GET OVER IT, METALHEAD: YOU WON. GRUNGE LOST.
Axl’s somewhat recent post on kiddie-pop starlet Miley Cyrus’ screwface-inducing version of Nirvana’s 1991 breakthrough single “Smells Like Teen Spirit” brought well deserved grumbles from the so-reliable-you-can-set-your-watch-to-them commenters. Yet much of that ire was directed not at the spawn of the man who brought us “Achy Breaky Heart”, but rather at the Seattle grunge band she chose to cover. It seems anytime that the name Kurt Cobain is even alluded to on this site and others, metalheads rush to bash the man and the music he left behind, usually with the same sneering refrain: grunge killed mainstream metal. Well I’m here to say one thing to those people:
GET OVER IT.
GRUNGE WAS A FAD.
Bolstered by the success of Nirvana, “grunge” underwent a rapid transformation from the underground sound of the Pacific Northwest to the Next Big Thing, supplanting metal as the popular rock music of choice. But it didn’t last very long. Within just a few years, hardly anyone was letting their flannel fly. Having been hyped by the music industry machine and pigeonholed by the media, grunge was over almost as soon as it began. And most of the so-called grunge bands that continued to make waves (by distancing themselves) were the ones that sounded like metal bands (see: Alice In Chains, Soundgarden). By 1994, pop punk bands like Green Day and The Offspring were the “It” thing. And that went away too.
80s/90s POPULAR METAL SUCKED.
If you own a copy of Warrant’s Cherry Pie, go put it on right now. That’s the kind of shit that was called metal back in 1990. Whether you like it or not, that was what made it on the radio and MTV–not Cannibal Corpse. Even Metallica’s fortuitous rise to fame and fortune–which coincided with Nirvana’s–was a one-off (due in significant part to an operatic power ballad) and a significant break from the glossy hair metal that preceded it. It’s entirely unrealistic to think that heavier bands were cheated by grunge. Let’s face it, unless it was after midnight and/or on Headbanger’s Ball, you didn’t have a chance in hell of catching a Slayer video on MTV. You can argue that Metallica could have been a game changer, but they were HUGE in 91/92 and nobody that sounded like them came close to that sort of mega-multiplatinum success. (Tool’s Undertow is still only double-platinum next to Nevermind‘s 10x-platinum.) Nirvana saved you from a total Bon Jovi-fication of metal.
GRUNGE OPENED DOORS FOR METAL.
We’ve all heard how, starting in 1991, major labels signed underground acts left-and-right with frenzied hopes of finding the next Nirvana–and continued to do so. Do you really think “alternative” metal bands like Corrosion Of Conformity, Deftones, Helmet, Korn, The Melvins (!!!) or Nine Inch Nails would have received major label deals and actual promotion if not for Nirvana? Metal found its way back onto the airwaves in record time, albeit in a darker, harder, and more awesome variety. Of course then, that begat shit like Creed, Disturbed, and Godsmack…
So, get over it, metalhead. You won. Grunge lost.