Nirvana’s 'Smells like Teen Spirit' collides with a full orchestra, and it’s hauntingly brilliant

I didn’t think I was a fan of Nirvana, but Rob Gardner’s spin on things has changed all that.

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  • As the video starts, the string section quietly plucks out the familiar tune of Nirvana's "Smells like Teen Spirit", building the suspense ... and initial apprehension. The rock and roll grunge style of Nirvana doesn't seem to belong in the same sentence as cellos and violas. But that's the brilliance of it.

  • Rob Gardner has taken Nirvana's emotionally buzzed song and combined it with a full orchestra, redirecting the same electric style in a surprisingly new direction. Instead of raw drums and lead guitar, the rounded sound of a choir and full orchestra add a drama not originally found in the debuted version. Don't think that the lyrics aren't lost in the mix of things, it's quite the opposite. The rich, haunting voice of McKenna Breinholt doesn't have Kurt Cobain's edgy rasp but allows the poignant lyrics to linger atop the vibrating orchestra.

  • Things are initially kept quiet, but a slightly unnerving echo of "hello hello hello how low" slowly builds throughout the song. The piece continues to dramatize with each verse, until an explosive swell, with Breinholt singing, "With the lights out, it's less dangerous. Here we are now, entertain us". A vocal chorus mirrors the drama of the song, adding to the brilliant climax. Suddenly, things slow down again, fading into the same hauntingly suspenseful echo "hello, hello, hello how low" the piece began with, leaving the listening wanting to hear it all again.

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Emily is putting her English and Humanities degree to use editing and writing all over the world. Trying to see all 7 world wonders (while visiting as many countries as she can in between), Emily loves wandering alleyways, beautifully photographed food, stumbling upon impromptu flea and food markets. She can usually be found camera in hand, munching on a street food and never has her headphones out of reach.

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