Both the most famous live album ever made, and in my eyes, the best. Nothing comes close to the passionate performances on this album. MTV Unplugged in New York is a perfect release in the Nirvana catalogue because it showed a completely different side to them. It was a posthumous release, brought out after the death of front man Kurt Cobain due to the demand and need for new Nirvana material and I always feel so glad that they did it.
The band had their reservations about doing it and it seems as if Kurt Cobain was a nightmare during the entire process. His mindset around the time this album was made fascinates me, because not longer after, he killed himself and during the making of it he was suffering from drug withdrawal symptoms and anxiety. But I think he felt if you're going to do something, do it right, and do it your way. They'd seen other bands attempt this kind of format, and they didn't adapt their sound accordingly, and Nirvana didn't want to do that. They didn't want to do what other bands did, get up on stage, and play a usual typical setlist including all their hits.
I think it's great that they approached it in this way. The first time I listened to it, I looked at the tracklist and was quite taken aback. A lot of the usual suspects weren't present, and I remember being quite apprehensive but also incredibly excited. I was most certainly wrong to be apprehensive, because MTV Unplugged in New York contains great song choices and a great collection of songs, but I sometimes wish that there was more. More Nirvana stuff, anyway. I adore the Meat Puppets songs, the Bowie cover, the Lead Belly and Vaseline's cover, but there were Nirvana songs I would have loved to have seen interpretations for. Though, Smells Like Teen Spirit is not one of them. Even though I would have loved to see more Nirvana interpretations, I wouldn't trade the covers for the world. The Nirvana songs they did choose, and the covers, went hand in hand and they were performed and executed perfectly despite early initial problems and worries.
In a way, as great as it is, this album makes me angry. Before Kurt Cobain's death his good friend Michael Stipe said he wanted to go in a quieter, more acoustic, string-driven direction as opposed to continuing the greasy haired, loud, abrasive grunge sound that the band so brilliantly mastered and like Stipe, I'm also angry at him for killing himself because it could have been outstanding. I love Nevermind and In Utero, and think Bleach is a fine debut, but if Kurt Cobain had stayed alive I would have loved to have seen him make a huge departure and do something different. It would have gone down as one of those defining releases that could alienate and separate fans. But I think that's exactly what he would have wanted. I always think Kurt Cobain, after the initial success of Nevermind, would have tried to do it his way.
The band proved that they could transcend genre and completely reinvent their sound and still sound great with MTV Unplugged in New York.