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Teens React to Nirvana: The Good, the Bad, and the Grunge

The upcoming 20th anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s death has had him, and Nirvana, on my mind a little bit more than usual. As a fan of the band and of grunge in general, I can’t help but wonder what they may have produced had he not died. It’s still a waste and a shame and a sad story — hasn’t gotten any less so with time — but one thing eases the pain, and that’s how great the music was and is.

I obviously think Nirvana holds up well with time, as some of the best rock music recorded in the ’90s or any time, really. The Fine Brothers’ Teens React to Nirvana video that hit the Internet this week is a fun confirmation of that, for the most part. The band and their more conceptual, strange videos were not the favorite of every teen who participated in the clip, but that would have been the case in 1992, too. Different tastes and all that. But the young people who got Nirvana now? They got it as clearly as those of us who got them way back when.

teens-react-to-nirvanaAdam, 18, for example? Cannot stop rocking out to “Nevermind.”

Jeordy, 17, lip syncs with feeling to “Here we are now, entertain us,” as generations have done before her, and it’s beautiful.

Madison, 18, says of the clip for the song: “When music videos used to be normal. There’s nobody stripping in this one.”

To be expected, the video for “Heart-Shaped Box” was a confusing spectacle for most of the kids, with crucifixion imagery that didn’t seem out of the ordinary back then — has it really been 20 years? — only because it was Kurt and Nirvana. They were into pushing the envelope, and most of us who paid attention got used to that quickly. “I don’t know what I”m watching” pretty much sums up the reaction from the kids here, except for Adam. Adam continues to rock out to Nirvana without stopping. It was actually around this time that I began to wonder if Adam is really a 40-year-old man, and if he sat behind me in statistics class.

The video wraps up with “About a Girl” from Nirvana’s famous MTV Unplugged performance. When Kurt slows down, the kids talk about how he’s talented, and cute, and how it’s bizarre that he’s dead, which to be honest, isn’t far off from my reaction, even though I’ve seen it a hundred times. Rachel “loves this song.” “I love him, and it’s sad that he’s not here with us today,” says Alix, 18. And then they all try to define grunge, which is as sweet as it is funny for someone who was there when it started.

When the interviewers tell the kids that Kurt Cobain died by suicide, this is mostly new information for them. One of the boys states that it makes him worry for what might happen to a star like Justin Bieber, who is frequently criticized.

“I know a lot of people hate on Justin Bieber. On his birthday I saw a trend going on: #KillYourselfBieber. Like, if something happens to him like that, what are we gonna say afterwards?”

Thoughtful kids. Teenagers get a bad rap sometimes, whether it’s in the media, their schools, or neighborhoods. What I love about this video is that it shows how music affects people, both from the simple standpoint of whether they enjoy it or not and the impact it has on generations, especially the younger ones. These kids wonder why music today isn’t great, why Kurt Cobain committed suicide, and what would happen to them if they went to a Nirvana show. They look for themselves in what they see and hear, for what fits with their tastes and identities and what doesn’t. It’s a clip worth a look, by yourself or with a young person in your life.

“They really give you what they are, instead of what anyone else wants,” Jeordy say of Nirvana, a statement that quite possibly sums up not just Nirvana, but any teenager you sit down to watch some old music videos and ask them what they think. This video may have been meant as pure entertainment, but it’s an education, too.

Image credit: YouTube

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