"No!" the panicked masses cried. "No! Not more Nirvana! Did you learn nothing from last time?!" But the Arbiter cared not, and set forth yet another challenge of Nirvana covers. Chaos reigned supreme as the skies fell and the oceans froze. Around the world dogs and cats looked at each other silently, contemplating, then, with a resigned shrug of their furry shoulders decided to live together. This was the result of the battle of the Heart-Shaped Box.
We had our second straight one-sided battle, as Nine Inch Nails absolutely decimated the opposition to claim the best cover of the Gary Numan song "Metal." NIN lead from the very first vote, and while Afrika Bambaataa's cover, which was definitely no slouch, earned some live, it was Nails that ultimately took the battle by a full eight votes. In the battle for the worst cover the margins were much closer, but the result still was never really in dispute. Nouvelle Vague spent almost the entire span of the battle as the only artist with more than one vote to their name. NIN earned a second vote late, but it wasn't enough, and Nouvelle won the battle by two votes. All the same though, with the spread of votes and the low number of votes in the battle for worst you really can't say there was a terrible cover in the group, just one that was a bit weaker than the others.
We spoke of the impressive history and meteoric rise of Nirvana previously when we looked at "Smells Like Teen Spirit." "Heart-Shaped Box" picks up where that story left off, the first, and sadly only, album released after their game-changing Nevermind.
Nevermind had taken the music scene by storm, unseating Michael Jackson's Dangerous as the number one album in the country and going platinum three times over. Nirvana was now a household name and Geffen Records was eager for a follow-up album. Fortunately for them Kurt, who felt Nevermind was too polished, was eager to create such a follow-up, one he intended to make more raw and gritty, with fewer studio elements added in. After two demo recording sessions and a search for a studio (Pachyderm Studios in Minnesota) and a producer (Steve Albini) that the band thought would provide the right sound they finally got together in February 1993 and recorded the album In Utero in just two weeks. The first three days spent waiting for the band's instruments to arrive by mail, the next six days were spent recording the tracks, and the final five days were spent mixing. Whenever a song mix didn't seem to be going together properly Albini and the band would take a break to watch nature documentaries, set things on fire, and make prank phone calls.
Heart-Shaped Box was the lead single off In Utero, and Kurt had been working on it since early 1992. In the beginning stages of writing the song he would often practice the song's riff in the closet at home. Despite the practice and the attention Kurt gave the song it took months, and multiple sessions with the rest of the band, to come up with a satisfactory ending. When the band finally did come up with a closer and recorded a demo version they instantly knew it was a good song. But the struggles with "Heart-Shaped Box" weren't over. After the recording session with Albini the band decided they were dissatisfied with the result, and remixed it with producer Scott Litt, strengthening the tracks and adding acoustic guitar and backing harmonies.
When "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and Nevermind came out in 1991 the success was a shock. This time when the single and album were released in September 1993 the band and label were ready for success (though they still went with the "set things up, duck, and get out of the way" approach to marketing it), and they got exactly what they expected. "Heart-Shaped Box" became the #1 rock song and the #4 song overall on the Billboard charts. The album debuted at #1 on the Billboard Top 200 chart, with 180,000 copies sold in it's first week, despite WalMart and K Mart refusing to sell the album do to it's artwork and the song title "Rape Me." Once again Nirvana found the product of their labors going platinum multiple times over. Rolling Stone polls placed it as the best album of the year, and Q magazine wrote "If this is how Cobain is going to develop, the future is lighthouse-bright"
Sadly the lighthouse would not shine much longer. Cobain suffered a drug overdose on March 6, 1994, abruptly ending the band's European tour. Kurt agreed to enter rehab, but vanished shortly after. It wasn't until April 8 that he was finally found in his Seattle home, having committed suicide with a shotgun. The long standing battle between Kurt an his inner demons, a battle that often showed in his lyrics and his performances, had finally come to a tragic end. Ironically, months earlier, while putting the finishing touches on In Utero, the band had decided to cut one song from the final album. The name of that song was "I Hate Myself and I Want to Die."
There's no good segue after a story like that. Let's just go straight into the covers.
Melanie's Breast - (1995)
Evanescence - (2003)
Vitamin String Quartet - (2003)
Yaron Herman Trio - (2010)
Little Roy - (2011)
Lana Del Rey - (2012)
Dead Sara - (2013)
Asgeir Trausti - (2014)
LEST YE FORGET! If you want to check back on the results of previous rounds, or see what covers are coming in future rounds, there is a Google Drive spreadsheet with past rounds and the upcoming battle schedule.