24 Years of Love, Examining the legacy of Hole on modern music.
‘Hole is a band, Courtney Love is a soap opera’ the famous headline of Rolling Stone magazine read in August 1995. This headline referred to the fact that the legend of Hole is somewhat eclipsed by the personal affairs of its lead singer, the unbreakable Courtney Love. To celebrate 24 years since the release of Hole’s iconic sophomore album Live Through This, we’re going to discuss the album’s influence on modern music. We’ve also put together a playlist of the contemporary artists inspired by the amazing record, give it a listen below.
Over the past twenty years, Hole’s legacy has mostly been shat on from great heights by the male-dominated world of rock. Love’s actions as both a drug addict and a mentally unwell person in the spotlight overshadowed her band’s musical significance. To examine how misogyny plays into this situation, one only has to look at her celebrated husband, Kurt Cobain. Although he killed himself with a drug-addicted wife and a small child, Cobain is greatly regarded as a hero and granted a somewhat messiah-like status in culture. Whereas Courtney is seen as a blood-sucking succubus, for doing little more than daring to stay alive as opposed to jumping on his funeral pyre in tribute.
Some even suggest the reason for Hole’s outstanding musical contributions is that Kurt “ghostwrote” Hole’s Live Through This. The misogynists who make this statement simply cannot fathom that a woman, never-mind a woman who acts so outrageously, could create such a perfect mixture of punk-rock acidity infused with sweet waves of pop melody. They would rather believe a loud, raucous woman to be a thief, or even worse a murderer, than as someone who’s anything more than a “Junkie whore”.
Despite the cultural whitewashing of Hole’s significance stemming from fear of strong women and the questionable personal actions of lead singer Love, the huge significance of Live Through This – a feminist punk rock album – on modern rock and even mainstream pop music is astounding. Females who are taking over the pop industry or fulfilling Courtney Love’s wish that ‘Every girl in the world would pick up a guitar and start screaming’ are joined by a battalion of rule-breaking queer men and women alike.
Bands that are loud and impossible to ignore and have the rebellious and unwavering spirit of Hole at heart – disavowing the patriarchal sentence placed on Hole to become lost in history at every turn. To state my opinions on the sexist treatment of Hole’s legacy would be one thing, but – instead – let’s explore the sheer amount of significant contemporary artists from all genres affected by that legacy. That’s right, I brought receipts.
Upcoming bands in the rock world now stink of Hole. White Lung, a band headed by Vice Journalist Mish Barber are particularly vocal about Hole being a source of inspiration. “When I first fell in love with Live Through This, I read Love’s lyrics over and over, Not only did Hole and Courtney Love heavily influence me as a teenager, but Love herself introduced me to many bands I would never have found without her guidance. The woman was always throwing down references and other bands, name-dropping constantly, but she gave me a map.”.
The teachings of saint Courtney have not escaped some of rock’s heavyweights as well. UK Alt-rock giants Garbage’s 2001 Record ‘Beautiful Garbage’ is named after a quote from Hole’s 1998 mega-hit, Celebrity Skin. A dingy, begrimed, rock song about the cult of Hollywood hidden behind a snarling eye-roll of pop overtures. It lies somewhere closer to the bastard child of Fleetwood Mac and Blink-182 than it does Nirvana. Brody Dalle of the Distillers is another example and is probably the artist who owe’s the most to the first lady of grunge – Brody’s ‘Signature growl’ is her version of a vocal technique that Courtney coined.
Inspiring women who have become icons themselves, the girl-rockers of today also pay homage to their virulent mother. Upcoming superstars from bands like Pale Waves, Dilly Dally and Skating Polly all look like clones of each other because they’re all drawing inspiration from the ‘Kinderwhore’ fashion trend coined by Love. Every time you see an angry goth-girl in a Wednesday Addams dress and Dr Martens, or a girl with bangs chain-smoking in a leopard print fur coat, it’s down to the girl with the most cake. The alt-rock grrl band Honeyblood suspiciously share a name with a lyrics from Hole’s ‘Gutless’.
Courtney acting as a guide for women to traverse the male-dominated world of rage and rock music is a common theme in the words of her proteges. Love acts as a world-shattering hammer for suburban teenage girls whose lives don’t add up. It doesn’t matter if they like girls, if their teeth are fucked up or the boy that they like is a jerk to them, Courtney introduces girls who’ve spent their whole childhood’s being told what they’re not allowed to do to the world of feminist defiance. She shouldn’t be alive, never mind stood here on stage, screaming her vocal chords out. She teaches how to subvert gender through combining hyper-femininity and masculinity, a sort of anti-drag concoction that does not require women to give up their femininity – an early culturally visible precursor of drag being performed by CIS women.
“I Am Not A Woman, I Am A Force Of Nature”
One of the key things that made Hole’s work so unique in the boys club of grunge, is that it was addressed directly to women. Live Through This is a grungy, balls-out record tied up with a pretty pink bow the boys were afraid to touch lest they catch “cooties”. The record is littered with common (yet wildly unspoken) topics including menstrual themes, references to milk, rape, childbearing, self-image and eating disorders. Understandably, many of the musicians influenced by Hole’s music are strong women.
One Major example comes in Lana Del Ray who not only invited Courtney on a co-tour of the US with her, but was also interviewed by Love for the feature piece in the April 2017 addition Dazed. The Ultra-violence singer couldn’t be more Love’s polar-opposite in terms of sonics. A smooth, almost ethereal, jazz-inspired hum compared to Courtney’s vitriolic L.A Punk howls. But the singer said she was deeply influenced by her and ‘Honoured’ to call her a friend. In terms of aesthetics and lyrical themes, Lana owes a lot to Courtney, who opened the door to exploring American femininity in fucked up ways, something Lana Excels at.
In the same vein, other contemporary pop artists who may not sound similar to Courtney but acknowledge her influence on their artistry include: Charli XCX, Lorde, St Vincent, Marina and the Diamonds, Tove Lo, Sky Ferreira and Avril Lavigne. There you go Love-haters – IMAGINE LIVING IN A WORLD WITHOUT SK8TR BOI. But seriously, the blood Courtney shed throughout the nineties has seeped so deeply into the fabric of pop-culture whilst the male-dominated industry tried to hide the stain – if you look for it, and god forbid let women talk about what inspires them, it’s really not that hard to find.
The aesthetics that Marina and The Diamonds employ are directly descended from that of which Hole was creating during the Live Through This era, diluted through sugary-sweet pop creating a more palatable result for the mass audience. For example, the video for Marina and The Diamonds ‘Primadonna’ couldn’t look more like an Alice in Wonderland fantasy version of the dingy hell-scape enveloped by a swarm of blossoms in the video for Hole’s ‘Violet’ if it tried. Singer and songwriter extraordinaire Sia even fronted Hole on a recent reunion to celebrate the release of drummer Patty Shemel’s film ‘Hit So Hard’
Broke for Credit In the Straight World
Speaking of Drag, Courtney is down with the gays! Shocker. After Fleeing America as a teenager to go live with her dad in the UK, Courtney soon stayed with members of the Teardrop Explodes and Echo and the Bunnymen in Liverpool where she worked in a gay club and “Learned how to be a rock star”. Yes, her life is that interesting – if you haven’t watched her VH1 behind the music yet, what is wrong with you. LGBT people appropriated Hole’s music as it spoke to the feminine rage and ‘otherness’ they were feeling – at the time, it was also one of the only Alternative Rock bands with openly queer members. This and Love’s tenure in Lily Savage’s School For Girls may explain one of the reasons she was featured as a guest judge on last weeks episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Speaking of, Ru Paul’s Drag Race has birthed a number of significant artists – such as Sharon Needles and Alaska Thunderfuck 5000 – who have both made references to their love of Love before; from drawing on her fashion aesthetics, to rap verses about Smashing pumpkins leading into a call for equal wages for women. But the place where her influence can really be seen is in the music of Adore Delano, the most successful of drag race alumni in a musical perspective. Her Recent Album ‘Whatever’ has a more mature, developed sound, and draws more from Hole’s scuzzy roots than ever. Here’s her ummm … ‘creative’ Cover of one such Hole song.
In the LGBT world, Courtney also has a protege in Semi Precious Weapons frontman, and songwriting genius, Justin Tranter. Justin gushed over the chance to meet his idol and work with her on some new music for both of their respective new projects. Tranter is responsible for writing songs for everyone from Britney Spears and Justin Bieber to Fall Out Boy and Linkin Park. A further example of how, through the devotion of isolated queer boys who listened to ‘Violet’ for the first time and turned their pain for being weird into rage, Love’s DNA has infiltrated so much of our culture from the most recent Justin Bieber Record to the songs of her once rival, Gwen Steffani.
Rap-Metal poet and prophet Otep Shamaya, a gender-bending unapologetic lesbian, stated ‘Without the first Hole Album there would be NO Otep albums’ in response to corrosive gender-based hate spewed at Love upon the release of Kurt Cobain Biopic, ‘Montage of Heck’. Otep also produced a cover of Nirvana’s breed, a cover that sounds suspiciously like Cobain’s Widow herself, creating a truly jarring sonic experience.
When discussing queer music it would be irresponsible to ignore the new wave of queer musicians. Rising pop artisan Macy Rodman describes herself as “The Trans Pop Courtney Love”. Boundary-pushing pop-rapper and femininity subverter GIRLI also takes political and stylistic influence from the walking study in demonology. (Side note – apparently Courtney and Brooke Candy are so close that they went on holiday to Venice together?)
Mine Is Forever.
To conclude, no matter how much power the patriarchal system music and culture exist in has, Love has proved time and time again that her work is a burning napalm fire of bile and vitriol that cannot be stopped from connecting with people. Teenage girls and gay boys who don’t even know how angry they truly are, see the dancing flames and join together – empowered – to smash shit up.
With industry leaders Tranter, Charlie XCX and Sia spreading the word of Hole alongside future stars like Goth-Pop band Pale Waves & Trip Hop artist Tricky, it seems that as the patriarchal grip on society slips and the generation of revolution reaches adulthood, Love may finally find herself immortalised as the problematic genius she truly is. Sorry, KurtCobainFan420 but no amount of comments or documentaries about how she’s a murderer who didn’t write her own songs is going to change that.