ROP Looks Back: Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged in New York

Many can look back remember this now-consecrated collection of songs, stripped down and an attempted pre-packaged commodity by the MTV corporation. Released following Kurt Cobain‘s suicide, Nirvana: MTV Unplugged in New York features no Nirvana radio hits, rather covers from David Bowie, the Meat Puppets and Lead Belly, and B-side tracks from their legendary archive as a final middle finger to that same corporation by the band and Cobain himself.  It is beautiful, awkward, and nostalgic all at once.  The setting in the video version–set up intentionally like a funeral at Cobain’s request according to The Atlantic–is both strikingly eerie and intimate, a rare glimpse into the mind of such an influential figure.

By Dariel Blots  via Wikimedia Commons

By Dariel Blots via Wikimedia Commons

If I’m going to be honest here, I was only three and four between the time it was recorded and released in November of 1993 and 1994.  I know very little, if not nothing, of the devastation of a generation by Cobain’s death, only the lasting reverberations of it.  I can only tell you that I gravitated to Nirvana in my father’s massive collection as a teen, without any prior knowledge of what occurred or what it meant.  I just loved the music, and I felt one with the angst and anger ignited in each chord and lyric.

That being said, listening to this album for the first time is not the same feeling; it’s an uncomfortable, contradictory, and almost eulogistic experience; a feeling you get while listening to the recording of someone you love right after they die.  While it is beautiful, it is tense and quite remarkable in that regard.  I am not here to influence what you think of Nirvana, to praise or disregard Cobain, but take this wonderful performance for what it is: a eulogy to a generation and the pain of a troubled mind.

The strongest songs weren’t always the ones that were Nirvana songs, with Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold The World” and Lead Belly’s “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” being key examples.  The emotion and vulnerability Cobain conveys in these songs in particular are quintessential to this performance and the band as a whole.

Below is a collection of some of the strongest renditions during this iconic performance, as well as the full performance video playlist.  Reflect and never forget!

“About A Girl”

“Come As You Are”

“The Man Who Sold The World”


“Lake of Fire”

“All Apologies”

“Where Did You Sleep Last Night”

And the full performance playlist:


Featured Image courtesy of the Artist

1 Comment

  1. Lauren S

    February 22, 2015 at 1:28 pm

    “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” still gives me the ultimate chills.

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