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(Credit: Polydor)

Music

Looking back at Lana Del Rey's cover of Nirvana song 'Heart Shaped Box'

@notmyyaztattoo

Is it any secret that Lana Del Rey has found inspiration in the tragic heroes and legends of rock music history? The woman behind “Elvis is my daddy/Marilyn’s my mother/ Jesus is my bestest friend” might have something to say about Kurt Cobain, who would have thought?

It’s true, Del Rey has discussed her love of Kurt Cobain and Nirvana since her early days in the spotlight. Before she released her debut album, the singer gave the quote to NME: “When I was 11, I saw Kurt Cobain singing ‘Heart Shaped Box’ on MTV and it really stopped me dead in my tracks. I thought he was the most beautiful person I had ever seen. Even at a young age, I really related to his sadness.”

And it’s exactly that sadness, on that same song, that would later inspire a cover of her own. Lana Del Rey is no stranger to covers and samples, in fact, one of her most popular songs, ‘Doin’ Time’, is a reinvented Sublime cover. She also made waves with her live cover of Ariana Grande’s ‘break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored’. However, hearing Del Rey devote herself to one of her long-beloved and treasured songs is something else entirely.

When it comes to the song itself, ‘Heart Shaped Box’ is where some of Cobain’s most intensely visceral lyrics find their home. It makes for one of the band’s greatest creations. The song was written by Cobain while he was hiding in a closet, and the band encountered a number of issues in the recording studio as the enigmatic frontman attempted to realise his vision. “I was trying to wait for [bassist Krist Novoselic] and [drummer Dave Grohl] to come up with something but it just turned into noise all the time,” he later commented. However, even he later realised that the song had merit. 

So, what would he make of Lana Del Rey’s version of ‘Heart Shaped Box’? Well, the track offers an interesting mix in terms of sound. The instrumentation both feels true to the original, but also distinctly Del Rey, with the introduction of some soft strings. In her voice, there’s a sense of grit and sadness, but also a romantic sweetness to contrast Cobain’s power. As the song was recorded years ago, you can also hear the youth in her voice as she clings still to her higher register. Although this might seem like a way that she differs from the original, it actually brings a sense of innocent angst that serves to complement the arrangement.

This is a cover where she’s clearly paying tribute, while also making it her own. If you want to listen to Lana Del Rey’s cover of ‘Heart Shaped Box’ by Nirvana, you can listen down below.