She is America’s Sweetheart. She is Nobody’s Daughter. She is Pretty on the Inside, and even though she is made of “Doll Parts,” she definitely has Celebrity Skin. Rolling Stone once dubbed her “the most controversial woman in the history of rock.” As her upcoming single attests, “You Know [Her] Name.” She is Courtney Love: current solo artist, former lead singer of Hole, and widow of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain.
Love was probably most well known as a performer in the ’90s, when the grunge scene was still thriving. After Cobain committed suicide in 1994, Love rocketed to stardom. Hole released its most successful and critically acclaimed album, Live Through This, a few short days after Cobain’s body was found, and Love was paraded through an endless string of talk shows to talk about the tragedy of Cobain’s passing. At around the same time, Love also starred in a few films; most notably, she portrayed Althea Flynt in “The People vs. Larry Flynt,” which garnered her a nomination for the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress.
In 1998, Hole released its third album, Celebrity Skin, and in 2002, Love appeared in her most recent film, “Trapped.” Since then, Love’s creative achievements have remained rather lackluster. After Hole broke up, Love attempted a solo career with the release of America’s Sweetheart in 2004. The album was met with a mixed reception and underperformed on the charts. This led Love to release her next album, Nobody’s Daughter, under the name Hole in 2010, even though she was the only original member of the band to return for it. Nobody’s Daughter featured such subtly titled tracks as “Loser Dust,” was critically panned across the board, and sold even more poorly than America’s Sweetheart. Now, when Love is covered in the media, it is typically to be criticized or mocked for something controversial she has done or something stupid she has said.
However, this is not necessarily a new development: Love’s talent has always been accompanied by wild, reckless behavior. In 1995, years before her music career tanked, Love notoriously hijacked Madonna’s interview on the MTV Video Music Awards while visibly intoxicated. That same year, she assaulted Bikini Kill front woman Kathleen Hanna at the Lollapalooza Music Festival.In recent years, Love’s antics have predominately moved to the digital realm. A short while ago, Love was the first person in the world to be sued for libel for making a defamatory post to Twitter. In March, Love misguidedly attempted to point out the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in a photo on Facebook. Just a few weeks ago, Love announced that the Celebrity Skin-era lineup of Hole had reunited to produce new material, only to retract that statement four days later.
Though even I have to admit that Love does herself no justice in the media and deserves much of the criticism that she receives, the general public’s dislike of her has continued to seep into places it doesn’t necessarily belong. For instance, shortly after Cobain passed away, a group of his fans concocted a conspiracy theory that Love had murdered him and covered it up as a suicide. At the time, the theory was so popular that it spawned the two books “Who Killed Kurt Cobain?” and “Love & Death: The Murder of Kurt Cobain,” the documentary “Kurt and Courtney,” and the television show “Kurt Cobain Was Murdered,” which still occasionally runs on Seattle public access TV.
Similarly, when Hole released Live Through This to widespread critical acclaim in 1994, shortly after Cobain passed away, Cobain purists argued that he was the true writer of the album, rather than Love and Hole guitarist Eric Erlandson, which is a ridiculous accusation. A number of the album’s singles—“Doll Parts,” “Violet,” and “Softer, Softest”—had been performed in concert as early as 1991 and thus most likely written in early 1991 or 1990, before Love and Cobain were anything more than intimate. The blatant misogyny at work here is disgusting.
Live Through This is undoubtedly Love and Hole’s greatest achievement. To this day, I cannot find a song that depicts yearning for someone who doesn’t love you back as viscerally or as painfully as “Doll Parts.” I still haven’t managed to get the hook of “Asking For It” out of my head after hearing it for the first time three years ago. The album is, simply put, a masterpiece. It’s no wonder that Cobain’s fans, who booed Love when she tried to make her speech at Nirvana’s induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, wanted to credit it to him.
Years before Live Through This, Love and the rest of Hole demonstrated their talent by crafting the wonderfully dark and grimy Pretty on the Inside. Four years after Cobain’s death, Hole released the hypnotic Celebrity Skin, which served as my introduction to the band when I stumbled upon it in the tenth grade. Even America’s Sweetheart and Nobody’s Daughter have a few memorable tracks, and if Love’s latest singles, “Wedding Day” and “You Know My Name,” are any indication, another hit album could very well be on the way.
Whether you love or hate her, Love seems to be here for the long haul. Despite—or perhaps even because of—her brash attitude, her overall talent and contribution to rock music are undeniable. While I don’t condone Love’s reckless behavior, I’m glad that she has soldiered on through all of the negative press and continues to make music. Certainly, the world of rock and roll would be a lot less interesting without her.