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Grunge and Popular Culture

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Grace Kim

on 17 March 2014

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Transcript of Grunge and Popular Culture

What Is "Grunge"?
AKA Seattle Sound
Subgenre of alternative rock
Music genre inspired by hardcore punk, heavy metal and alternative rock
Characterized by distorted electric guitars, contrasting song dynamics, "growling" vocals and apathetic/angst-filled lyrics
Where Did Grunge Come From?
Originated in Seattle, Washington
Emerged during the 1980's
Commercial/mainstream success took place in the first half of the 1990's
Musical inspiration came from various musical genres: punk, heavy metal, indie rock
Specific bands that had heavy influence on grunge: U-men, 10 Minute Warning, Fastbacks, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, etc.
Seattle was a breeding ground for this new genre of music because it was an isolated area that was completely ignored by the American media that was fixated on Los Angeles and New York
What "Grunge" Grew to Become
Grunge entered into the mainstream music industry when Soundgarden became the 1st grunge band to sign with a major record label called A&M Records in 1989
Other bands that had relative success in late 1980s: Alice In Chains and Screaming trees
Hype over this new genre of music was continuing to grow even though the music community hoped that it had peaked
The real success of grunge started once Nirvana released Bleach with Sub Pop in October 1989
International Attention: attracted media all over North America and even reached the UK
People from outside of the local area started to attend local shows
Bands began to move to Seattle and even copied the look and sound of the original grunge bands
To keep the originality of grunge, bands such as Nirvana started to change their sound by making their songs more melodic
"It was really bad. Pretend bands were popping up here, things weren't coming from where we were coming from."
-Steve Turner of Mudhoney
mainstream media made the Seattle scene look like one single community where everyone wore the same thing and everyone listened to the same music for market success
Grunge filtered into every aspect of life
Who "Grunge" Influenced
The main audience = YOUTH! (teenagers in particular)
Why did it have such a strong influence?
This music called out to the youth of Generation X
Youth felt depressed & burnt out - grunge addressed these feelings
Able to relate to the music
gave the teens a sense of belonging
people were tired of glam rock and over-produced/highly performed music
grunge was a nice getaway- stripped from all of the glamour and high maintenance performances/songs
Who Were the Influences?
Many prominent grunge bands were produced such as: Mudhoney, Alice In Chains, Blood Circus, Screaming Trees, The U-Men, Soundgarden, etc.
Some bands STILL well known today include: Nirvana and Pearl Jam
Grunge in Popular Culture
The commercial success of Grunge led to a fascination with all things Seattle
Media attention focused on the small city with reporters all trying to get the “Grunge story”
Most of the attention focused on lifestyle and “fashion” rather than the motivation behind the music
Grunge culture became mainstream and filtered through every aspect of life

A car advertisement in 1993 showed a grungester saying: “This car is like, punk rock!"
There were Grunge back-to-school pencils
Singles, 1992, focused on Grunge themes and the soundtrack consisted of Grunge bands such as: Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, and Mudhoney. Many bands made cameos throughout the film

Grunge And Fashion
The mainstream industry tried to capitalize on Grunge fashion by selling everyday Seattle wear
The reality was that people wore flannel shirts and long johns because Seattle was logger country and because they were available at thrift stores for low prices and to keep warm
Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” sent a strong message in the fashion world

Grunge And High Fashion
Marc Jacobs for Perry Ellis,
1993 – grunge fashion

Anna Sui was another huge influence on high fashion Grunge in 1993

Grunge Speak
Grunge not only permeated fashion, but everyday language as well
Grunge Speak also known as the Great Grunge Hoax was created by Megan Jasper for Sub Pop Records under pressure from a reporter for The New York Times who wanted to know if grunge fans had their own slang
"Lexicon of Grunge: Breaking the Code“ was published in the New York Times on November 15, 1992

During the interview, Jasper made up the following terms and their definitions because she thought it was funny
-bloated, big bag of bloatation = drunk
-bound-and-hagged = staying home on Friday or Saturday night
-cob nobbler =– loser
-dish =– desirable guy
-fuzz =– heavy wool sweaters
-harsh realm =– bummer
-kickers= – heavy boots
-lamestain –= uncool person
-plats =– platform shoes
-rock on =– a happy goodbye
-score =– great
-swingin' on the flippity-flop =– hanging out
-tom-tom club =– uncool outsiders
-wack slacks =– old ripped jeans

Grunge And Today's Culture
After years off the scene, Grunge made a huge comeback around 2012
Different than 90’s grunge
-Grunge but glam
-Rock but luxuriant
-Dark but feminine
-Strong but vulnerable.

Popular Grunge Looks
flannel/ plaid
combat boots (Doc Martens)
long johns/ leggings

Discussion Questions
1. Do you think the reason that Grunge entered high fashion was strictly because designers thought it will sell or was there something else about it?

2. In the 90’s Grunge music appealed to the youth because it shows a disenchantment with society, and a sense of entrapment. It also addressed feelings of burnout, and depression. Does Grunge culture today represent the same things to the youth? What is the appeal of Grunge today?

3. Why do you think Grunge influences made such a strong comeback in 2012?
Full transcript