Grunge – protest against mainstream
Although most of the world was unaware of Grunge before 1991, it had actually begun 10 years earlier. Green River vocalist, Mark Arm, is the first person credited with using the term, which went on to become the label of a genre.
Grunge was born in the Seattle area as a hybrid of punk, metal, and rock, with heavily distorted guitars and angst-filled or apathetic lyrics. Grunge music generally follows a slower tempo than its influencing genres and later albums often include stop-start dynamics, popularized by Nirvana.
Disenchanted with society and the high-budget performances of mainstream groups, Grunge concerts were stripped down and basic, focusing on the music and energy of the band. Grunge musicians were also infamous for their lack of fashion interest, showing little regard for their own appearance.
What started as a subculture with bands like Green River, The Melvins, Mudhoney, and Soundgarden began to grow in the late 1980’s due to media exposure in the United Kingdom. As imitation bands flocked to Seattle, many originators decided to diversify their sound or write songs that were more melodic.
In late 1991, MTV’s heavy rotation of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” changed everything. This first single from their Nevermind album skyrocketed sales, pushing Michael Jackson out of Billboard’s number one spot. Pearl Jam’s album, Ten, soon followed, eventually earning the number two spot. Major record labels quickly signed other leading grunge bands and a second wave of musicians relocated to Seattle, hoping for the same success.
The mass exposure of grunge was eventually its downfall. The commercialization of what had started as an underground movement became a turnoff for both artists and fans. On April 8th, 1994, the suicide of Nirvana frontman, Kurt Cobain, seemed to trigger the end of an era. Many bands drifted apart, with Pearl Jam being the most notable exception. Despite the end of the grunge movement and the death of Cobain, Nirvana’s music continues to be successful.