Lorde fronting Nirvana would’ve made Kurt proud
“Rockist criticisms of Lorde’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame performance misunderstand what Nirvana was all about, writes LACHLAN KANONIUK.
The oft-maligned Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame induction ceremony had an unprecedented weight of expectation in 2014, largely due to it being the first year of eligibility for one of the most important rock and roll bands of all time – with ‘Love Buzz’ clocking in its 25th birthday just in time allow for Nirvana’s nomination.
While inducting the Seattle grunge exponents was a foregone formality, there was still room for controversy. Like fellow 2014 Hall Of Famers Kiss, Nirvana ran into muddy semantics when it came to which band members would be bestowed the honour. Then, the biggest question mark loomed in the week prior to the ceremony: How, and who, would perform the music of Nirvana?
The pretty well-kept secret was revealed come show time. An awesome display of four inter-generational artists joined Krist Novoselic, Dave Grohl and Pat Smear for a concise, encapsulating four-song narrative history. Joan Jett, the forbearer. Kim Gordon, the contemporary. St Vincent’s Annie Clark, the disciple. Lorde, the future generation. All four were selected by the band, their merit proven by spot-on renditions of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, ‘Aneurysm’, ‘Lithium’ and ‘All Apologies’, respectively. It was Lorde, however, that proved to be a contentious choice for comment-section warriors.
“It’s an attitude of fear and exclusivity, the kind that Kurt despised”
There’s no denying Lorde is a pop musician. Thing is, Kurt Cobain loved pop music, and didn’t give a fuck if it was cool or not. After seeing ABBA tribute act Bjí¶rn Again perform in Melbourne on Nirvana’s only Australian tour, Kurt reportedly insisted that the they be added to the 1992 Reading Festival lineup as a proviso for Nirvana’s headline booking.
Another point of discourse regarding Lorde’s appointment of vocalist is the fact she was born years after Kurt’s passing. It’s a snappy, myopic nostalgia-baiting observation. But what does it actually mean? Kurt Cobain was five years old when Jim Morrison died. Did that disqualify him from bashing out iconoclastic renditions of The Doors’ canon? Lead Belly passed nearly two decades prior to Kurt’s entry onto this earth, but will still received Nirvana’s haunting rendition of ‘Where Did You Sleep Last Night?’ on MTV’s Unplugged?
I see it often in the comments section. Rockists, usually male, usually 30, 40-something. They’re passionate about music (which is fantastic), but scared, seemingly threatened by artists (female, young, or black) that challenge their pre-conceived, archaic rock homogeneity. It’s an attitude of fear and exclusivity, the kind that Kurt despised.
20 years on, the barriers Kurt rallied against still remain. An ally to feminist icons such as Kathleen Hanna, The Slits, and the broader Riot grrrl movement, Kurt once declared “the future of rock belongs to women”. “Rock” is a malleable term. It could mean Lorde. It could mean Rookie. But that future is unquestionably now. Deal with it.