Sunday Suggestion – Nirvana – Heart Shaped Box

For this week we stay in 1993, but swap Sheffield for Seattle as we take a look at ‘Heart Shaped Box’ from their third and final studio album In Utero. This weekend saw the 20th anniversary of his death at the age of 27. Like Morrison, Hendrix, Lennon, Elvis and so many others; he was taken when he still had more to give. It is always intriguing how those who are idolised and viewed as holding so much power are actually the most fragile and vulnerable when you look hard enough. It is said that the idea for the lyrical side of this track was from a heart shaped box Courtney Love had given to Kurt and the song was initially entitled heart shaped coffin. The song opens with that gentle rocking riff accompanied by Kurt’s more melodic and vulnerable vocal before being hurled into the chorus through a hail of distortion and crashing percussion that is almost mimicked in Cobain’s snarling shouts. The song was musically simple yet set out to maximise it’s potential with the contrasts in song progression. The same is true with the vocals and lyrics. However by this time Cobain was growing weary of the grunge style and the direction of Nirvana’s music. He expressed the bands frustration ‘of the formula’ and how ‘it had reached it’s limit’ but was also unsure of what the bands next step would have been. Sadly we will never know, but songs such as this showcase exactly what Nirvana were about.

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