The Nirvana song Kurt Cobain called “happy happiness”

-Very little of Nirvana’s discography could be categorised as ‘happy’. Nirvana popularised alternative rock music in the 1990s, pushing into mainstream commercial success with their loud, grungy riffs, but were characterised by their harsh, raw lyrics surrounding themes of rape, isolation, and mental illness.

The band’s final single release in 1993 was no different. The double A-side featured ‘Rape Me’ and ‘All Apologies’ from the band’s third and final studio album, In Utero. ‘Rape Me’ was a bold statement about sexual violence, also thought to double as a song about Cobain’s struggle with fame. Turning the ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ riff on its head, the track features unrelenting lyrics as Cobain repeatedly wails, “R**e me”.

-The accompanying final single was ‘All Apologies’, a slightly calmer song which started out as a Beatles-esque folk-inspired track. In its final studio version, the recording also featured Kera Schaley on the cello. It seems to chart Cobain’s struggle with fame once more.

Though it’s not as harsh as ‘Rape Me’, the material retains Nirvana’s usual lyrical melancholy and regret, as Cobain sings: “I’ll take all the blame, I’ll proceed with shame”. With the track being Nirvana’s final before Cobain’s suicide in 1994, the imagery of burial and the line: “Everything’s my fault, I’ll take all the blame” become all the more affecting.

Despite its dark tone and themes, Kurt Cobain once described the song as “happy happiness”. In the 1993 biography Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana, the frontman suggested that the song was written for Courtney Love and their child, Frances Bean. He stated: “I like to think the song is for them, but the words don’t really fit in relation to us… the feeling does, but not the lyrics”.

In the In Utero edition of the 33⅓ series, Gillian Gaar quotes producer Steve Albini as also describing the track as a “contrast to the more aggressive ones”. Detailing further, he continued: “It sounded really good in that it sounded lighter, but it didn’t sound conventional. It was sort of a crude light sound that suited the band”.

The track was supposedly written in 1990 before Cobain and Love even met, and that the frontman only later dedicated it to his wife and daughter. Though its lyrics are bleak, it was sonically light (by Nirvana’s standards) from the first demo version, perhaps leading him to later associate it with them. Cobain described the track as “peaceful, happy, comfort – just happy happiness”.

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