One Song, Three Ways: “Smells Like Teen Spirit”

Released in September of 1991 by the Seattle-born band Nirvana, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is likely the biggest and most important song from the grunge era. The track came out around 15 years before YouTube and the music video still has well over a billion views. Impressive stuff.

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Written by Nirvana frontman, Kurt Cobain, the term “smells like teen spirit,” actually originated by Bikini Kill frontwoman Kathleen Hanna, who was friends with Cobain before he became the face of American music. Rumor has it, one day, on a lark, Hanna wrote on Cobain’s bedroom wall, “Kurt smells like teen spirit.” At the time, “teen spirit” was the name of deodorant.

Cobain liked the phrase so much, he applied it to his most important song. The rest is history. Here, we share three of our favorite versions of the famed “anthem of apathy,” including the one performed by Cobain and Nirvana from the band’s album Nevermind.

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Richard Cheese


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Allen Stone

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