Oh, god, unclench. I can feel your sphincters tightening with indignant rage through the Internet. It’s practically audible. Gross.
But remember: This isn’t necessarily “cover songs that did it better than the original” or “cover bands that were better performers.” This is just “covers that more fully embody the spirit of the song.” In this case, it’s not that Nirvana did a better job than Bowie at … well, at pretty much anything in their lives. Nirvana had a huge impact on my teenage years, and I still like them to this day, but they’re no Bowie, because ain’t nobody is no motherfucking Bowie. You play the Goblin King, you stay the Goblin King. Nobody can step to that.
But you have to admit that Kurt Cobain’s sulking, weary acoustic performance of “Man who Sold The World” more perfectly embodied the apathetic, depressed and beaten soul of the piece. It was a song about being a sell-out; about this crushed, jaded man-thing who’s probably going to throw himself down that stairway when he reaches the top. Bowie’s version has a weird but ultimately refined, very British kind of sadness to it. When the song finished, you got the feeling Bowie was going to shed one single, repressed tear into his goblet of Rare Tibetan Eagle Wine. In Nirvana’s version, it sounds like bookies are taking odds on which verse suicide is going to knock Cobain out during – and Kurt’s up there trying to throw the fight.