Crüe ruled MTV and many of their albums still rocketed up the charts. Michael Jackson’s “Dangerous” album was about to drop after 2 smash hit albums in the previous decade. No one in the mainstream could predict what was about to happen next year

In 1990 a young feminist was running around Seattle spray painting graffiti and playing music with a little known band. One night, after a long evening of putting graffiti of feminist quotes with a friend, they turned in to a small motel. The girl, high and tired, spray painted on the walls of the room a joke about her friend’s partner. “Kurt Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Kurt, just as high and tired, was enthralled by the words thinking they were from a poem or piece of literature. It wouldn’t be until after the first single on his band’s second album, “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” had topped the charts and changed the music world that Kurt would learn that his greatest song was named after the deodorant his girlfriend wore.

And it did change the world. In one week all the hair metal and 80’s rock bands were irrelevant in the mainstream. 1991’s “Nevermind” reached into the top 40. All 4 singles dotted charts worldwide. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” even knocked Michael Jackson off the #1 spot in the country. The album opened the door for almost 3 years of grunge music to cover the music scene. Van Halen, Bon Jovi and Europe were replaced by The Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains. Nothing was the same almost overnight.

And then it all went away just as fast as it came. In 1994 Kurt Cobain shot himself and by ‘95 the grunge fad, and let’s be honest it was a fad, was aptly blown off the charts. Personally I feel grunge and 90’s alt rock scene was finally killed by “Flagpole Sitta” (‘97), a song that basically rips apart the entire grunge scene and ‘90s in one single hit. However “Nevermind” remained a nostalgic icon in critic and fan’s minds. And the record company is still milking it to this day. Hot Topic and Spencer’s are full of Nirvana T-shirts, buttons, skateboards, wristbands and skateboard bottoms.

Y’all just ate it up. You bought every little thing in the store. And you know what? Good. There is nothing wrong with spending your money on whatever you want. I buy whatever I feel like buying and I don’t judge others for doing so. That’s not the problem and neither is Nirvana or the record label or stores selling their merch.

What is the problem is people who make these bands their whole lives for no reason other than they have no identity of their own. Those people who’s wardrobe is only grunge bands. Their hair dye isn’t just black it’s darkness raven or something else stupid. They write poetry that would make an English teacher as depressed as Kurt Cobain. Their life is basically a Nirvana song except it’s not. Nirvana was full of personality and depth and these people have none. Not only that but almost everyone owns something from Nirvana or uses their music in place of their identity which means you’re not even being that unique. They’re popular and you’re doing nothing more than following a trend.

It’s truly disgusting. And if you’re one of those people? Stop. You’re annoying and desperate and, well, better than that. Contrary to what you may think from reading this I think there’s a lot of untapped potential in your lives.

Earlier I mentioned Kurt Cobain was a feminist. And, while that word makes me cringe, he was a very good feminist. Nirvana took a stand for women and gay rights. They turned down millions of dollars because they didn’t want to work with sexist men like Axl Rose from Guns N’ Roses. The inside flap of “In Utero” contained a message telling anyone sexist, racist or homophobic to not buy the album. “In Bloom” is about how pathetic fans who don’t understand Nirvana’s music isn’t about hate are the worst fans of all. “Pennyroyal Tea” is about a woman grappling with her right to get an abortion. And “Rape Me,” my favorite Nirvana song, is about how women are all too often the victims of rape and usually from someone they trusted.

If you’re struggling with your identity and want to base it off Nirvana maybe try not being a depressed mess and try being a fighter for what Cobain stood for. Don’t mope instead shout for things like the passing of the Equal Rights Amendment. Stop wasting your money on dumb piercings and black dye and donate to an organization like No Means No Worldwide to help victims and prevent rape on a massive scale. Don’t hide in your bedroom feeling sorry for your small problems; go to a gay rights rally or march in a pride parade. Basically, stop hating yourself and go show love for others. It’s what grunge was really about after all. Getting your anger and fear out so you can start feeling and doing better.

And if you can’t at least do that or you would rather continue to hate yourself or you hate me for saying this then I’ll just leave you with Kurt Cobain’s own words.

“If you’re a sexist, racist, homophobe or basically an asshole, don’t buy this CD. I don’t care if you like me, I hate you.”- Kurt Cobain.