I’ll always be in love with Kurt Cobain. And not in that we are both Pisces, had purple hair once and would have been soul mates in high school way. I never knew him and my hair was actually black in my negative creep phase. I relate to Kurt, as many do, because the music came from the same place that we did. A blue-collar town where bearded men in flannels run wood chippers in their driveways for a thrill, outskirts lined with trailer parks and half-filled kiddy pools in the front yard meant to be used by those toddlers who were forgotten in bathtubs while Mama conducted an heroin deal on the kitchen landline.
We idolized Cobain because we shared the misfortune of being artistic, sensitive souls raised in a blue-collar town. Most of us art kids lived on the nicer end of town but were still exposed to the dangers, whether when we were young or the day that we sat on a city curb when we relocated, listened to “Heart Shaped Box” and cried silently because today was the day that we’d have to break up with him. Our boyfriend, the love of our life up until that point, who is on the musical autism spectrum and always chasing the release of anxiety felt the first time he tried it. The one who was profoundly in love with his band, his instrument, and us until he left it all for a bag of powder.
I saw something different in Lana Del Rey’s cover, perhaps it is because I am a woman, perhaps it is because she’s alive and Kurt is dead or maybe just the way that she sang it with that quiet intensity. This is not to take away from what Cobain did, it is his music, his lyrics and creation but the addition of a woman’s vocals changed “Heart Shaped Box” for better or worse. And her vocals just break your heart. His were a primal scream and in essence a cry for help, while her subtler rendition leaves the listener with the impression that she will be able to climb out.
Not to mention that Courtney Love decided to take to Twitter and put on blast that it is in fact about her lady bits when the cover was released. In classic Love fashion she later recanted with, “You are gorgeous and very talented, it was all in good humor love, it is true however bwahaa XC.” On her relationship with Cobain, Love once said that they, “Bonded pharmaceutically over drugs, like Evian and battery acid.” But a relationship with an addict is sometimes more painful when you’re the one sobered by it as those who’ve dated in a city music scene well know.
There is an inherently endearing element about someone fighting demons, you can battle it with them for years, accept the tear-riddled apologies when they wrap their arms around your waist and beg you to “Hang in there.” You can pretend that it is enough but one day write in your notebook, “I am twenty-five now and realize that he will never change for me.” He’ll always have a new complaint. Because this song is about love and the misery that come with it, especially when heroin is involved. Del Rey even said, “Even at a young age, I really related to his sadness.” And we did too or we wouldn’t have listened.