There’s not a great deal to be said about Nirvana’s Hall of Fame induction that hasn’t been said a gazillion times already. (If you haven’t seen the performances yet, there’s plenty of video here.) Still, it’s been depressingly predictable to see the complaints this morning about Lorde’s participation, with people bitching that she “hasn’t earned the right” and is “too pop,” etc. A couple of points here: first, the two remaining members of Nirvana chose the evening’s singers, and they have “earned the right” to do pretty much whatever the fuck they want. And second, I rather get the feeling that a certain K. Cobain would have enjoyed the idea of a 17-year-old girl from New Zealand fronting his band at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction.
Because let’s not forget, 20 years ago, the people listening to Nirvana weren’t paunchy 30-somethings complaining about how things should and shouldn’t be (and if they were, Kurt would almost certainly have hated them). As someone who remembers Nirvana the first time around, I can tell you this: they were kids. Bored, angry, disaffected, alienated kids. Kids from places like Takapuna. Kids Lorde’s age. Kids young enough to form an intense connection with the music of a man they’d never met, kids whose lives were affected so profoundly that they went out and formed bands or made zines or engaged in any number of other creative pursuits. They were kids who didn’t care about the proper order of things, kids who had no interest in paying their dues, kids who wanted to do their own thing and saw in Cobain a kindred spirit.
It’s easy to say that Cobain wouldn’t have cared about the Hall of Fame. I suspect he would, to the extent that he always wanted success for his band. And really, who doesn’t? If you make art, you want it to connect with the world, to be seen and heard and experienced by as many people as possible. That said, I also suspect that Cobain wouldn’t have cared for all the pomp and circumstance that accompanies the annual Wenner-sponsored baby boomer circle-jerk, and that he would have enjoyed the opportunity to short-circuit the whole spectacle had such an opportunity presented itself.
Being able to put a 17-year-old on stage at an institution that, by its very nature, excludes youth… that’s exactly the sort of thing I reckon Cobain would have enjoyed thoroughly. It’s been noted widely already that all the singers chosen to perform in Cobain’s stead last night were female, a nod to Cobain’s feminism, perhaps, but also to the fact that the songs themselves never demanded a male vocalist, that they were inclusive and intelligent enough to support any number of interpretations. Similarly, the fact that the singers chosen spanned several generations was doubtless no accident — Lorde is 17, Annie Clark 31, Joan Jett 55, and Kim Gordon 60. (For the sake of completeness, J Mascis, who joined the band at St. Vitus for several songs, is 48, and Deer Tick bro is somewhere in his late 20s.) The message, if there was one, is that in 2014, Nirvana is for everyone, young and old.
And look, in any case, Lorde did a perfectly good job of handling “All Apologies.” It’s pretty much as poppy as Nirvana ever got, and the song was an excellent fit for her vocals. People can get as uppity as they like at the fact that her own music doesn’t sound like Nirvana, or that she hasn’t paid her dues, or that she was three years from being born when “All Apologies” was released as a single. The remaining members of Nirvana clearly give precisely no fucks about such considerations, and neither should anyone else.