Rock fans the world over have been flipping their proverbial biscuits since last week’s announcement that one of the playable characters in Guitar Hero 5 (due out tomorrow) will be none other than deceased Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain. “Kurt would have hated this!” they cry to no one in particular, clutching 1992 closely to their soft, Kurt Loder-approved chests. I’ll admit the animation in the preview trailer is kind of freaky (the KC rendering looks like an over-caffeinated Rob Zombie interpretation starring Jared Leto), but can we please stop acting like Kurt Cobain was Ian friggin’ MacKaye?
Nirvana didn’t accidentally sign to a major label and show up on MTV every five minutes. No one tricked them into playing arenas or Brazilian soccer stadiums or episodes of “Saturday Night Live.” Kurt Cobain actively sought the highest rung of the music world ladder. He knew damn well his image and likeness would end up in places he wasn’t entirely comfortable with once his band jumped to the big leagues. Those were necessary evils, though, if Nirvana wanted to reach the largest audience possible.
Let us remember in this frenzied climate of seemingly shallow and profit-motivated “exclusive” record sales through Wal-Mart, Kurt Cobain censored the title of one of his own songs (“Rape Me”) on the packaging for In Utero so Sam Walton’s retail conglomerate would agree to sell it in 1993. Ol’ Kurty knew that was the only way some people would be able to hear In Utero. Why limit your fan base for the sake of being hip? I mean, Kurt Cobain was already hip. He didn’t need to flip Wal-Mart the bird to gain street cred.
As for the whole rock music / video game phenomenon, you can’t really speculate how anyone who died in 1994 would have felt about all of this because it was inconceivable to most people at that time that video games could ever be anything more than jumping on mushrooms in Super Mario Brothers. That’d be akin to speculating Ray Bolger’s opinion on Segways. Hell, I’ve been alive for everything in the past fifteen years and I still can’t quite wrap my head around Segways. Those shits are mad freaky, son.
Here’s another scary thought—had Kurt lived, there’s a pretty good chance he would have made that horrible dance pop record with Timbaland this year instead of Chris Cornell. Would that have been better or worse than an appearance in a video game that will probably be considered old hat in less than five year’s time?