8 Artists You Didn’t Know Covered Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Earlier this week, American Songwriter reported that the electric guitar that Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain used in the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” music video sold at auction for some $4.5 million.

The song, which was named after a deodorant by Cobain and Riot Girl Kathleen Hanna, is that famous. And one of the results of being so famous is that a myriad of artists want to cover the track.

It’s emotional, emotive, famous and of a certain generation. That’s why “Smells Like Teen Spirit” remains in the consciousness to this day.

As a result, we wanted to dive into some covers of the song here. So, that’s exactly what we’ll do. Below are eight covers of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” that you probably hadn’t heard of—until now.

1. Patti Smith

Smith’s rendition is long, acoustic and stirring. Such is the style of Smith’s music, generally. One can imagine Smith and Cobain being friends. It’s too bad he’s no longer with us (Cobain famously died at just 27 years old in 1994). It would have been fun to watch them possibly grow old together, giggling at the idea of celebrity.

2. Miley Cyrus

If there’s anyone who understands the rigors of celebrity today, it’s Miley Cyrus. She’s seen it all, and seemingly done it all. So, Cyrus is a great representation of the song. A star even before she was a teenager, Cyrus can embody the track unlike any other. She’s a star.

3. Sofia Karlberg

The Swedish singer offers a slowed, heart-wrenching rendition. While Karlberg became famous for uploading songs (like this one) to YouTube, she’s since become quite a popular artist. It’s tough to listen to this version and not hear the sadness that Cobain originally brought to the tune, too. Well done all around.

4. Malia J

Malia J recorded this version for the opening credits of the popular Marvel movie Black Widow. The song is also featured in many of the commercials for the movie. Malia J’s version is like a howl into a dark cave. It’s a shout into the abyss. One understands that, even if the song was never heard by anyone, Malia J would sing it with the same emotion. It’s of her.

5. Violet Orlandi

Violet Orlandi’s version is almost like a club hit, an EDM-produced track meant for thousands of people in a warehouse somewhere to freak out, sweat beads, and let loose like never before. It’s an electronic, rocking rendition that gets the blood pumping and the heart racing. One wonders what Cobain would have thought of this one? Probably would have loved it.

6. Daniela Andrade

An acoustic, Americana rendition. This song brings the influence of artists like Cat Power or Fionna Apple together with Cobain and folk artists of the earlier 20th century. It’s a blend of genres, styles and sounds and the result is terrific. It’s haunting. It’s chilling. It’s also bright and thoughtful. Check it out below and enjoy.

7. Tori Amos

The well known songwriter and performer took the song to the live stage and performed it with the piano, unlike the many guitar-driven renditions above. Tori Amos has a beautiful, lilting voice that makes the song that much more fragile and beautiful. It sounds as if she’s singing this song like her life depends on it. Maybe Cobain thought the same thing way back when.

8. Richard Cheese

The lounge singer comes out of left field with this one, bringing an over-the-top feeling to the otherwise over serious song. While some may think this is a parody, it really smacks of respect and appreciation. One doesn’t put this much effort into anything unless it’s beloved. And Richard Cheese is no different in his covers. Check it out below, with eyebrow raised.

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