Nirvana - Come As You Are - 1992

Nirvana's "Come As You Are" is a seminal track from their 1992 album, Nevermind. Its distinctive, haunting guitar riff and introspective lyrics offer a deep dive into the band's psyche, particularly that of lead singer and songwriter Kurt Cobain. This aiMOOC explores the song's creation, its place in Nirvana's catalog, and its cultural impact.

Background and Release

Nirvana, formed in Aberdeen, Washington, in 1987, quickly became the flag bearers of grunge, a genre that emerged in the late 1980s and early 1990s. "Come As You Are" was the second single from their breakthrough album Nevermind, released in 1991 but continuing its cultural dominance into 1992 and beyond. The album marked a seismic shift in the music industry, displacing the then-dominant hair metal genre and bringing alternative rock to the forefront of popular music.

Song Composition and Themes

The song features a memorable, chorus-effected guitar riff played by Kurt Cobain, who also penned the lyrics. The line "Come as you are, as you were, as I want you to be" invites listeners into a space of acceptance and understanding, reflecting Cobain's complex relationship with fame, identity, and the expectations of others. Its lyrics have been subject to various interpretations, from a call for authenticity to commentary on society's pressures.

Impact and Legacy

"Come As You Are" solidified Nirvana's place in rock history and has been widely covered, analyzed, and celebrated in the years since its release. It encapsulates the spirit of a generation disillusioned with the established norms, and its message of acceptance continues to resonate with audiences today.

Music Video

The music video, directed by Kevin Kerslake, is a dark, aquatic-themed visual that complements the song's moody atmosphere. It features the band performing in a watery setting, with Cobain's presence front and center, encapsulating the band's raw energy and the song's introspective nature.


The song's main riff bears a resemblance to that of Killing Joke's 1984 song "Eighties," which led to rumors of a potential lawsuit that never materialized. Cobain acknowledged the similarity but insisted it was a coincidence.

Kurt Cobain

Kurt Cobain, the band's frontman, became an icon of Generation X, embodying the angst and disillusionment of the era. His introspective songwriting and distinctive vocal style left an indelible mark on the music industry. Cobain's tragic death in 1994 cemented his legacy as a voice of his generation.

Interactive Tasks

Quiz: Questions on the song

What year was "Come As You Are" released as a single? (1992) (!1989) (!1991) (!1994)

Who directed the music video for "Come As You Are"? (Kevin Kerslake) (!David Fincher) (!Spike Jonze) (!Anton Corbijn)

Which album features "Come As You Are"? (Nevermind) (!In Utero) (!Bleach) (!MTV Unplugged in New York)

Which band had a song that "Come As You Are" was rumored to have been similar to? (Killing Joke) (!The Pixies) (!Sonic Youth) (!R.E.M.)

What is a key theme of "Come As You Are"? (Authenticity and acceptance) (!Political unrest) (!Romantic relationships) (!Substance abuse)

Quiz: Questions on the Performer

In what year was Nirvana formed? (1987) (!1985) (!1990) (!1992)

What genre is Nirvana most associated with? (Grunge) (!Heavy Metal) (!Punk Rock) (!Pop)

Who was Nirvana's lead singer and primary songwriter? (Kurt Cobain) (!Dave Grohl) (!Krist Novoselic) (!Pat Smear)

Which Nirvana album displaced hair metal and brought alternative rock to mainstream audiences? (Nevermind) (!Bleach) (!In Utero) (!MTV Unplugged in New York)

How did Kurt Cobain's life tragically end? (Suicide) (!Overdose) (!Car accident) (!Natural causes)

Quiz: Questions on the lyrics

What does the line "As I want you to be" in "Come As You Are" suggest? (Acceptance) (!Conformity) (!Rebellion) (!Isolation)

What effect is used on the guitar riff in "Come As You Are"? (Chorus effect) (!Distortion) (!Reverb) (!Delay)

Which of the following themes does "Come As You Are" NOT directly address? (Political unrest) (!Identity) (!Fame) (!Acceptance)

How does the song reflect Kurt Cobain's view on fame? (Mixed feelings about acceptance and identity) (!Unabashed enthusiasm for celebrity) (!Complete rejection of public attention) (!Indifference to public perception)

What message does "Come As You Are" convey to its listeners? (You are accepted as you are) (!Change yourself to fit in) (!Avoid fame at all costs) (!Pursue fame relentlessly)


Nevermind Album featuring "Come As You Are"
Kurt Cobain Nirvana's lead singer
Grunge Genre Nirvana is most associated with
1992 Year "Come As You Are" was released as a single
Kevin Kerslake Director of the music video

Open Tasks


  1. Explore Grunge Music: Research and write a paragraph about another grunge band from the early 90s.
  2. Nirvana Album Art: Create a piece of art inspired by Nirvana's album covers.
  3. Music Video Analysis: Watch the "Come As You Are" music video and describe its visual themes.


  1. Guitar Riff Recreation: Learn and record yourself playing the iconic riff of "Come As You Are".
  2. Lyric Interpretation: Write a personal interpretation of the song's lyrics and what they mean to you.
  3. Nirvana's Influence: Interview someone who was a teenager in the 90s about Nirvana's impact on their life.


  1. Grunge Documentary: Create a short documentary about grunge music, featuring Nirvana as a key component.
  2. Songwriting: Write your own song inspired by "Come As You Are", focusing on themes of acceptance and identity.
  3. Cultural Impact Essay: Write an essay on the cultural impact of Nirvana's "Nevermind" album in the early 90s.

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Oral Exam

  1. Discuss the Influence of "Come As You Are" on subsequent generations of musicians and music fans.
  2. Analyze the Lyrics of "Come As You Are" in the context of Nirvana's broader discography.
  3. Examine the Relationship between Nirvana's music and the cultural landscape of the early 1990s.
  4. Evaluate the Impact of Kurt Cobain's personal struggles on his songwriting and public image.
  5. Explore the Concept of Authenticity in music, using "Come As You Are" as a case study.

OERs on the Topic


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