Get SF Weekly Newsletters

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

In Defense of Miley Cyrus Covering Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit"

Posted By on Tue, May 3, 2011 at 4:22 PM

click to enlarge miley_grab.jpg

It is with zero regret that we inform you of the existence of this: Miley Cyrus, Hannah of Montana, daughter of the "Achy Breaky Heart" dude, covering the Nirvana anthem/gauntlet/ masterpiece "Smells Like Teen Spirit."

Horrified? Witness:

Are you cringing in disgust at this apparent moral catastrophe? Are you vomiting right now? Are you dead?

Well, fuckin' deal with it. Watch that clip again, get over your holy pretensions, and realize: Miley's Nirvana cover is actually pretty decent. It's certainly not as shoot-me-now awful as you (we) pretentious music snobs want it to be. After all, hers is nearly a note-for-note replica of the original -- right down to the guitar tone and the drum fills. Her voice is the major liability here, not only because it's her voice, but because no one can sing that song like Kurt Cobain and anyone would sound bad trying. Given those shortcomings, Miley's "Teen Spirit" isn't anywhere near as atrocious as it could have been. (Her stage moves, on the other hand, we will not defend.)

What some will really hate about this is not the song itself, but the reality that for people the age of Miley Cyrus and her fans, there's nothing wrong with a fluffy popstar/teen-idol sensation/daughter of the "Achy Breaky Heart" dude sincerely covering Nirvana.

Yes, dear readers, Miley Cyrus was not even born in 1991, when "Smells Like Teen Spirit" turned the cock-rockin' world of mainstream guitar music on its bleached and permed and brain-dead head. She didn't get stuffed into lockers in high school for wearing Nirvana T-shirts bemoaning corporate rock whores. She didn't cut class to mourn the day Kurt killed himself. She was probably watching Sesame Street the last time an artist actually suffered as a result of accusations that he'd sold out.

So for Miley, "Smells Like Teen Spirit" is just a damn good rock song. It's expected that serious types will mock her, deride her, and maybe even hate her for covering it. But what they're really bemoaning -- pointlessly -- is that she wasn't born early enough to hold it in the same exalted status they do.

Follow us on Twitter @SFAllShookDown, follow Ian S. Port @iPORT, and like us at

  • Pin It

Tags: , , , , ,

About The Author

Ian S. Port


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed

Like us on Facebook


  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"