We were pretty sure Kurt Cobain had rolled over in his grave enough a few weeks ago when just-booted “American Idol” finalist Casey “Wolfman” Abrams performed his tortured, crazy-eyed stare cover of Nirvana’s breakthrough hit, “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”
Yes, it was awful, hard-to-watch and just kind of offensive to lovers of music. But when we saw footage of Miley Cyrus doing her studded leather and Crest White Strips shimmy to the song during a recent concert and, well, a new bar was set. Cyrus, of course, has more vocal chops, but her karaoke party blitz through the tune effectively stripped it of every ounce of angst or aggression, replacing the original’s intent with peppy cheerleader charm.
Are there worse ones? Yes, this awful effort by high school kids is generally considered to be the bottom of the “Teen Spirit” barrel, as tuneless as it is offbeat, but they’re kids, so they get half a break. It’s almost as bad as this talent show fail in which a pair of Italian girls don’t know the words or the broadside of a right note.
Someone thought it was a good idea for classic crooner Paul Anka to do a swinging, big band take in 2006, but they were wrong.
Hard rockers Flyleaf gave the song a shot in 2007, and while singer Lacey Sturm had the requisite dead-eye stare and twitchy angst down pat, her band kind of phoned in the Guitar Hero arrangement.
Now, if you want to hear the ultimate tribute, look no further than Tori Amos’ classic piano and voice version from her 1992 Crucify EP, which Cobain called a “great breakfast cereal version,” but which we think was amazing.
Fittingly, punk godmother Patti Smith also took a shot in 2007 on her covers album Twelve, which included bits of her own poetry. And one of Cobain’s grunge inspirations, the Melvins, hooked up with troubled 1970s teen dream Leif Garrett on their 2000 album The Crybaby, for their own version. The result was a real mess, with Garrett’s ravaged formerly sweet croon reduced to a generic rock dude grumble, but the irony factor cranked up to 11.5.
What’s the worst “Teen Spirit” cover you’ve ever heard? Tell us in comments below.