Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was an unexpected breakthrough moment for the grunge music movement. Kurt Cobain was influenced by alternative rock band the Pixies when he wrote the song that wound up on the band’s 1991 second album Nevermind. Grunge had developed in Seattle and was descended from punk in its anti-establishment sentiment and guitar distortion. Nirvana’s music was filled with torment and their image represented grunge’s unpolished look and dismissal of the glamorous pop star archetype. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” flooded radio and the video that famously shows the band performing at a high school pep rally that progresses into mass confusion, won MTV Video Awards and became one of the most viewed in rock history. Nirvana’s success made them and “Smells Like Teen Spirit” one of the most important contributors to Generation X’s zeitgeist. Nevermind won over music critics and reached platinum status by the end of 1991.
Nirvana released three studio albums before Kurt Cobain committed suicide in 1994 which ended the band. In 2022, they are considered the last great American rock band as no other group has been as influential. The BBC celebrated the 30th anniversary of Nevermind in 2021 with the documentary When Nirvana Came To Britain. A 30th-anniversary deluxe edition was released in CD and vinyl form. Nevermind was added to the National Recording Registry in 2002.