It was 25 years ago today that Nirvana released the seminal album, “Nevermind”, taking on the bankrupt culture of the `80s and unexpectedly jolting music and the world into a beautiful tailspin of self-destructive artistry, leading us to the Rock Renaissance of the `90s and awakening a new sense of creativity in America. It was their unique sound that resurrected the dying genre of rock music while also popularizing alternative rock and grunge, breathing new life into America’s most famous cultural contribution
Their album fused the dying embers of punk music with the sound of industrial music and the song structure of pop, while also tying in Kurt Cobain’s tortured lyrics and style.
It was ingenious lyrics like “I feel stupid, and contagious, here we are now, entertain us” from Nirvana’s song “Smells Like Teen Spirit” that spoke to a generation of youths in the early `90s who had yet to see their angsty teen feelings legitimized in popular culture. It was Cobain’s ability to speak to the youth of his day that led to many calling him the spokesperson for Generation X after his death.
The album was such a success that it managed to beat Michael Jackson’s comeback album “Dangerous,” which was already hugely popular at the time, on the US Billboard 200 chart. Eventually, the album went certified diamond, selling over 10 million copies in the United States and selling over 30 million copies worldwide, creating the grunge movement, popularizing the alternative rock genre and forever changing the musical world.
However, that was 25 years ago — what does it mean for us now? Rock music has again faded to the fringes of popular music and it’s hard to see why this anniversary is pertinent. Yet the way I see it, our current culture has influences of “Nevermind” everywhere. I see it in the current alternative rock scene and our constant questioning of societal norms and values. One example is our continued push for gender equality, of which Cobain was a large proponent.
Even still, the Rock Renaissance’s influence is fading. And as I see it, we need another cultural revolution today. Our current cultural development is stagnant — iconic artists of the past or directors and screenwriters of classic movies are almost nonexistent and the blatant lack of innovation in most music today is made obvious by the constant repetition of tropes of love, sex and drugs in popular songs.
Now more than ever we need bands to break the mold and lead us to new and exciting genres of music, so that we can continue to inspire future generations. Without a new birth of innovation, the United States — one of the biggest exporters of music and movies — will fade into cultural irrelevance. But more importantly, if we continue to fail to create great works of music, we will not inspire the next generation to become artists.
An edition of Gabe Gets Serious