Back in 1991, before Nevermind had been released, Nirvana wrote a letter to fans, announcing a partnership with McDonald’s that would pair up copies of the new album with Happy Meals. It was joke, and part of the hilarity of it was how far-fetched it was. Keep in mind, this was before Nevermind. They had no fucking idea.
Nirvana‘s Nevermind, a classic album by any sane standards, just turned 20 years old. You probably already know this, because you can’t avoid it. It’s everywhere. Every possible spin has been put on the Nirvana story, from the insiders’ perspectives to personal stories from fans. It’s cool to see that people still care enough about Nirvana’s masterpiece to want to talk about it 20 years later, but with this kind of attention comes some bullshit, all with the same goal: to capitalize on Nirvana’s legacy.
Look, I’m not a hippie. Making money is great, marketing is good fun, and I understand that there were few “images” or “brands” as authentic and wide-reaching as Nirvana’s. Still, it’s a sensitive territory. Kurt Cobain was a man who seemed to be constantly aware of the danger of “selling out.” He valued his core fan base of outcast misfits, and he didn’t want to alienate them for the sake of making money. That was clear. He was a small town kid that came up with a punk rock state of mind, and he wasn’t interested in corporate partnerships and clever marketing schemes–he didn’t even really like to talk about his own music. That just wasn’t him. Now that he’s been dead for 17 years, repackaging his work and squeezing every last cent out of the product sometimes feels wrong.
Some organizations and people did a great job of contributing to the ongoing Nirvana dialogue. Other attempts seemed a little more forced. And sometimes, things just turned out downright ugly. Hit the jump to see examples of all…
Live VEVO stream of Nirvana’s unseen concert from the Paramount Theater
This was unseen footage to Nirvana fans, and watching the band in action 20 years after their big breakthrough was a really great way to celebrate. Above, you can check out a performance of “Breed” from the concert.
Dave Grohl working on a documentary about the Nevermind studio
After Kurt committed suicide, Dave Grohl didn’t know how to handle it. He eventually started the Foo Fighters, but for years he didn’t like to talk about Nirvana or Kurt. In a position to exploit his involvement in the band and his relationship with Kurt, Dave handled things responsibly and sensitively. I don’t think there is anyone more appropriate to help with a documentary about Sound City Studios, the birthplace of Nevermind. There aren’t many details about the project yet, but hearing some stories about what went down during the making of that album is going to be really cool.
Selling the deluxe edition re-release of Nevermind through Best Buy, for over $200
Nothing against Best Buy, but it’s just one of those things that feels wrong. The deluxe edition, which comes with a DVD of the concert mentioned above, is out now exclusively through Best Buy. They called dibs, so they get a 30-day exclusive.
Tie-Dyed Nirvana Shirts
It’s like branding a new line of guns with the image of Gandhi. Kurt once said, “You know what I hate about rock? I hate tie-dyed tee shirts. I wouldn’t wear a tie-dyed tee-shirt unless it was dyed with the urine of Phil Collins and the blood of Jerry Garcia.”
Miley Cyrus covering “Smells Like Teen Spirit”
Sometimes people confuse irony with coincidence. In case you still aren’t clear–this is irony. The “Teen Spirit” video shows a pep rally gone wrong–a symbolic shove against the cookie-cutter, cheerleader conformity of the mainstream replaced by a chaotic, self-destructive rebellion.
And here’s Miley Cyrus, pumping up the audience by telling them to “follow their dreams,” and then going into a cover of the song. Watch her as she gyrates around in her rhinestone-littered pants, running her fingers through her hair like she’s singing “SexyBack.” I’m sorry, Kurt.