What does Smells Like Teen Spirit mean?

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Nirvana: Smells Like Teen Spirit Meaning

Song Released: 1991


Smells Like Teen Spirit Lyrics

Load up on guns and
Bring your friends
It's fun to lose
And to pretend
She's over bored
And self assured
Oh no, I know
A dirty word

hello, hello, hello, how low?
hello, hello, hello, how low?
hello, hello, hello, how low?
hello,...

  1. 1TOP RATED

    anonymous
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    Jan 25th, 2006 1:20pm report


    This song may have no real meaning... none of us REALLY know what went through Kurt Cobain's mind when he wrote it. It could've been the drugs, that's true... or it could have a deeper meaning.

    Either way, it has taken on meaning far beyond what he maybe even expected, as an anthem of apathy and, well... "teen spirit".

    Has anybody stopped at looked at how "teen spirit" could be a play on "team spirit"? Because, while teams focus on the collective goals of a group, many teenagers (particularly from Cobain's generation, Generation x) are focused more on themselves and their own goals. This isn't always nessesarily a bad thing, after all for many people adolescence is a reflective, often troubled time. Teens are usually trying to figure out who they are and how they fit into the greater puzzle that is life, the world, and the society they live in.
    At any rate, in this song we see a very strong theme of apathy and sarcasm- "load up on guns, bring your friends/ it's fun to lose, and to pretend" is not encouraging any kids to actually commit violent acts, like some other people have suggested. It's actually sort of sarcasitcally commenting on how adults tend to assume when teens are together (or alone for that matter) outside of adult supervision, they've got to be up to no good. There has been a persistent stereotype (especialy prevalent in the early 90s) of young people being primarily troublemakers and violence-prone. (Today's stereotype of young people, now in 2006, in contrast, is that they are primarily troubled, self-centered, and are in this state because they have been screwed up by society).
    So, by describing this "little group" that we only know consists of "a mulatto, an albino, a mosquito, my libido", who seem to be largely hanging around in the dark doing whatever (sex, drugs, or maybe just hanging out), he's pointing out the tendancy of teens to hang in such groups.
    Obviously, "libido" is a reference to sex, and possibly also "with the lights out, it's less dangerous", but once again this is sort of pointing out how teenagers are widely considered to be over-sexed and full of "raging hormones" that cause them to basically try to screw everyone and everything they can- and how, of course, this view is ridiculous.
    And "here we are now, entertain us" is a reference to Generation X and how it was the first one to seem to demand constant entertainment.
    "I feel stupid and contagious" could be both a reference to
    "peer pressure", that mirage-like condition that can cause people to do stupid stuff with their friends they otherwise would never do, and the pressures of conforming to a group, and this could also be a subtle reference to sexually transmitted diseases, and how teens are constantly lectured about the dangers of unprotected sex (and sex in general) and how they will probably contract an STD and die or something.
    The whole "whatever, nevermind" thing could be considered an allusion to ADD and how it leads to short attention spans, or how when teens try to communicate with adults and are misunderstood, they often end up just saying "whatever" or "nevermind...". It could also be a reference to Nevermind, which I think may have been an album they put out, but since I am not a giant Nirvana fan I don't know for sure.
    It also could be about apathy and just blocking out things you don't understand, which could tie to in the whole "with the lights out, it's less dangerous" thing, which could be maintaining that knowledge is dangerous and apathy is considered by some to be the best way to go.

    In general, the last poster said this song could be summed up as "Generation X" and I think she was right.
    This song is sort of a commentary on Generation X in it's teenage years (most of the people from this generation are hitting their thirties by now) and how they forever re-defined being a teenager in America, but how some things remain the same and are pretty much universal themes of adolescene, while at the same time poking fun at various conventions, myths, and stereotypes.

    Or it could just be the drugs talking.
    It's up to you as an individual to decide.



  2. 2TOP RATED

    anonymous
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    Nov 6th, 2005 11:07pm report


    Kurt's girlfriend, Tobi Vail (of Bikini Kill), wore Teen Spirit deodorant and Kathleen Hanna, her best friend, jokingly wrote on Kurt's wall that he "smelled like Teen Spirit". After Tobi broke up with him, Kurt wrote this song. Original versions included the line, "Who will be the king and queen of the outcast teens?" which was a strong reference to their relationship.



  3. 3TOP RATED

    anonymous
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    Dec 18th, 2005 12:59pm report


    In poking fun of Generation X's evasion, denial, and broken attention spans, the song overtly uses the refrain "Here we are now/Entertain us" to express the youth's passive relation to life, while offering a variety of scattered and confused lyrics to represent the inability to focus on coherent thought.



  4.  

    anonymous
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    May 9th, 5:13pm report


    Its true that Kathleen Hanna wrote "Kurt smells like teen spirit" on Kurt's wall, but when he wrote the lyrics he didn't know it was a deodorant. Kathleen Hanna wrote it because of his girlfriend who wore Teen Spirit deodorant, but Kurt wrote the lyrics based on his own interpretation of what it meant, unaware of the deodorant. The lyrics "she's overboard and self assured" are talking about Tobi Vail, the girlfriend who wore the deodorant, and he wrote that part of the song after she broke up with him. Some of Kurt's lyrics, I think are just rants and he was just s very creative person, so some of the things we interpret as metaphors could maybe just be random, but I'm not sure. Especially his earlier songs though, which were mostly just his thoughts in song lyrics, I think.



  5.  

    anonymous
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    Apr 28th, 2013 4:27am report


    I'll tell you what this song means: NOTHING! It's a bunch of nonsense. Nirvana had some good songs, but this isn't one of them. Ridiculous nonsense. "Musical Genius" indeed. If Kurt hadn't killed himself, he would have been exposed for the no-talent hack he really was.

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway


  6.  

    anonymous
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    Mar 18th, 2013 3:09pm report


    I think that the mulatto, albino, mosquito, libido thing is a comparison. Mulattos are dark, album is are colorless, mosquitoes are small, libido must be big. Other than that I don't think that we missed anything



  7.  

    anonymous
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    Feb 6th, 2013 2:33pm report


    Well in the music video it shows a janitor which is representing a janitor where he used to work at a high school. When he says (here we are now entertain us, I feel stupid and contagious) means that he can make the simplest song and people would like it.



  8.  

    HighInTheSky25
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    Jan 16th, 2013 1:50pm report


    This song does have a meaning its not a joke. Its a typical teenager and the dumb things they do. "load up on guns, bring some friends its fun just to pretend" how many kids die from playing with guns with their friends? "she's over bored and self assured." teenage kill themselves over the dumbest things because they can't see how precious life is. "oh no, I know a dirty word." the way kids talk to each other is horrible. "I feel stupid and contagious" teenagers are self conscious about everything and embarrassed by everything. Teenagers fallow each other like sheep. They'd each do anything that is cool no matter how stupid it really is. "my libido" teenagers are horny bastards. "And I forget Just what it takes Oh yeah, I guess it makes me smile I found it hard its Hard to find Oh well, whatever, nevermind." teenagers are always in trouble cuz they can't look passed the present, until they actually face the consequences. Teenagers are fake to each other, a fake smile. They can't make up their mind on anything. "my denial" all teenagers are in denial about something.



  9.  

    HighInTheSky25
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    Jan 15th, 2013 1:36pm report


    This song is not a joke or anything like that. Its simply a topical teenager and the dumb things they do. Load up on guns bring some friends its fun just pretend. How many kids die from playing around with guns with their friends. shes over bored.i know a dirty word. Have you heard the way teenagers talk to each other? And teenagers are horny bastards. My libido. I feel stupid and contagious. Teenagers are self conscious about everything and they fallow each other about everything what ever someone says is cool everybody tries to do it. i would know im 16 years old. "Our little group" in high school you're part of your group, everybody has a group, a clique they belong to. well what ever nevermind. Teenagers can't make up their mind about anything. I guess it makes me smile. A fake smile. Kids are fake to one another.and I forget just what it takes. Kids se always in trouble because they cant look to the future and see consequences they just live in the moment. This song is just a topical teenager. Smells like teen spirit.



  10.  

    diamondcut
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    Jan 6th, 2013 1:15am report


    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=URGLFTutM9s

    That's the link where they talk about where the name comes from. It's kind of interesting.



  11.  

    anonymous
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    Dec 7th, 2012 12:35pm report


    When I looked up the lyrics of the song I figured that was kind of a sarcastic way of how adults view teenagers.



  12.  

    anonymous
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    Dec 4th, 2012 12:11am report


    My interpretation:
    (I'll use the lyrics)
    Load up on guns, bring your friends
    It's fun to lose and to pretend:
    This is Kurt Cobain's horrid and morbid view on society. Consider this the thesis statement for the entire piece. We are a violent society and we are fake but it's seen as fun.

    She's overboard and self-assured
    Oh, no, I know a dirty word:
    The dirty word here is Self-assured. This is because everyone in society is fake and or "pretends." Thus "self-assured" is a dirty word.

    Hello, Hello, Hello, How Low (x3)
    Hello, Hello, Hello

    I think this bridge serves 2 purposes.
    1. it begins the satire on his fans and society as a whole. the "how low" is done in a low octave, thus Kurt is questioning how low he has to make his voice for society and telling us about it.
    2. The hello part is Kurt saying his hello's to society and begging us to pay attention at the same time.

    With the lights out, it's less dangerous:
    metaphor; the "lights" is a metaphor for the mind. He's stating that without thought the world is a less dangerous place which in turn goes back to the pretending and fitting in with society.

    Here we are now, entertain us
    I feel stupid and contagious
    Here we are now, entertain us:
    Satire. He's figuratively pointing the finger at us, his fans and making fun of us.
    we are stupid and we are contagious but we don't care because we are entertained.

    A mulatto
    An albino
    A mosquito
    My libido
    Yeah

    society as a whole is described right here.
    A mulatto: who cares because it's still a human.
    An albino: who cares because it's still a human.
    a mosquito: those suck blood.
    My Labido: those want sex.
    Humans are blood sucking mosquito's who only do things based on their own selfish labido's...
    yeah!

    Hey... Yay

    again; satire. Kurt is pointing all of this stuff out to us but he's like yay! because we as humans are horrible but it's ok because we all pretend and YAY!

    second verse:
    I'm worse at what I do best:
    He's bad at this because no one gets it. I mean here we are 20 years later and I have to post this. No one will read it and it will be seen as wrong because Kurt was worse at what he did best and that's viewing society differently.

    And for this gift I feel blessed:
    self explained and one of the only parts in which Kurt points the finger at himself. He knows he also is a part of society but he gets to view it under his own certain light and sell it thus he feels blessed.

    Our little group (tribe) has always been
    And always will until the end:
    Again Kurt points the finger at himself yet he does it in the terms of his own small group. Kurt is admitting that he to belongs to a society. Kurt is admitting that he to pretends. His little group is a metaphor for society and how even he has to conform.

    And I forget just why I taste:
    Again, satire. Kurt is questioning why we pretend and why we as a society accept our fake personas in order to fit in and in order to survive.

    Oh, yeah, I guess it makes me smile:
    His answer. We all have to fit in to society in order to achieve happiness.

    I found it hard, it's hard to find
    Oh well, whatever, nevermind:
    Here Kurt is questioning what this all means. With all of the ideas he has put forth about society and willingness to conform Kurt is questioning why life and society as a whole exist. Kurt doesn't know the answer and so "nevermind"

    A denial is said near the end of this song and it is repeated multiple times. I believe it is repeated to force the listener to hear the denial but what is this denial?
    Is it a denial of ourselves?
    is it a denial to view society for what it really is?
    Can I go back and make this about a woman whom is a lesbian? you bet your ass I can!

    That's the beauty of artist such as Kurt; this song can mean multiple things to multiple persons. I am merely posting my explanation.

    So why is it called smells like teen spirit you ask? I think my explanation is the correct one and the title "Smells like teen spirit" was simply made to lure listeners away from the deeper more complex meaning.

    A small jab at an ex girlfriend never hurts.



  13.  

    anonymous
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    Oct 2nd, 2012 10:29pm report


    Load up on guns, bring your friends
    (Get your drugs on, the more the merrier)
    It's fun to lose and to pretend
    (It's fun to get high, but makes me a loser)
    She's overboard and self-assured
    (When you are stoned you feel good and invincible)
    Oh, no, I know a dirty word
    (Don't tell anyone I just took heroin)

    Hello, Hello, Hello, How Low
    Hello, Hello, Hello, How Low
    Hello, Hello, Hello, How Low
    Hello, Hello, Hello
    (Can you see how stoned I am right now?)

    With the lights out, it's less dangerous
    (When I'm on drugs, I don't have to think)
    Here we are now, entertain us
    (I'm stoned now, let the party begin)
    I feel stupid and contagious
    (I know drugs are not good for me, and I just encourage my friends to get stoned with me)
    Here we are now, entertain us
    (I'm stoned now, let the party begin)

    A mulatto
    An albino
    A mosquito
    My libido
    (My friends are so freaky, one of them always mooches from me, I'm horny and libido rhymes with mosquito)
    Yeah
    (Ain't I clever)

    Hey... Yay

    I'm worse at what I do best
    (I used to be more clever, but now I do the best I can)
    And for this gift I feel blessed
    (I'm glad I can still write and sing)
    Our little group (tribe) has always been
    (People wanting to escape reality have always existed)
    And always will until the end
    (and always will exist)

    Hello, Hello, Hello, How Low
    Hello, Hello, Hello, How Low
    Hello, Hello, Hello, How Low
    Hello, Hello, Hello
    (Can you see how stoned I am right now?)

    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
    (see above)

    A mulatto
    An albino
    A mosquito
    My libido
    Yeah
    (see above)

    Hey... Yay

    (Guitar solo)

    And I forget just why I taste
    (I can't remember why I turned to drugs)
    Oh, yeah, I guess it makes me smile
    (I can forget my problems and have fun)
    I found it hard, it's hard to find
    (Even when I'm stoned, sometimes it's hard to enjoy)
    Oh well, whatever, nevermind
    (That's OK, because it usually works)

    Hello, Hello, Hello, How Low (x3)
    Hello, Hello, Hello
    (see above)

    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
    (see above)
    A mulatto
    An albino
    A mosquito
    My libido
    (see above)

    Yeah a denial
    A denial! (x9)
    (I am deluding myself into thinking drugs are the answer)



  14.  

    anonymous
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    May 16th, 2012 5:58pm report


    Plain and simple, it's about masturbation.



  15.  

    Msilocybin
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    May 13th, 2012 5:47pm report


    The meaning of this song is pretty clear.

    It about the singer depression ( low self esteem ). Thus the title smell like teen spirt. Because teen have low self esteem.

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


    When you`re depressed you can get crazy thoughts. Self assured is a "dirty word".

    Hello, hello, hello, how low.

    Notice the how low, like how low are you feeling?


    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


    When the light are out sucide is less present because he cant see his current situation. People expect him to perfom on stage even if he feel bad inside. Feeling stupid, contagious all about depression.

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

    Again negative thought, but then he remind him self that he has his group that he can alway depend on.


    A denial!

    Like your in denial



  16.  

    anonymous
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    Apr 2nd, 2012 4:02pm report


    this song about a clash between kurt and some teen in his teenage memories...that teen must had called him a big name about his mom,,,so that is why kurt says"she's overbored,and self assured"..when,boys,do you say your mother is sexually overbored and self assured?yes,when someone says she's that and will make that with her,so you say she's overbored that to mean who insulted her is castrated,and self assured is that she's sure he won't satisfy her for a castrated and bed impaired...hahaha..then,it's fun to lose and to pretend,,he laughs at that teen and tells him that,,this expression is produced when someone beats you,,so he got ass kicked by that teen,but kurt kept his teen dignity arise that he pretended he did not lose...now,i've given you an idea about what he says...ciao



  17.  

    anonymous
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    Mar 7th, 2012 3:46am report


    what makes these lyrics so great, beyond the catchiness of the song itself, is how he leaves it so wide open to interpret. So yeah maybe the name came from a deoderant but he obviously ran with that idea and created many possible angles for everyone to relate to in some way. So we can all listen to this song how we personally want to. like for example my thoughts on the first verse had to do with the "Bikini Kill" chick he had problems with. "she's over bored"-could means she cheated on him maybe and "self assured"-she might have been hot and knew it "oh no i know a dirty word" could be an underlying way of calling her a slut of some kind. Just my thoughts. like i said thats the beauty of good lyrics. you have your own version of the song.



  18.  

    Galaxia
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    Jan 26th, 2012 1:50pm report


    I agree with those who think it could be a love song.
    "Come as you are" and "I don't have a gun" are expressions to encourage the other person if there is a sympathy between two. I take you just as you are, you don't have to hide anything and don't be afraid, you can come closer to me (if the other person is a shy one).



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