What does Smells Like Teen Spirit mean?

Nirvana: Smells Like Teen Spirit Meaning

Album cover for Smells Like Teen Spirit album cover

Song Released: 1991

Covered By: Malia J (2021)

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?


    #1 top rated interpretation:
    click a star to vote
    Dec 4th 2012 !⃝

    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

    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...

    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.


    #2 top rated interpretation:
    click a star to vote
    Jan 25th 2006 !⃝

    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.


    #3 top rated interpretation:
    click a star to vote
    Jun 26th 2006 !⃝

    Kurt Cobain's obvious message from this message, is not some fucking drugged up Kurt crying about nothing. He didn't hate this song because it had no meaning. He hated it because all of you people have no idea what this song is really about. He was quoted saying "Right now we have to sing this song, because our contract makes us do that. This is the song that ruined our lives, ruined Seattle and will ruin your lives."
    Teen sprit is the biggest rock anthem of the nineties. It didn't get there for no reason. It was named the 7th greatest song of all time. Up their with such greats as Bob Dylan and the Beatles.
    Teen spirit, was a deodarent, and yes he did read :"Kurt smells like teen spirit" on a wall, and named the song after it. That has little to do with the song of course. In fact Cobain doesn't even know what the song is about. He believed it was open to interpretation. : "I just notice that people expect...more of a thematic angle with our music, you know - they always want to read into it. And before I was just using pieces of poetry and just, just garble, just garbage and just stuff that would just spew out of me at the time, and a lot of times I write lyrics it's just at the last minute because I'm really lazy, so...and then I find myself having to come up with explanations..."
    Some say that the song is about Cobain's break-up with Tobi Vail. But that is evident in earlier drafts in the song, but not now.
    To most people, Teen spirit, is about a rebellion. To rise up as the modern teens that we are today. When you read the lyrics, it is what definetly is thrown at you. Such as verses as "Load up on guns, bring your friends."
    But to me, it is all about conforming to the will of the group. I think it tells things like how we tend to behave differently when we are in a group of other people. People behave differently when they are in a group of multiple people. But this is in part with the "rebellion" theory of the song. The lyric: Here we are now, entertain us
    I feel stupid, and contagious, Is about the in-ability to think for themselves, and doing something they wouldn't usually do by themselves. When one person begins to turn over a car, a lot of people will follow suit. A crowd can greatly effect how we think.
    Kurt Cobain was an amazing song-writer. One of the best. Are never easily interpreted.
    Kurt R.I.P

  4. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Aug 11th 2022 !⃝

    I think its a link to Kurt Cobain's life story

    "load up on guns and bring your friends"
    I think this means that as teens you grab your weapons and go to party's etc. It can also look like teens being in revolution with society.

    This whole song is based off when Kurt and his girlfriend were drunk and started spraypainting his house, she had wrote "Kurt smells like teen spirit" as the deoderant and Kurt had thought that it was a good name for this song. I think he wrote this song in a refrence to that and to Revolution, and Redemptions by teens. Idk I wish Kurt was here to interpritate this song for us

  5. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Oct 5th 2020 !⃝

    This is a message to people in my opinion, that even tho we have the latest gadgets and it seems like our generation has a perfect life, it is so fricked up becuase of mental aspects rather than physical. but I do think this is on of the songs that makes the least sense lyrically

  6. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Jun 7th 2019 !⃝

    IF you have ever played PUBG, this song fits exactly.

    Load up on guns< loot and find your weapons>

    Bring your friends its fun to lose and to pretend< team up with friends, everyone loses more than they win, but still fun>

    Shes over-bored self assured
    Oh no i know a dirty word< enemy gets taken down and begins cussing>

    Hello 15x < she gets 15 kills

    With the lights out its less dangerous < classic match that begins in evening then becomes a dark night, it is less dangerous>
    Here we are now entertain us< sending out a random shot to challenge nearby enemies>
    I feel stupid and contagous< team mates and enemies also send challenge shots>
    Here we are now entertain us< nearby shots show on mini map>
    A mullato, an albino a mosquito< wear gas mask> my libido< female avatar dressed to please ones libido>= describe the appearance of his squad>

    Im worst at what i do best and for this i feel blessed< last place in his squad,but still does good and ofcourse feels blessed>
    Our little group has always been and always will until the end< clan that was started early n lasts till the game is no longer played>

    And i forget just why i taste ohya i guess it makes me smile< been playing PUBG long enough that he gets hungery>

    I found it hard its hard to find ohwell whatever never mind< there are some items that are hard to find>

    Lights out less dangerous here we are now entertain us
    A mullato, albino, mosquito my libido
    A denial, a denial a denial a denial< the 4 man squad gets taken out, losing the match, denial, happens alot when we get taken down.> the end
    play pubg mobile and you will see what i mean.

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway
  7. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Mar 20th 2019 !⃝

    This song expresses anti-establishment sentiments through the lens of an 'Us vs Them' social ideology.

  8. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Jan 7th 2019 !⃝

    Kurt Cobain when he wrote this song, in multiple interviews said it didn’t have a meaning it was mostly parts of poems or random lyrics but what I do know about “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is that he and his friend (a girl) were once out one night and his friend told him he smelt like Teen Spirit,a deodorant brand,from there on Kurt decided to say that it “smells like teen spirit” he sometimes would spray paint on cars “smells like teen spirit” another part of the song I do know about was that the part of the song where it says “here we are now, entertain us” comes from an interview when Kurt said that usually when he went to parties he said, “Here we are now,entertain us”

    In conclusion,
    Kurt didn’t have a deep meaning on most of his songs that’s why he didn’t like interviews because they would usually ask about his songs meanings, and he didn’t have an explanation. Unfourtanetly he died before his next album came out which he there stated that, “I’m going to now be prepared to have an explanation for the new album”

  9. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Nov 23rd 2016 !⃝

    The song was written not just by cobain but by all of the members of nirvana. The song is a compilation of all of the things in a teenage life. It captures the mindset, mood, and perception of a teenager.

  10. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Nov 21st 2015 !⃝

    I don't think the lyric is "how low."
    I believe it's " hell no "

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway
  11. anonymous
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    Oct 18th 2015 !⃝

    I think its just about teen spirit in general
    Like going in to an abandoned mental institution with friends (don it) or going to a bar... With friends isint it funny almost every thing teens do is wit friends:P

  12. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    May 9th 2014 !⃝

    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.

  13. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Apr 28th 2013 !⃝

    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
  14. anonymous
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    Mar 18th 2013 !⃝

    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

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway
  15. anonymous
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    Feb 6th 2013 !⃝

    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.

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway
  16. HighInTheSky25
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    Jan 16th 2013 !⃝

    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.

  17. HighInTheSky25
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    Jan 15th 2013 !⃝

    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.

  18. diamondcut
    click a star to vote
    Jan 6th 2013 !⃝


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

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