“With the lights out, it's less dangerous; Here we are now, entertain us.”
Nirvana broke through in the music world with their unapologetically noisy and abrasive 1991 album Nevermind. The single “Smells Like Teen Spirit” became (and probably remains) the most recognizable piece of grunge music ever. It conquered 1990’s youth with its anti-materialistic message.
The band quickly acquired masses of frenzied new fans. Stupid… And contagious! Kurt Cobain famously ended up hating the song, and stopped playing it after 1994. “There are many other songs that I have written that are as good, if not better.”
It certainly is a “good song”…
But sometimes, all that separates a grunge, metal or punk from the much more widely loved genre of pop is a simple key change! “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is typical of hard or heavy music in that it is written in a minor key (F minor). Basically, that means that it has a tendency to sound “sad” or “heavy”.
What if it were transcribed into a major key? Major keys typically sound happy and light. That’s why they’re so widely used in pop… Major keys are useful for writing feel-good music.
Vimeo user Sleep Good wants to give us an idea of what Nirvana would have sounded like as a pop band. Using some simple math and editing, an auto-tuned “Smells Like Teen Spirit” can be heard as it would have sounded if it were written in F major.
Listen for yourself… But be warned: you can’t un-hear this!