The Student News Site of Fillmore Central Senior High School

The Fillmore Central Falconer

Upcoming Events

The Fillmore Central Falconer

The Fillmore Central Falconer

Smells Like Teen Spirit & Teenage Dirtbag: Young Adult Rock Anthems, or Just Songs?


“Smell Like Teen Spirit” is a song from Nirvana’s 1994 Album “Nevermind,” which I covered a few weeks back. The song is considered some sort of anthem for the teenagers during that time, capturing the rebellious essence of many during the 90s. It is a staple of the album, and really, that decade. But around the new millennium, a song from a band called “Wheatus” would be made and create a whole new teenage ballad that defined a new generation of teenagers.

A blurred photo of the band with their logo superimposed and the song's title in script
“Smells Like Teen Spirit” Single CD

In a quick summary, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is the definition of grunge, with Nirvana popularizing the genre. The song’s title came from Kurt Cobain’s friend Kathleen Hanna, who wrote “Kurt smells like Teen Spirit,” in reference to the deodorant. Cobain thought that it had been a phrase for revolution, since he had not known about the brand until months after the song’s release. The song was released on September 10, 1991.

Teenagers of this time would connect with this song because of its “screw you” attitude and the want to break the clean-freak behavior that they were taught to abide by. Michael Azerrad would write an article in Rolling Stone, saying “‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ is an anthem for (or is it against?) the ‘Why Ask Why?’ generation. Just don’t call Cobain a spokesman for a generation.” The New York Times wrote that “‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ could be this generation’s version of the Sex Pistols’ 1976 single, ‘Anarchy in the U.K.’, if it weren’t for the bitter irony that pervades its title … as Nirvana knows only too well, teen spirit is routinely bottled, shrink-wrapped and sold.”

“Teenage Dirtbag” has a bit of a different history. “Teenage Dirtbag” is based on a childhood experience from its writer, Brendan B. Brown.

“It came from the summer of 1984 on Long Island, when I was 10 years old. That summer in the woods behind my house, there was a Satanic, drug-induced ritual teen homicide that went down; and the kid who did it was called Ricky Kasso, and he was arrested wearing an AC/DC T-shirt. That made all the papers, and the television, obviously; and here I was, 10 years old, walking around with a case full of AC/DC and Iron Maiden and Metallica – and all the parents and the teachers and the cops thought I was some kind of Satan worshipper. So that’s the backdrop for that song,” said Brown.

“Teenage Dirtbag” Single Cover

The song’s chorus tells about how the person of the song is “a dirtbag who listens to rock, and he doesn’t care. He’s not a devil worshipper, you’re just an idiot.” Brown grew up when Rock and Roll was considered “the devil’s music.” There was a lot of stigma around this time regarding Rock and Roll, and there are some who still consider it “bad.”

“Teenage Dirtbag,” while not as popular as “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” still played a major role during the 2000s as a key player to the typical teenager. Both songs are very big and perfectly capture the essence of the attitude of young adults of this time.

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Fillmore Central Falconer

Your donation will support the student journalists of Fillmore Central Senior High School. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
About the Contributor
Micah Steffens
Micah Steffens, Staff Writer
Micah Steffens is a 16 year old sophomore who enjoys music, the outdoors, and food. His favorite hobby is listening to music, and he's a fan of bands such as Weezer, Pearl Jam, and Green Day. Micah has 5 other brothers and 2 dogs. He enjoys talking to people and listening to everyone’s opinion, as everyone has a right to one. He enjoys shows such as Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead. Micah does sports such as golf and trapshooting. He hopes to pursue engineering after high school.
Donate to The Fillmore Central Falconer

Comments (0)

All The Fillmore Central Falconer Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *