Kurt Sings Bon Jovi: Nevermind, Eh?

Nothing screams "punk credibility" like having a cartoon avatar in a rhythm action game.

If you ever needed proof that people, as a rule, are horrible creatures, the ongoing furore over Kurt Cobain’s presence in Guitar Hero 5 would probably suffice. Some idiots are getting bent out of shape because their treasured grunge icon can be used to – GASP!!! – sing some pop songs. Before the game even launched, videos surfaced of people using Cobain’s likeness to sing some Bon Jovi songs. Judging by the internet’s reaction, this is somehow tantamount to drawing a cartoon of Kurt licking a diseased, prostrate porcupine in unusual ways.

Let’s be very clear. Punk credibility, as a concept, should go die in a fire. It’s a hideous thing. But: any kind of punk credibility that Kurt may have had evaporated the instant his likeness appeared in the game, full stop. It’s a rhythm action game you play with plastic instruments – admittedly, it’s a fairly legitimate way to be exposed to some good music, and a damn fun game, but “punk” it is not. On top of which, Cobain famously mocked Pearl Jam for having guitar solos in their songs, because that made them the enemy of punk – now here he is appearing in a game designed to glorify twelve-minute guitar solos.

So for silly people to make a fuss over their silly icon singing some silly songs is… well… silly.

I realise there might be a legal aspect to this. Courtney Love, who sold Kurt’s likeness to Activision for the game, is claiming the contract states he can only be used to play Nirvana songs. No one knows except the two parties who signed the contract, really, and choosing sides is hard. On one hand, you’ve got Activision, who have somehow managed to surpass EA as the skankiest of the publishers. On the other, you’ve got Love, who is equal parts “troubled” and “repulsive”, like an escaped mental patient sitting in the corner of a train, repeatedly wetting herself.

The real wretchedness in this ridiculous, pointless scandal comes from – surprisingly enough – Cobain’s old bandmates, Dave Grohl and Kris Novoselic. They don’t even have the legal standpoint that Love has when she attacks the game’s use of Cobain; rather, they’re trying to make Cobain out to be somehow “above” pop music. They don’t think people should be able to use Cobain’s likeness to sing some songs they enjoy – they’re basically just opposing joy. Their statement:

While we were aware of Kurt’s image being used with two Nirvana songs, we didn’t know players have the ability to unlock the character. This feature allows the character to be used with any kind of song the player wants. We urge Activision to do the right thing in ‘re-locking’ Kurt’s character so that this won’t continue in the future.

Forget the larger implications of Kurt being “re-locked” – that it would lead to avatars and personalities becoming bigger than the franchise, and would probably lead to the publishers placing more emphasis on the list of guest stars and celebrity likenesses than on the song lists and gameplay. Forget that. Instead, focus on how awful and wrongheaded it is for Grohl and Novoselic to make that demand. Presumably, anyone who’s using Cobain as an avatar is doing so because they’re a fan of Nirvana; equally, anyone using Cobain to sing Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love A Bad Name” is probably doing so because they’re also prone to enjoying Bon Jovi, even if it’s just in a fun, party game kind of way. No one’s trying to defame Cobain by making him sing pop songs: they’re just trying to have some fun.

Anyway, my proposal is this: if Activision do legally have the rights to use Cobain however they wish within the game, they should have some fun with it, and release videos of him singing the kinds of songs that will make a few hundred thousand credibility-clutching idiots have pant-staining panic attacks. My suggestions?

Van Halen – Why Can’t This Be Love?

Foreigner – Hot Blooded

W.A.S.P. – Wildchild

Cinderella – Don’t Know What You Got Till It’s Gone

Def Leppard – When Love And Hate Collide

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2 Responses to Kurt Sings Bon Jovi: Nevermind, Eh?

  1. I have to beg to disagree on one point. Someone who is using Kurt as a character to sing pop songs might be just trying

    But I know if I were doing it, I’d be doing it for the giggles. Kurt Cobain swaggering like a rooster and bellowing hair metal? CLASSIC!

    This cult that’s built up around Kurt is ridiculous. Even people who knew him are treating him like he was an idol, some sort of demi-god who’s image MUST NOT be defamed. And it’s funny because a key part of their treasured punk-rock ethos is that no one is better then anyone else. We’re all human.

    Call me crazy, but I actually think this might be a good thing: poking some fun at Kurt’s image as the tortured grunge lord. It’s an image Kurt himself didn’t like much and was prone to poking fun at. What better way to do that then this?

  2. Mister Hands says:

    Exactly: the people who are throwing tantrums over seeing a digitised Kurt singing You Give Love A Bad Name (which is probably far more fun to play than any Nirvana song) are just saying “No, it’s wrong to use Kurt – our hallowed icon – as a way to enjoy music.”

    It’s stupidity at its most pointless.

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