By Lovisa Löfgren Jansson.
An iconic artist is an artist who has influenced the music world and has made specific genres develop. To be considered as iconic they need to be recognizable and be highly admirable for the piece of work they have created. Artists can often get inspired by each other but it’s only when someone chooses a new path, are unique, and stand out from the crowd when they can be considered iconic. There are many artists through the years that have been getting attention, but not all of them have contributed to something new. Iconic people are significant because they have made themselves symbols for the area they have shown their talent in. That is why you connect different music styles eg. with specific people as they have become features and associations. Everyone can call themselves an artist, but everyone is not iconic.
Nirvana was a band formed in 1987 in Washington, USA. It was a unique band that started the large grunge trend during the early nineties in the world. With their iconic songs like “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “Come as You Are”, the view and definition of rock and grunge has changed for all eternity. Their album Nevermind took the world by storm and is in the list of the top 15 albums of all time.
What made Nirvana iconic?
During the eighties and early nineties, many rock bands began to spread. All these singers spread fairly gloomy and critical messages through their music. But unlike other artists that were considered as their competitors, Nirvana's music had a unique character and by many considered as one-of-a-kind. Their songs were still written with a dark undertone and often had tracks of depression. But it was the honesty about their actual mental health that made them stand out from the crowd. Nirvana is considered iconic, because it was this band that popularised the new branch of rock, called grunge all over the world. The music was to become many meaningful anthems for generation Z, the group where the music was the most popular among.
The singer of the group, Kurt Cobain, really did know how to write catchy songs that were appealing to the public. Especially those who were desperately depressed and wanted to find a voice that spoke for their feelings. He had a special talent and ear for tones, melodies, hooks, and music overall. The exceptional thing about Nirvana was that it’s nearly impossible for anyone who has heard one of their songs, to forget about them. That is something that I adore, the skill that they were able to create singles and albums that always leaves their tracks within the heads of the people who hear it.
What made Nirvana special
In many songs, they have made the possibility for their listeners to make their interpretations and allowed them to link the content to their own experiences. That resulted in fans making own personal bonds to the music published and making it better than other regular, plain songs on the radio. This is something that I think was considerably remarkable with Nirvana and what I want to compliment them about. Their music was more than just some tones combined with lyrics and being mainstream. What they wrote constantly had some kind of meaning, even though it was not always obvious they thought it was important with having a message. That is also something that appeared to be the main purpose of their music and what made them an iconic band.
Kurt Cobain was the front figure and the most recognizable person of the group. He was a vocalist, guitarist, and drummer. For people who are not as familiar with Nirvana can often link their success with him and think that he was the master behind the music. But this is far from true, as the fact that they were a group with different group members interacting with each other formed the results. Especially when a group of people with different skills and talents meet and cooperate, there is an exchange of ideas and there is a perfect occasion for each part to be able to improve each others work.
Grunge is a style that has its roots in the 1940s and 1950s rock and roll and differed greatly from previous classical genres like the rhythm of blues and country music. It was during the 1990s that the alternative rock started to dominate the music world, starting the competition against Metallica, Guns n’ Roses, and with the Pop community. With grunge, a large rise of Britpop, and indie rock also became popular and made new music styles arise among the regular ones.
Many years after their breakthrough, their influence is very significant in much music up to date. The groups' importance for rock and grunge development is very big. Their legacy has inspired new bands to be created, like Green Day, Weezer, and many more. Nirvana most certainly has influenced modern rock. Those would not have been the same without the influence given by Nirvana. They were a primary reason for how other grunge and rock bands could have got the opportunity to gain popularity. Cause Nirvana most importantly made the whole grunge genre become attractive to a much larger extent than ever before. Indeed, Nirvana's fame was possible and achieved by getting media attention and being hyped by the media. Also having the luck of making their debut in the perfect moment, when the music communities had a thirst for new trends and music genres that were more special than the mainstreamed music. The same reasons were behind how the iconic bands AC/DC and the Beatles became famous.
Criticism on Nirvana's work
The critique given to artistic work is an overall very complex subject. As everyone sees everything in life through different perspectives and have different tastes in music, opinions, etc. That is why deciding what’s iconic and not can be very tricky. As Nirvana was very different from other rock artists in the music community, you should not do more than praise them. Cause many of the concurrents published music with homophobic and sexist undercurrents, with a dark underground tone. Nirvana marked their stand and support in question like sexism, feminism, and racism through in lots of their songs. This is something they should have gotten more attention and cred for as it’s important matters in our world.
But something that I liked less with the overall music they created is that much of their music had very similar types of melodies that consisted of the same combination of instruments each time. This included loud and concentrated sounds made by bass, drums, electric guitars, and lastly together with a suffering, raspy, but also iconic voice. If the songs would have been more variated and differ more from each other, maybe a larger group of people would have started listening to it. That could have made the music reach other target groups that listened to other genres. More differences between their sounds would as well have shown their width of music and talent for adapting their music for different communities in the society. But it was maybe also their pattern that could be seen, and their similarity between their different songs that made them iconic.
Nirvana's music compared with the current era and society
The music today still has many similarities with Nirvana's work during the nineties. That includes the popularity around having a message with songs and writing emotional lyrics, that is touching and that reflects the writer's inner thoughts and feelings. During the nineties, which was a very different era compared to now, it was significantly more popular writing about hate, criticism towards the society, and more about evilness. This is something that has decreased during the last couple of years and more neutral and mainstream music is being written to be able to fit more kinds of target groups. Another characteristic of the music today and how it differs from Nirvana's music is that today, much of the music produced is not created by real talents. During the ’90s, artists became famous by writing meaningful lyrics, when producing their own music, without using any kinds of autotune changing that could change their pitch of their voice. they played multiple instruments, they didn’t use autotune or synthesizers, and many other factors. This is a large difference compared with today, when people without any unique talent can become through social media for instance.