The Top Ten Songs by Nirvana

10. Scentless Apprentice

Perhaps the most atypical song Nirvana ever put out. It borders on experimental noise rock with an industrial undertone and it’s completely devoid of melody. Dave Grohl’s drumming is like a punch in the stomach thanks to legendary producer Steve Albini. In fact, Albini took the entire Nirvana experience to another level with his piercing recording techniques, making ‘In Utero’ sound like ‘Nevermind’ on hard drugs.

9. Smells Like Teen Spirit

Of course this one had to be on the list, but how high? You don’t want it too high because then people will think that you’re only a casual fan who has no business constructing a list like this. The best part of this song, and perhaps the entirety of Nirvana’s career, a second or two of pure joy that encapsulates what the band was all about, is Dave Grohl’s drum lead in. Wow, we’re two songs in and no mention of Kurt Cobain, interesting.

8. In Bloom

For me, Nirvana was at their best when they played straight forward rock n’ roll. It might not have sounded like it, and it surely wasn’t labeled as such, but much of Nirvana’s catalogue is structured around the verse/chorus medium, a formula that has been around for a long time. Kurt Cobain knew this, going as far as to poke fun at his insistence to stray from the mold by writing a song called, “Verse Chorus Verse”. “In Bloom”, along with it’s awesome video, was the song that put Nirvana on a higher pedestal for me.

7. Love Buzz

Nirvana’s original release, way back in 1988, the “Love Buzz/Big Cheese” single saw mild success when it came out. “Love Buzz” is actually a cover of a Shocking Blue tune with slightly tweaked lyrics. It’s worth mentioning, though, because without it who knows what would have happened to Nirvana. It was also included on their first album ‘Bleach’.

6. Sliver

Perhaps the catchiest song that Nirvana ever wrote, “Sliver”, released on the rarities collection ‘Insecticide’, became a Top 40 hit. Now, if that doesn’t sum up how much better music was in general a decade ago, I don’t what does. Do you think a White Stripes B-side could crack the Top 40? It wouldn’t even crack the Modern Rock chart. “Sliver” is an autobiographical song about a young Cobain’s trip to see his grandparents. The “grandpa take me home” chorus is at once silly and disturbing, a good describer for what made Nirvana so popular and important.

5. All Apologies

I’m mainly including this song because of the harrowing version from their MTV Unplugged performance. Speaking of MTV Unplugged, what the hell happened to that show? I think Jay-Z did one and totally killed the genre. (NOTE: I shouldn’t say that. If my memory serves correct, Jay performed with The Roots and actually did a real good job. The only one’s to blame are probably today’s “popular” rock acts, who don’t have the songs or the talent to pull of an Unplugged.) Anyway, I always thought that at some point during the recording of that song, Cobain realized he wanted to die. At least it sounds like that.

4. Rape Me

Nirvana threatened to play this song, then brand new and unreleased, during the MTV Video Music Awards (you know, when that show was actually worth watchingâÂ?¦ for the music). However, the producers put the kibosh on that right away. When it came time for Nirvana to perform, though, Cobain launched into the “Rape Me” riff before stopping and switching to, I believe “Lithium”. What’s really funny is when this came out on ‘In Utero’ it actually got radio play. The Lesson: let the public decide what’s offensive and what’s not.

3. Do Re Mi

It’s a little weird throwing a random, acoustic demo recording on a “Top Ten Songs” list, but the inclusion of “Do Re Mi” is more metaphoric than anything else; as to say “look what they could have done”. I realize that that’s totally unfair and probably untrue, but it’s the kind of sweeping remarks I’m prone to make, so deal with it. This song was featured on the boxset ‘With the Lights Out’. (The title of course coming from a lyric in “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, however, I didn’t recognize that until about five months after I bought it. I’m retarded.) Although the recording sucks you can tell that it’s one of the best songs/melodies he ever came up with.

2. Serve the Servants

The opening line to Nirvana’s follow-up to ‘Nevermind’ goes “teenage angst has paid off well, now I’m bored and old”. A lyric that at once undermines and justifies the band’s output in a single sentence. The debate over what record is better, ‘In Utero’ or ‘Nevermind’, could go on for days. I myself am torn on the issue. Stylistically, the albums are nothing but disparate and it wasn’t just sales that declined with the release of ‘In Utero’; many critics thought that rock n roll’s best band had actually taken a step back with the effort. And yes, hindsight is 20/20. Sometimes people forget just how different these two records were, but play their opening tracks, the epochal classic “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and the mostly forgotten “Serve the Servants”, back to back to hear the leap.

1. Drain You

Lists like these are so arbitrary and stupid (in theory) that I’ve decided to just feature my personal favorite song as the No. 1 tune. No more metaphorical choices, symbolic inclusions or obligatory picks here, my friends. No, this is just my favorite song, simply put. The beginning of “Drain You” gets me every time. “One baby to another says-I’m lucky to have met you,” Cobain sings as the song thrusts into full “grunge” mode.

His lyrics were simple yet not simplistic and I think that was a big part of their appeal. Picking your favorite song, and especially your favorite Nirvana song, comes down to one thing, the same factor that you would use to pick your favorite NSYNC song believe it or notâÂ?¦which melody do you find the most appealing? Underneath it all, Nirvana was a pop band, a pop band disguised by the aggressiveness of hard rock and punk. They weren’t the first to try their hands at this approach, but they might have been the best.

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