As much of a proponent of free creative speech in music as I am,over the years I have grown to loathe and despise the saturation of grunge/alternative rock during 1991-1992. It was hands down the most irritating pop music movement of the last few decades. And the sad truth is,most people even today either refuse to admit that or they angrily defend it’s virtues. I’ve already talked about this era’s negative impact on my own personal life in another blog I did here on WordPress. I am not repeating myself here. My intention with this blog is to discuss the purely musical reasons why I feel the way I do about the grunge era. The first reason why I find this era so irritating is because I don’t feel grunge really belonged in the early 90’s pop music scene,as it instrumentally felt like a Ramones and a Sex Pistols ripoff when it was promoting itself as being totally original and anti authoritarian. Another reason for my opinion,aside from the instrumentation and vocals on these songs being hideously ugly,is that the lyrics to these songs celebrate depression and suicide to such an enormous degree and impact to it’s listeners that it’s downright humanistically objectionable.
But the number one reason why I am still so angry at the grunge era in music is because it got away with something that hip-hop music did not. Let me explain: in 1988 the early gangsta rap group NWA released their album Straight Outta Compton. The title song,produced by Public Enemy’s Bomb Squad,had an accompanying music video which MTV refused to play. This even with having their own hip-hop video segment Yo! MTV Raps. Videos by Public Enemy like “Fight The Power” met a similar fate interestingly enough,even thought their content was political rather than violent. Yet almost as soon as Nirvana released the visually frightening and aesthetically gross video to their hit “Smells Like Teen Spirit” in late 1991,MTV could not seem to resist playing this video on their network seemingly around the clock. Though gangsta rap was more the symptom of a disintegrating effect within society during the early 1990’s,the grunge music scene seemed to somewhat like the detonator of a cultural explosive. And a cultural explosive that allowed big record conglomerates like Sony Music to promote upstart bands like Pearl Jam-contrarily promoted and packaged for mass consumption as much pop acts the grunge scene claimed to rally against.
The contradictions of the music from without are part of why I am a great detractor of this quote and quote “musical movement”. But there were problems from within as well. While the genres main innovators such as Kurt Cobain and Eddie Vedder were seriously committed to creating an alternative to commercial pop music,it was media savvy figures such as Courtney Love who did the most damage from inside the genre by discussing this music in very corporate terms that contradicted themselves,such as the idea of who was producing you or how a band came together being more important then the bands conceptual message. So did and does grunge or any music connected with it have a right to exist? Absolutely,this is America. Did it set an all time low standard for singing and instrumental talent? As sure as your life. Should everyone think the same way I do? Of course not. This all goes back to the contradictions that define grunge’s place in pop culture as I view it. That the critic Stanley Crouch’s assertion of democracy’s challenge of having to promote middling to mediocre art was very much bought to the fore by situations like what occurred with grunge. In the end it’s really the fault of the same corporate minds,who went as far as chastising dance music from the radio and videos from MTV to accommodate grunge in the first place,for going so far to legitimize (even as the artists themselves were intent on expanding musically) what amounts to an unfortunate insult to music.