I really can’t believe that Nevermind is 20 years old. I’ve mentioned that I grew up fairly oblivious about pop culture, but my cousin Eliza, bless her, hooked me up with a lot of Nirvana, Beck, and Hole, and Kurt Cobain was definitely the first rock star I ever admired, even if I didn’t really get the depth of what made him magnetic and tragic. But there’s no question that “Smells Like Teen Spirit” really informs how I consume culture, and who I am as a critic:
I always loved the juxtaposition of the way Cobain turns “I feel stupid and contagious / Here we are now, entertain us” into a reject’s rallying cry, and then the mumbling backing off of “Oh well, whatever, nevermind.” This isn’t straightforward revenge of the nerds stuff: there are steps forward and steps back, and defeats just when you need victories. I’m the worst at irony: too invested, and excited, and vulnerable.