4 Reasons Joan Jett Is a Surprisingly Good Choice to Front Nirvana
Just five days after the 20-year anniversary of Kurt Cobain's death, Nirvana is finally entering the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on Thursday, April 10, in a ceremony at Brooklyn's Barclays Center. Though it's been confirmed for a few days now that REM frontman Michael Stipe would preside over the ceremony, questions still lingered as to who would fill Cobain's tragically vacant shoes for the band's performance. Yesterday, Dave Grohl may have provided an answer: The former Nirvana drummer posted a photo to Instagram showing Joan Jett's uniquely stickered Melody Maker alongside the other band members' instruments, thus giving rise to the rumor that Jett will front Nirvana at their Hall of Fame show.
Of course, provided even this small hint of a clue, the Internet exploded, with reactions ranging from high fives to rage to sheer baffled series of interrobangs and back again. Still, amidst the ?!s, I'm here to assert a few reasons why, against all skeptical odds, Jett might actually be a pretty good fit — aside from, y'know, the fact that she loves rock 'n' roll.
1. No One Was Ever Going to Be "Perfect"
Of course, the automatic and necessary reaction to the words "Kurt Cobain" and "replacement" in the same sentence is immediate indignation — because no one could ever really replace the legendary frontman, not even close, how dare they try, etc. However, since the news has surfaced, I've also seen more than a few retaliatory nominations — The Pixies' Black Francis, Bruce Springsteen (?!), and, most convincing to me, PJ Harvey — but I'd be willing to bet that if any of those musicians' guitars had appeared on Grohl's Instagram instead, fans' reactions would have been just as quibbling. The fact remains that every nominee is going to have his or her drawbacks, because, put plainly, no one is our beloved Cobain. I mean, KISS are refusing to perform at all because of this kind of "who's in, who's out" controversy; at least Nirvana is set to take the stage, and with someone more fit than, say, Chris Martin. Plus, there's an argument to be made that...
2. Kurt Probably Would Have Wanted It This Way
Okay, so there's no way to know whether he would have been stoked on Jett specifically, but as a guy who performed frequently in dresses and declared "I'm not gay, although I wish I were, just to piss off homphobes," Cobain probably would have been tickled pink by the thought of being memorialized at the Hall of Fame by a kickass female vocalist. Suck it, misogynist rock bros. Sure, when it comes to era-appropriate lady vocalists, another name may jump first to mind — Harvey aside, that is — but come on, you guys...
3. There's No Way Courtney Was Going to Do It
I mean, she doesn't get those Yoko Ono comparisons for nothing. Indeed, no matter how much she may protest when compared to music's most infamous band-dissolving girlfriend, Love is certainly far from chummy with surviving Nirvana members, especially drummer Dave Grohl. Though she reported that she will certainly be at the ceremony, Love flatly denied any musical participation, asserting to the UK Telegraph that she's attending only because "it's what widows and kids do. And it does give me ownership of the mythology, rather than just handing over to Krist and Dave their ownership." Given that combative logic, it's no wonder she predicts sitting with Grohl will be "awkward"; having to rehearse and perform a set together seems next to impossible. Meanwhile, Jett and Grohl have long been friends and avid musical collaborators — so, if nothing else, expect their on-stage chemistry to be on point.
4. She Can Rock a Mean Dude Band Cover
Though Joan Jett is of course most notable for her work with The Runaways and later with The Blackhearts, one of my favorite things she's ever done is a particular live cover of The Stooges' "I Wanna Be Your Dog" (encountered on the Iggy Pop tribute album We Will Fall — highly recommended all around). Okay, yes, it's almost eight minutes long — but it earns those minutes and then some: About halfway through, the band cuts down to a murmur, seemingly at Jett's behest, as she proceeds to toy with the crowd for a straight three or so minutes, throwing around stray "hey"s and groans, before deciding, at the exactly deliciously right moment, to cue the band crashing back in. I mean, that return surge — I just — words don't describe. The throat-rip screams, the hair-trigger crowd control — if nothing else, it's a mastery of frontswomanship, to be sure.
So, with that, I will nurture some hope for a solid Nirvana set at the Hall of Fame ceremony tomorrow. Really, all I have left to say to Ms. Jett is: Here we are now — entertain us.