Review of Nirvana’s “MTV Unplugged in New York” album


Nolan Sanders, Staff Writer

The year 1994 saw two major events regarding the Seattle grunge rock band Nirvana: the release of the band’s first live album, MTV Unplugged in New York and the unfortunate and untimely death of Kurt Cobain, the band’s lead guitarist and singer.


The former was a great success for the group, although at the time of its release, Cobain had already been dead for months, along with the disbanding of Nirvana shortly afterward. Nirvana members Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic and Pat Smear faced a road of uncertainty and left to pick of the pieces of what was the greatest grunge band of the ‘90s.


For most Nirvana fans, the album was bittersweet. It would be the last album the band recorded together before Cobain’s death in April 1994.


MTV Unplugged in New York features many Nirvana songs that were widely popular prior to the production of the 1994 album. For the most part, Nirvana avoids its hit songs in this album and instead performs lesser known songs or covers of songs first performed by other artists such as David Bowie, The Vaselines, Meat Puppets and Leadbelly.


I am, by all means, no professional music critic and therefore cannot do this phenomenal album any justice. The album sits at #95 for Rolling Stone Magazine’s 100 Best Albums of the ‘90s.


The beauty behind this album is its lack of production. That is to say, it was not brutally edited or overproduced in an editing studio. It takes the barebones Nirvana sound and embeds it in a CD, taken directly from the stage. Seldom will you find an album as bare and naked and pure as MTV Unplugged in New York.


The stripped-down-to-basics sound in this album goes to show that even without edits and producing of a studio, Cobain is able to present a special kind of beauty in the music.


I have listened to this album in its entirety multiple times and did not hear the playing of a single electric guitar throughout the 14 tracks.


When listening to other Nirvana albums, one can get accustomed to hearing Cobain’s voice next to an electric guitar, but I have found that his voice complements the acoustics quite well. At times, Cobain’s voice is a circular saw cutting through sheet metal in the way most grunge vocalists of the era sounded, but at other times, his voice reflects a more gentle and and soothing mood.


The album is unique because it removes the wall of the production studio and puts Nirvana and Cobain closer to the audience than any other album had previously, which is the beauty of live albums.


MTV Unplugged in New York ranks quite highly among all Nirvana albums because of its pure sound. The raw, uncut music that can be heard in the album is so unique for Nirvana because of how it contrasts the conventional grunge sound.


Because it is a live album, it is set to slightly different standards to those of a studio album, but I would undoubtedly rate this album 10/10. I found no issues with it, and if I could describe it with one word, the word would be “unparalleled.”


MTV Unplugged in New York is a sacred album of sorts because of when it was recorded and how closely Cobain’s death followed it. At times, the album can be painful to listen to – if one were to listen closely to the lyrics, they seem to foreshadow what would happen four months later.


This live album is some of Nirvana’s greatest work and conveys to any audience what the Seattle grunge scene during the ‘80s and ‘90s was all about.

After listening to this album, one can truly appreciate the beauty Cobain was trying to present to the audience through his song and his acoustics.