“Smells Like Teen Spirit”, written and recorded by Nirvana, brought the Seattle grunge phenomenon to the forefront of the American music scene. It somehow accomplishes the great feat of being energetic yet lethargic at the same time. Even with being kind of hard to tell the exact words Kurt Cobain is alternately mumbling and bellowing, It’s a perfect depiction of a general teenage malaise and a certain generation of whippersnappers who just don’t give a shite.
In the opening of rock legend Patti Smith’s version she slows down the tempo considerably, keeping the anesthetized feeling for a bit before bringing it to a sense of focused clarity. She makes it seem omnipresent and hypnotic, like some type of transformative mantra/chant. You can almost picture the words just swirling around you in the air and sweeping you away.
Now we get to Tori Amos. Ethereal and precious and oh so twee. *Sigh* Moving on.
The Limp Bizkit version, while being reminiscent of the original, is just a loud, raucous mess of a throwaway. Like drunken heavy metal in a karaoke bar on its last night before demolition. Or the apocalypse.
Surprisingly, the 2cellos output is extraordinary. I shouldn’t say surprisingly because I’ve heard them before and they are amazing. You just don’t think of a modern song done on traditionally classical instruments as necessarily something you could really get into. But these guys will definitely change your mind and broaden your horizons. They are absolute beasts on the instruments (I wonder how many bows they shred). Seriously talented and so intense. Passionate, delicate, refined, totally in control yet playing with seeming abandon. I love them.
Miley Cyrus– I guess this was her rock phase. Sometime before she decided to go with the blond short ‘do and the foam finger crotch rubbing gangsta’ persona. And like her current incarnation, this sounds somewhat, shall we say … less than authentic? Again, Miley – trying too hard. Teen spirit with no spirit. Well, there is spirit, but there doesn’t seem to be any heart or real investment in this.
English singer James Morrison, who is primarily known for softer songs, does an impressive job on his live rendition.
This next version is from … Paul Anka. I’m not really sure what to say about this. Maybe it’ll be easier to critique if I divorce it from its origins. So, okay … Paul’s voice is fantastic as ever. (I’ve always thought he was kind of hot, frankly. [Don’t judge me.] But that’s beside the point). The horns are outstanding; I love the whole big band orchestration. The words are clearer than ever, yet now the song makes even less sense. But, as Paul says at the end, it “swings”.
There’re also a few versions from this article which I don’t really want to listen to. If you feel so inclined, have at it.