‘In Bloom’ is one of the most popular and controversial songs by the rock band Nirvana. The lead singer of the band, Kurt Cobain is renowned for his incredible song-writing. He presents a case against those fans who do not understand the deep inherent meaning behind the songs of the band and yet follow the band on face value alone.
The song has been admired and covered by not only the numerous fans of the band but also several other musicians like Ezra Furman and Sturgill Simpson. Both of these musicians had similar opinions as Nirvana regarding the comprehension of music by the audience. The song is a deep satire on the wrong interpretation of rock bands and their music, and their popular following by people who have a very superficial knowledge of music.
The line ‘the one who likes all our pretty songs’ takes a shot against the macho fans who, years before, had no idea about the existence of Nirvana. However, these fans now come to their concerts and follow the band as just another rock band. ‘In Bloom’ also portrays the relationship of artists to their audience. Artists often attribute their fame and popularity to their audiences but this can also become a cause of discomfort, especially when they become subject to a certain image stereotype. This is what Radiohead lead singer Thom Yorke called the ‘iron lung’ of fame.
What Does the Title Mean?
The title ‘In Bloom’ refers to the ripening of fertility, reproduction, growth, as well as destruction. The title can be derived from the verses of the song, which focus on the abuse of the creative powers of fertility by people in general, and teenagers in particular. However, the title could also be a symbol of the metamorphosis of the band from a fairly unknown stature to a full-bloomed one. In fact, the band has bloomed into such an existence that it is at the risk of being misinterpreted.
The couplet ‘reproductive glands, tender age in bloom’ refers to the coming of puberty and fertility during teenage life. It represents the plight of the American teenager and symbolizes careless reproduction, a controversial topic valiantly taken on by the band. Overall, the title is a deep criticism of vanity in people. This vanity can be seen in the misuse of the powers of reproduction or the misinterpretation of certain types of music. This superficial nature of popular culture does not allow a deep understanding of the meaning of life.
Verse 1- What Does It Mean?
“Sell the kids for food
Weather changes moods
Spring is here again
After an initial reading, the words and the verses of the song may seem like merely random musings. This style is often typically employed by the band in subservience to its much more flamboyant melody and music. The meaning of phrases like ‘kids for food’ or ‘reproductive glands’ may not seem clear and may indicate a lack of any coherent meaning initially. The lead bassist of the band, Krist Novoselic, once told Rolling Stone that the lyrics used by Kurt Cobain were often cagey, and open to various types of interpretations. Kurt himself often referred to his lyrics as a collage of words that was inspired by 80s style alternative rock, particularly the band, The Pixies.
What Does the Chorus Mean?
“He’s the one
Who likes all our pretty songs
And he likes to sing along
And he likes to shoot his gun
But he knows not what it means
Knows not what it means
And I say he’s the one”
The chorus is a typical example of the type usually employed by the band, which portrays and aims at raw feeling instead of much word play. It focuses on emotions like anger, cynicism, and sarcasm and presents the alienation of the band from its own fans because of the variation in interpretation of their music by their audience. The tone of the chorus is pessimistic in nature.
‘In Bloom’ chorus lyrics criticizes those people who are incapable of seeing the bigger picture. It accuses them of vanity and lack of understanding. The line ‘he likes to shoot his gun’ talks about a certain person who has no connection at a deeply spiritual or emotional level to the band’s music. But, he still likes to loudmouth and has opinions about it. ‘The one who likes to sing along’ line criticizes those fans who merely run after commercial music and exposes their meaningless affection.
Verse 2- What Does It Mean?
“We can have some more
Nature is a whore
Bruises on the fruit
Tender age in bloom”
After a closer reading of both the verses, it can be realized that both of these verses are meant to be read in sequence together. Together, they refer to the use of nature’s capacities for purposes other than it is required for. The phrase about using kids for food symbolizes the abuse of nature for resources in view of its abundance and infinity. After all, ‘we can always have some more’ so why not abuse what we have right now.
The phrase ‘weather changes moods, nature is a whore’ refers to the fragility and the vulnerability of human nature, which is often controlled by forces beyond his control. ‘Spring is here again, bruises on the fruit’ is a reference to the arrival of reproductive stages like puberty. It also indicates the abuse of the genitals and the creative functions of reproduction for demeaning purposes like pleasure.
The line ‘reproductive glands, tender age in bloom’ is a straight-up reference to the blooming of fertility and the arrival of, and the opening up of new worlds for a typical teenager. Both these verses can be taken as a deep critique of the way people use and interpret the natural resources of the world, their own creative faculties, and pieces of art like music.
‘In Bloom’ lyrics can also be said to represent a lack of any coherent logic and instead focus on being impressionistic of various colors and feelings felt by Kurt Cobain. It is capable of creating a very strong atmosphere and is often felt as mystical yet wonderful.
Some people also talk about the lyrics of the song as direct ridicule of those people who try to interpret too much out of their lyrics. According to them, their words do not have any literal or metaphorical meaning. Hence, it mocks those people who do not understand this fact and arrive at conclusions and various interpretations. The song ends with a guitar solo and Kurt rightly keeps on reiterating ‘he don’t know what it means’ in reference to the clueless fans.