Adventures in guilty pleasures

Nirvana: a misnomer

Admiration of the meritless is not the only kind of guilty pleasure that exists. Sometimes it takes the form of the refusal to worship things or people that are deified by others, especially by people who, ordinarily, possess impeccable taste. Things like Nirvana, people like Kurt Cobain.

I try to keep my dismay at this band’s canonization as quiet as possible; I know the grave repercussions of expressing my thoughts on the matter. I’ll be having a nice chat with some pleasant and musically astute individual, then suddenly, BAM!, comes the inevitable: “But you know who is TRULY a genius? Kurt Cobain.” At this juncture, I have two options – either I can swallow the lump of consternation that is rising in my throat and agree, or I can look this person squarely in the eyes and tell him the truth: Nirvana is way overrated. I always make a serious interpersonal misstep and choose the second option, but I don’t care; the word “genius” doesn’t deserve to be tossed about like so much tattered flannel confetti.

I get the whole “live fast, die young” thing and how Cobain embodied it, I really do. In dying (whether by his own volition or Courtney Love’s is still debated), he got to stay young, famous and glamorously unstable forever. But you know what? He wasn’t the first or best young artist in any medium to die. Not by a long shot. You know what else? His lyrics were not very good, so don’t tell me about his brilliant poetic sensibility.

How could I be so callous, so unfeeling; how could I say such awful things? After all, these three sullen guys defined an entire decade!  But you know who else did? KC and the Sunshine Band. Just because Cobain was the voice of the 1990s does not mean he is some kind of irreproachable man-god. Unless, of course, you think “Get Down Tonight” is a towering artistic achievement, in which case I doubt my ability to convince you of anything reasonable.

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