"Rape Me" is an awful song for several reasons.
1. It sounds like the lyrics were made up almost on the fly. You can picture Kurt standing at the microphone in the studio just going through the motions. "Okay the song's called 'Rape Me.' Hmm. Hey, I got the first line in the song right there: 'Rape me.' Okay. That's a great start! Hmmm... line 2.... hmmm... Oh I KNOW! 'Rape me my friend.' Whew. This is going easier than I thought. Okay... third line... hmmmm..... hmmmm... think hard here.... GOT IT! 'Rape me.' Killer. Man, this is gonna be awesome...." The song arguably has the worst lyrics in the history of rock music. There's a total of what, something like four or five lines of distinct lyrics in the whole goddamn song... not counting the immortal "Aaaaaaaahhhhhhh" in the chorus. Really a travesty. For someone like me and I would think any musician who spends any kind of time on painstakingly constructing lyrics to fit the mood of a song, tell a story, or whatever, this song is the ultimate F.U. I can't rant long enough about this, so i'll just stop now.
1a. Sort of a corollary to #1 -- this has got to be the most repetitive song since Shari Lewis and Lambchop's "The Song That Never Ends." It just goes on and on, my friends. Just for the heck of it, count how many times he says "rape me" in the song. Kurt... we get it. We know the song's title. Says it right on the album cover. It's written down. Trust on on this. Move on to some other words now please. Really. We're serious now. All right stop it. Stop it now. And then it goes on and on some more. I think of this anytime I'm having trouble writing lyrics of my own. "Hey, maybe if I just repeat the title 563,492 times in a row, that will really fill out the song well." Like I said, I could rant about this forever. Moving on.
2. The topic. You know, someone may not have told this to Kurt, but rape is a bit of a sensitive topic. Makes people a little uneasy. Particularly the women. Can't imagine why something like rape would seem to get under people's skin, but you know, some people just get a little uncomfortable when you sing a song about someone being violated against their will. Touches a nerve. And before the Kurt Cobain apologists come out of the woodwork, don't buy for a SECOND the rationalization that the song is actually about the degradation a musician undergoes in the music industry. Even if it's true, then the lyrics are deliberately done to shock and inflame the basest emotions of the listening audience. It's shock value at the lowest common denominator. It's taking arguably the worst thing imaginable and then just repeating it and yelling it at the top of your lungs for 3 minutes. There's no artistry in that, no style and no value, frankly. It takes precisely zero talent and zero ability to piss people off and be loud about it. The song doesn't make people think, it doesn't make any kind of viable statement, and it just plain sounds like crap. Put those things together, and you've got "Rape Me."
3. The guitar work. This really is like shooting fish in a barrel, taking candy from a baby, etc. Now I know the whole gimmick in grunge music is to be simple and uber-accessible. It's pandering to the widest audience. I don't like it, but I get it. Fine. But seriously. The whole freakin' song is the same. This just kills me. Throw a little variety in there, please. Change the rhythm, change a chord in the progression, throw a new note in there just for kicks, something for crying out loud.
4. The vocals. Again, I know... that's part of the gimmick, to be more ordinary and accessible. I get it. Fine. But come on now -- can you at least indulge the artifice for one minute that you're actually trying to sing something here, and not just unintelligibly garbling something really loud? This happens in damn near all of Nirvana's songs (I defy anyone to transcribe all the lyrics to "Smells Like Teen Spirit" after hearing it for the first time, or that really odd "Grandma Take Me Home" (????) song.). I've tried to accept it. But "Rape Me" really takes the cake. You've already got the foundation of awful lyrics, a terrible topic, a purposely unstylistic delivery, endless repetition, and now you're gonna sing the damn song like you've got cotton-coated marbles in your mouth... and then yell your freaking head off repeating the title over and over again. I'm dying here.
5. The bizarre popularity. For some reason or other (I'm convinced the karmic gods did this just to spite me) this became one of their best known songs. It got ENDLESS airplay on the radio at all hours of the day on every station that had even a remote connection to a rock audience. They performed it on every talk show. (Man, if I could ever catch a glipse of Jay Leno's face when they sang this song... that would be an instant 413,589,356,901 out of 10 on the Unintentional Comedy Scale.) And it had legs... lasting on the radio for years after Cobain's death, and then even enjoying a revival when the Nirvana greatest hits compliation came out. Remarkable really. It's as if the entire world just rose up against me and decided against all logic and reason and sense of taste that this was an awesome song and that the world must, MUST be exposed to it... nay... must be suffocated with it, and lo for it must permeate every fiber of our being forevermore, amen. It was uncanny. And it SUCKED. Everyone seemed to be immune to this reality, from the radio hosts, to the reviewers, to Rolling Stone, to the talk shows, to the listening public, etc. Still, it managed to practically become the "My Heart Will Go On" (and on... and on... and on... and on.... and on... and on....) of the rock music world.
All right, I'll stop now. I could probably think of 40,000 more reasons to hate this song, but I'm coming dangerously close to the character limit on this post, which means I've already gone on far longer than anybody could possibly care about. Things like this just get to me. Not my fault. Blame Kurt.
Whew. All right. It's out of my system now. There, I said it.