|Single by Nirvana|
|from the album Nevermind|
|Released||November 30, 1992|
|Studio||Sound City Studios in Van Nuys, California|
|Nirvana singles chronology|
|Nevermind track listing|
"In Bloom" is a song by American rock band Nirvana, written by vocalist and guitarist Kurt Cobain. It appears as the second track on the band's second album, Nevermind, released by DGC Records in September 1991.
The album version is the second of two versions of the song that were released in 1991, the earlier of which was recorded in 1990, while the band was still signed to their original record label, Sub Pop. This version was initially released as a music video only, on the Sub Pop Video Network Volume 1 VHS compilation.
"In Bloom" was released as the album's fourth and final single in November 1992 and generated heavy American airplay, reaching number 5 on the US Mainstream Rock chart, despite never being released as a physical single in the United States. The international release of the single made the Top 10 in Ireland and Portugal, as well as the Top 20 in Finland and New Zealand and the Top 30 in Sweden and the United Kingdom. It was accompanied by a new music video, directed by Kevin Kerslake, which won Best Alternative Video at the 1993 MTV Video Music Awards.
Background and recording
According to Nirvana's bassist Krist Novoselic, "In Bloom" "originally sounded like a Bad Brains song," before being slowed down and reworked by Cobain at home. In a 2002 Rolling Stone interview with David Fricke, Novoselic recalled that Cobain "went home and [he] hammered it. He kept working on it. Then he called me on the phone and said, 'Listen to this song.' He started singing it on the phone. You could hear the guitar. It was the 'In Bloom' of Nevermind, more of a pop thing."
The song was first performed live on April 1, 1990 at the Cabaret Metro in Chicago. The following day, the band began work on recording a new release for their then-label Sub Pop, at Smart Studios in Madison, Wisconsin with producer Butch Vig. Among the eight songs recorded during the five-day session was "In Bloom," which originally featured a bridge that Vig removed by physically cutting it out of the 16-track master tape with a razor blade, and throwing in the garbage. The original plan of releasing the songs recorded during this session on a single release were abandoned later in the year, after the exit of drummer Chad Channing. The band instead used the material as a demo tape, which circulated amongst the music industry and generated interest in the group among major record labels. However, a few songs from the session still appeared on various official releases in 1990 and 1991. "In Bloom" was released as a music video only, on the Sub Pop Video Network Volume 1 VHS compilation in 1991.
The song was re-recorded by Vig at Sound City Studios in Van Nuys, California in May 1991, during the sessions for the band's second album and major label debut, Nevermind. It was one of the first songs worked on during the sessions, due to Vig's familiarity with it from his previous session with the band. Like the other songs recorded at Smart Studios, the arrangement for "In Bloom" was left mostly unchanged, with the band's new drummer Dave Grohl staying close to what Channing had played.
According to Vig, Cobain's impatience with recording multiple vocal takes made it difficult to acquire a master vocal take. In the 2005 documentary Classic Albums: Nirvana – Nevermind, Vig revealed the methods he used to get Cobain to record multiple takes, which included tricking him into believing that certain parts were not properly recorded and needed to be done again, and reminding him that the Beatles' John Lennon double-tracked his vocals in the studio. The varying intensity of Cobain's vocals from one take to the next, and from the verses to the choruses, also presented a problem for Vig, who had to adjust the input levels "on the fly" while recording Cobain. Ultimately, Vig was able to edit several takes together into a single master, due to the consistency of Cobain's vocal phrasing.
Vig also decided to have Grohl sing high harmonies, double-tracking them as he did with Cobain's. Grohl initially had difficulty hitting the proper notes, but ultimately was able to sing what Vig wanted. The original studio version of "In Bloom" featured no harmonies, possibly due to time constraints.
"In Bloom" was performed for the final time live on March 1, 1994 at Terminal Einz in Munich, Germany, Nirvana's last show.
Like many Nirvana songs, "In Bloom" shifts back and forth between quiet verses and loud choruses. Cobain uses a Mesa Boogie guitar amplifier for the verses, and during the chorus he switches to a Fender Bassman amp (suggested by Vig) for a heavier, double-tracked fuzztone sound. The rhythm section of Novoselic and Grohl kept its parts simple; Grohl stated it was "an unspoken rule" to avoid unnecessary drum fills, while Novoselic said he felt his role was about "serving the song". During the choruses, vocalist Cobain and drummer Grohl harmonize while singing "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". The song's intro reappears at the end of each chorus.
According to the 1993 Nirvana biography Come As You Are by Michael Azerrad, "In Bloom" was originally written about "the jocks and shallow mainstream types" of the underground music scene the band began to find in their audience after the release of their 1989 debut album, Bleach. As Azerrad points out, the song's lyrics "translated even better to the mass popularity the band enjoyed" following the breakthrough success of their second album, Nevermind. "The brilliant irony," Azerrad wrote, "is that the tune is so catchy that millions of people actually do sing along to it." English journalist Everett True suggested the song may also have addressed the band's discomfort with being part of the grunge movement of the early 1990s , saying that "I assumed it was directed towards the fans who would show up at concerts with signs saying Evenflow [a Pearl Jam song] on one side and Rape Me – I think – on the other: the fans who did not understand there was a point of difference between Nirvana and other Seattle bands or media representations of grunge. I've always associated the song with [In Utero single] Rape Me. Like they're a pair."
Release and reception
Originally Cobain wanted to release In Bloom on a promotional EP as well as their first major label debut single after signing with DGC, for the then-second album sessions with Sub Pop, entitled Sheep. The EP would've been titled NIRVANA Sings Songs of The Vaselines, The Wipers, Devo, & Nirvana.
"In Bloom" was released as the fourth and final single from Nevermind on November 30, 1992. The commercial single was only released in Europe, while promotional copies were released in the United States. The 12-inch vinyl and CD versions of the commercial single featured live versions of "Polly" and "Sliver," from the band's show at Del Mar Fairgrounds in Del Mar, California on December 28, 1991, as b-sides. The 7-inch vinyl and cassette versions featured only "Polly." The single peaked at number 28 on the British singles chart. Despite the lack of a commercial release domestically, the song reached number five on the Billboard Album Rock Tracks chart.
Music journalist Everett True wrote an uncharacteristically unfavorable review of the single in Melody Maker, accusing it of "milking" the success of Nevermind. "Whoop whoop bloody whoop", wrote True, "forgive me if I don't sound too thrilled. This release is stretching even my credulity beyond repair. Like, milking a still-breathing (sacred) cow, or what? Badly inferior live versions of 'Polly' and 'Sliver' on the flip don't help matters either."
In 2011, Rolling Stone magazine ranked "In Bloom" at number 415 on their list of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time". According to Nielsen Music's year-end report for 2019, "In Bloom" was the seventh most-played song of the decade on mainstream rock radio with 131,000 spins. All of the songs in the top 10 were from the 1990s.
In 2019, Cobain was given a songwriting credit on the single "Panini" by American rapper and singer Lil Nas X, due to the song having a similar chorus melody as "In Bloom." As Nas X explained in a SiriusXM interview, "I put out the snippet [of 'Panini'] and everyone was like, 'Wow, he's sampling Nirvana.' I was like, 'Where? I'm not sampling Nirvana, this beat doesn't have Nirvana in it.' Then, I listened to 'In Bloom' in full, and I was like, 'Oh, okay.'" Nas X revealed that the song was approved by Kurt's daughter, Frances Bean Cobain, and that the experience "actually got me into [Nevermind] for the first time."
The first music video for "In Bloom," for the Smart Studios version, was directed by Steve Brown, and filmed in New York City in April 1990, shortly after the song had been recorded. It features footage of the band walking around lower Manhattan, including the South Street Seaport, the Lower East Side, and Wall Street, as well as rehearsal footage and clips from the band's show at Maxwell's in Hoboken, New Jersey on April 28. Novoselic had shaved his head as punishment for what he perceived to be a bad performance at the Pyramid Club in New York City on April 26, and appears with hair in some shots, and with a shaved head in others. The video was first released in 1991 on the Sub Pop Video Network Volume 1 compilation. It was re-released on the DVD of the band's rarities box set, With the Lights Out in 2004. The audio of this version appeared on some copies of the promotional EP Selections from With the Lights Out which was released shortly before the With the Lights Out box set, and although the video for song appears on the DVD of the box set, the audio does not appear on any of the CDs in the box set. In September 2011, the audio of this version was finally released on disc two of the 20th anniversary "Deluxe Edition" of the Nevermind album. The video is listed as Alternate Version on Nirvana's official YouTube channel.
The second music video for "In Bloom", for the Nevermind version, was directed by Kevin Kerslake, who had directed the videos for the band's previous two singles from album Nevermind, “Come as You Are” and “Lithium”. The video was first aired in late November 1992, about a month after it was filmed. According to Come As You Are, Cobain's original concept for the video was "a surrealistic fable about a little girl who is born into a Ku Klux Klan family and one day realizes how evil her parents are." This proved to be "too ambitious," so Cobain instead came up with the idea of making a video that parodied the musical performances of bands on early 1960s variety shows, such as The Ed Sullivan Show.
The video was filmed on old Kinescope cameras, following Cobain's request that Kerslake use authentic cameras from the period, and the band's performance was improvised. The satirical tone was a result of Cobain being "so tired for the last year of people taking us so seriously . . . I wanted to fuck off and show them that we have a humorous side to us". The video begins with an unnamed variety show host, played by Doug Llewelyn, former host of American reality show The People's Court, introducing Nirvana to an in-studio crowd of young fans, whose screaming is heard throughout the duration of the song. The band members, whom the host refers to as "thoroughly all right and decent fellas," perform dressed in suits, while Cobain wears glasses that made him dizzy. As Cobain explained in a 1992 Melody Maker interview, "We wanted to be like The Beatles – no, The Dave Clark Five, I was wearing glasses – we would never make fun of The Beatles." Novoselic had cut his hair short for the video, and liked it so much he kept it that way afterwards. As the video progresses, the band destroys the set and its instruments.
Three different edits of the Kerslake video were made. Cobain intended to replace the first version of the video after a period with a new take featuring the band wearing dresses instead of suits and playing the song in their usual raucous style, including trashing the stage. MTV's alternative rock show 120 Minutes insisted on premiering the video, but Cobain felt the program would not properly convey the humor of the "pop idol" version. Instead, a new edit was produced which contained shots of the band in both suits and dresses. The original edit of the video never aired. This video won the award for Best Alternative Video at the 1993 MTV Video Music Awards and topped the music video category in the 1992 Village Voice Pazz & Jop critics' poll.
Formats and track listings
All tracks written by Kurt Cobain.
- 7", cassette
- "In Bloom" – 4:17
- "Polly" (live) – 2:47
- 12", CD
- "In Bloom" – 4:17
- "Sliver" (live – Del Mar – 28.12.1991) – 2:06
- "Polly" (live – Del Mar – 28.12.1991) – 2:47
|United Kingdom (BPI)||Silver||200,000|
Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.
- Kurt Cobain: lead vocals, guitar
- Krist Novoselic: bass 
- Dave Grohl: drums, backing vocals
- Butch Vig: recording and mixing engineer, producer
Country musician Sturgill Simpson covered "In Bloom" as a country song on his 2016 album A Sailor's Guide to Earth, while Lil Nas X interpolated it from his 2019 song Panini (which was approved by Frances Bean Cobain).
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|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Nevermind|
- "In Bloom" on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time
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