The Real Meaning of Smells Like Teen Spirit
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The Real Meaning of "Smells Like Teen Spirit"

How well do you know this Grungeian masterpiece?

The Real Meaning of "Smells Like Teen Spirit"
Wikimedia Commons (Rose Robin)

Let me spell it out for you: I. Like. Lyrics. Read my chapped, weather-beaten lips. Words are pretty fun to abuse sometimes, especially if you're a musician. Ariana Grande foreshadowed her separation from Pete Davidson (of Wild'n Out fame and SNL shame) in her song "Break Free." Yes she did. I like to understand the lyrical meaning of music as much as the next virgin blogger, but did you know I'm friendly and willing to share the meaning of lyrics with you, free of charge and wealthy in charm? I'm gonna hit my word limit soon at this rate, it feels so phat to write again. Today I'm gonna tell you all about the classic tune "Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana, one of the most well-known and most frustrated bands to ever grace my Spotify playlist. Kurt Cobain has some pretty strange lyrics here, but I understand them perfectly. Kurt was 5′ 9″, and at one point so was I, which means we are soul-bound. Let's get it.

(Lyrics extracted from the super-convenient What Kurt said:

Load up on guns, bring your friends, It's fun to lose and to pretend
She's sober, bored and self-assured, Oh no, I know a dirty word

What Kurt meant:

"Guns tend to get people in to trouble, especially when friends are involved. But so long as my friends are around, I don't really care about winning :) Also, I haven't gotten over my breaking up with my now ex-girlfriend, but having a blast with my friends has made me all the more grateful." Based on the rhyme scheme, the dirty word here is "turd."

What Kurt said:

Hello, hello, hello, how low
Hello, hello, hello, how low
Hello, hello, hello, how low
Hello, hello, hello

What Kurt meant:

On the hanging out with friends tip, this is the way Kurt's inner circle used to greet each other. "How low" was a super secret way of asking "how are you? Do you feel low today?", separating Kurt's favorite gaggle from the common rabble. All of Kurt's friends were shorter than 5′ 9″, so there existed a double-meaning to the measured salutation. Although grunge music is an outlet for raw emotion, the cost is a very real case of the Mondays.

What Kurt said:

With the lights out, it's less dangerous, Here we are now, entertain us
I feel stupid and contagious, Here we are now, entertain us
A mulatto, an Albino,
A mosquito, my libido, yeah

What Kurt meant:

At its core, "Smells Like Teen Spirit" is about getting stupid with friends. Remember in the first stanza when Kurt was playing with guns? Well, it really is less dangerous with the lights out because you can't see anyone to shoot. And when you can't see what you're shooting at, it's impossible to hurt anybody! Always the entertainer, Kurt grew weary of constantly being asked to perform his grunge bit when he would do interviews or when he was just trying to play chess in the park. Also, I want to apologize on behalf of There appears to be a typo in this section of the song. Kurt never said "a mulatto." He actually said "a milano," referring to his favorite cookie, the Pepperidge Farm Milano. The albino in this equation refers to the pale hue of the Milano cookie's biscuit materials. Finally, Kurt compares his libido to a mosquito, because he doesn't really have much sexual energy. He would rather eat cookies with friends! My man Kurt preaching to the choir!

What Kurt said:

I'm worse at what I do best
And for this gift, I feel blessed
Our little group has always been
And always will until the end

What Kurt meant:

This is where things become a little cryptic, but I am very confident that I understand the lyrics correctly. Kurt is grateful for being able to play chess in the park day in and day out. Kurt was not very skilled at chess, but pawning off at the park is how he met his aforementioned group of like-heighted cronies. Just like the game of chess, his group has been around for as long as anyone can remember, and they will be together in spirit (teen spirit) until the last check is mated. For the sake of my time, I'm skipping to verse 3 to trim the fat off of this analysis.

What Kurt said:

And I forget just why I taste
Oh yeah, I guess it makes me smile
I found it hard, it's hard to find
Oh well, whatever, nevermind

What Kurt meant:

This verse is a deep cut. Here Kurt laments how he longs for the taste of the Pacific Geoduck, a saltwater clam native to Kurt's home state of Washington. When Kurt toured as a musician he learned he had taken this northwestern comfort food for granted, as he couldn't find it anywhere, hence how hard it is to find. Eventually Kurt got over it and routinely ordered steamed oysters when he was dining at a restaurant.

What Kurt said:

A denial, a denial, a denial, a denial, a denial
A denial, a denial, a denial, a denial

What Kurt meant:

Oysters are no substitute for Pacific Geoduck.

Doesn't it feel better to know what the singer is talking about? You are now one of the more informed fans of Nirvana, so feel free to share what you've learned at the next chess club meeting. For any corrections or edits to my analysis please keep them to yourself. This is all correct and I'm very busy.

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