Courtney Love floats in the pop culture consciousness somewhere between a rock legend and tabloid fodder. Asking the casual person on the street about their opinions on Love probably yields mixed reactions, with most citing her as the angry widow of Kurt Cobain and others pointing to her public struggle with addiction.
The fact is, Courtney Love rarely gets the credit she deserves. Before she was Mrs. Cobain, she was writing confessional, visceral music as the raging frontwoman of Hole. She didn't just scream her lyrics; there's a calculated cadence behind her delivery, allowing the songs to stretch past exercises of anger and become palpable entities of honesty, aggression, and despair.
So put aside your thoughts on Courtney Love the media persona and engage with the reason we should give a damn about her in the first place; her music. Here are ten songs that capture why Courtney Love is, and will always be, a legend.
"Pretty On The Inside"
It's less than two minutes long, but the title track of Hole's 1991 debut is the perfect picture of grunge from its glory era. The male-dominated genre needed more female voices; Babes In Toyland and Bikini Kill were representing women well, but Courtney took it a step further.
Gender inequality and oppression frequently anchor Hole's songs. Courtney and co. were never afraid to address the standards placed on feminine beauty. That's why it's so gratifying to hear Courtney singing from the perspective of a pageant queen and offering a more honest take on this archetype.
"Asking For It"
"If you live through this with me I swear I will die for you." This song contains the refrain from which Hole's iconic Live Through This album title is lifted. It's the first instance in their catalogue of Courtney taking more of a singer role and less of a screaming approach to the music.
"Gold Dust Woman"
Courtney Love doing Stevie Nicks looks strange on paper, but hearing the band's take on the Fleetwood Mac classic makes you wonder if the song was meant for them all along. The gritty original is amplified with swirling effects, walls of guitar, and of course Courtney screaming the lyrics Stevie so forcefully sang.
For their third album, Hole and its new lineup went California. The West Coast bleeds all over this record, with the title track directly addressing the hustle of Hollywood. This was released during Courtney's own Hollywood phase, where she found newfound fame through movie roles. "Celebrity Skin" is Courtney's whimsical commentary on her stardom.
"Boys On The Radio"
By this point, Courtney watched countless bands not only pursue the same success her husband's band Nirvana achieved, but also watched all-male bands achieve greater heights than her own band, simply because of their gender. Courtney sings "Boys On The Radio" with a knowingness and wisdom only she could possess.
One of Celebrity Skin's most raw moments comes with the acoustic guitar-lead "Northern Star." Courtney's strained vocals lay bare atop a campfire guitar, eventually exploding into a wall of snare drums and guttural screams. It may be the best song Courtney's put her name to.
When Courtney finally released her long overdue solo album, it was in the midst of her rock bottom. As she spiraled out of control supporting this record, it was hard to focus on the positives. Even Courtney considers the record a stain in her discography. Still, this song is a shining moment on a trouble album. It's heartfelt without being forced.
Legions of fans and critics awaited for Courtney to write "the widow song." While her husband's death obviously influenced some of the songs from Celebrity Skin, Courtney saved the best for Hole's Nobody's Daughter album. "Honey" is a woman's unhinged grief and longing.
"Never Go Hungry Again"
This was one of the first songs Courtney played after finishing her stint in rehab. In fact, she said she wrote this song while trying to get clean. It was the cathartic release she needed to address her addiction, but also looking ahead to new horizons.