Music Friday: The Man Who Sold the World

More than anything, I think what Nirvana did for us in the 90s was give us permission to listen to something other than the same over-enthusiastic formulaic bullshit that had been on the radio since we were in 4th grade. This was never more obvious than when they chose to mostly play other bands’ music when they did their Unplugged set: we got to hear lots of things we’d never heard before, check them out, and see if we liked them. Of course we’d heard of David Bowie, even if we hadn’t heard much of his music: we’d spent the 80s watching Labyrinth on Laser Disc at slumber parties, after all.
I’ve admittedly heard the Nirvana version more often than the Bowie version, so I don’t know if I can make an unbiased comparison of the two. On one hand, the Nirvana version is very faithful to the original, but on the other hand Bowie’s version sounds like Bowie and Nirvana’s version sounds like Nirvana. The one thing that is the most striking about this song is that oh-so-cynical riff. Bowie, of course, is cynical in his own way: like an astronaut detached from an imploding world. Meanwhile Nirvana’s cynicism is rooted in a very real present from which there is no escape. I think that’s the best I can do at comparing the two renditions. And I think it explains a little bit why Nirvana’s version of this song was so successful in the America of the 90s.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: