Unless you live under a rock, you have heard it all before. The tragic story of Kurt Cobain’s life and how it is still a huge topic of conversation in the music world, even 25 year later. However, I am not here to tell you the story again, assuming you know that drugs, an abusive relationship, and fame led this man to end his life on April 5th, 1994. I am here to discuss and prove that, despite what you may think, Kurt Cobain was not black and white; rather, he was bright and gold. You may not be able to understand this because of his notorious founding of punk rock, which is mainly just screaming and what some might consider nonsense, but if you look a little closer, suddenly you will be able to see (and maybe even feel) what this artist had gone through.
The album in the spotlight is none other than In Utero, the very last album that Nirvana released together in 1993, only a few months before Cobain’s death. The original title was even weirder (and more ominous), I hate myself and want to die. Anyway, the album title represented Kurt’s odd obsession with the birthing process, something you could write an entire article on itself.
In Utero is 41 minutes of new rock that had never hit the music scene before. Fans did not know what to expect and some still do not know what to think of it. So, let us dive right into some lyrics from a featured song on the album.
In the 14 days it took to record this album, Nirvana created my personal favorite, “All Apologies,” which was performed with “Serve The Servants” on the MTV-unplugged acoustic renditions. If you have never seen those videos, I highly encourage you to watch them. It is incredibly sad but emotionally inspiring at the same time. “All Apologies” contains a snip-bit that holds a lot of meaning:
I wish I was like you
Find my nest of salt
Everything is my fault
I’ll take all the blame
Aqua seafoam shame
Sunburn with freezeburn
Choking on the ashes of her enemy.
Examination time: This part of the song is actually very direct and Kurt expresses clearly that he is not like everybody else and he knows it. He could not be happy as a normal townie in his school and growing up with his parents, and he could not be happy as a celebrity with all of the attention, drugs, and money. No matter what, he remained in his mental prison in all stages of life. It pains me to say, but it’s what makes his story so unique and what created the infamous legend of Kurt Cobain.
When he says “Everything is my fault, I’ll take all the blame,” I believe that he is referring to his suicidal thoughts. According to his aunt, she had known of a time when he was younger when he had attempted suicide, which aligns with the belief that he actually did kill himself (not the conspiracy that he was murdered). He was troubled his entire life and, sadly, I think that’s why he left this message behind in his song.
One could make an argument that Kurt knew this was going to be his last album. He pushed this album out in significantly less time than his previous album Nevermind, and he left so many hints of self-loathing and self-hatred, you would have to be blind to ignore these word’s meanings. Next in this stanza is “Aqua seafoam shame, Sunburn with freezerburn, Choking on the ashes of her enemy.” Now this one is a little trickier to understand, but basically Kurt is talking about being stuck between a rock and a hard place. It’s up to the listener to decide whether that had to do with him being in versus out of a relationship, him being in an underground versus popular band, or even him becoming a father or not. Overall, The album itself only consisted of a few major hits. It was definitely not the best piece produced by the band but considering the circumstances and also what their music journey turned into (being regulated and forced into a certain style by other producers and agents), it is no surprise that the album has been mostly forgotten. It shouldn’t be compared to its big brother, Nevermind, which is what gained Nirvana most of their fame.
Nevertheless, it is a reminder of how far they had come as a group at a time when punk rock was pretty much unheard of. It is almost like this is a documentation of Kurt Cobain’s final thoughts and gives you an insider’s view of what was going on in his head. It is truly mind-blowing, depending how deep you want to delve into it, and it will forever remain one of my favorite albums. In Utero reminds us that money cannot buy happiness and that some people, who are loved by millions, cannot feel loved at all.