Rape Me

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"Rape Me"
Single by Nirvana
from the album In Utero
A-side "All Apologies"
B-side "Moist Vagina"
Released 6 December 1993
Format CD, 7" single, 12" single, cassette
Recorded February 1993 at Pachyderm Studios in Cannon Falls, Minnesota
Genre Grunge
Length 2:49
Label DGC
Songwriter(s) Kurt Cobain
Producer(s) Steve Albini
Nirvana singles chronology
"Heart-Shaped Box"
"Rape Me"
"Pennyroyal Tea"
In Utero track listing
12 tracks
  1. "Serve the Servants"
  2. "Scentless Apprentice"
  3. "Heart-Shaped Box"
  4. "Rape Me"
  5. "Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle"
  6. "Dumb"
  7. "Very Ape"
  8. "Milk It"
  9. "Pennyroyal Tea"
  10. "Radio Friendly Unit Shifter"
  11. "tourette's"
  12. "All Apologies"
German CD single
The German CD single came with this large covering sticker on the box
The German CD single came with this large covering sticker on the box
Music video
"Rape Me" on YouTube
Audio sample
"Rape Me"

"Rape Me" is a song by American rock band Nirvana, written by vocalist and guitarist, Kurt Cobain. The song was released as the second single from Nirvana's third album In Utero in 1993, packaged as a double A-side along with "All Apologies". The single reached number 32 on the UK Singles Chart.

Background and recording

"Rape Me" was written by Cobain on an acoustic guitar in Los Angeles in May 1991, around the time the band's second album, Nevermind, was being mixed.[1] It was first performed live on June 18, 1991, at The Catalyst in Santa Cruz. The earliest live versions of the song featured a guitar solo instead of a bridge.[2]

The band had wanted to play the song during their appearance at the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards, but the network insisted they play one of their Nevermind singles "Smells Like Teen Spirit" or "Lithium" instead.[3][4] Amy Finnerty, an MTV employee and friend of the band's, recalled that Cobain was initially excited when he presented "Rape Me" to MTV at the first rehearsal, and he "acted like it was a gift."[3] However, Finnerty was later lectured by the network on the band's choice of song, which they believed was about them, despite Finnerty's insistence to the contrary. The ongoing argument between MTV and Cobain escalated, with MTV threatening to cut Nirvana from the show, to stop playing the band's music videos, and even to boycott other artists on the band's management company, Gold Mountain, such as Sonic Youth or the Beastie Boys.[5] Cobain only relented after being informed that MTV would fire Finnerty if the band played "Rape Me." To the surprise of the network's executives, Nirvana appeared at the final rehearsal on the day of the show, with Cobain holding and swinging Finnerty's hand as they walked down the aisle, as a show of support for Finnerty.[3] At the start of the performance that night, Cobain played a few seconds of "Rape Me," which he later said he did "just to give [MTV] a little heart palpitation". MTV were allegedly about to switch to a commercial when Cobain stopped playing "Rape Me," and started playing their latest single, "Lithium," instead.[6]

"Rape Me" was first recorded in the studio in October 1992, during two-day demo session with Jack Endino at Word of Mouth in Seattle, Washington. Two takes of the song were recorded, one of which was instrumental, the other featuring lead vocals by Cobain and backing vocals by drummer Dave Grohl. Cobain was holding his then-infant daughter Frances Bean Cobain on his lap when he recorded his vocals, and she can be heard crying on the demo.[7]

The final studio version of "Rape Me" was recorded in February 1993 by Steve Albini at Pachyderm Studio in Cannon Falls, Minnesota, for band's third and final studio album, In Utero. The instruments for the song were recorded on February 15.[8] The following day, Cobain completed his vocals for the album during a reported six-hour session.[9] Cobain used his Fender Jaguar guitar plugged into a Twin Reverb amp.[10]

The song was relabeled "Waif Me" on the censored Wal-Mart and Kmart version of In Utero, released in March 1994. The chain stores had originally refused to carry the album because of the song's title, as well as the fetus collage on the back cover, which was also edited. The song's proper title was listed in the booklet, and the recording remained the same. Cobain defended the band's decision to release a censored version of the album by explaining, "One of the main reasons I signed to a major label was so people would be able to buy our records at Kmart. In some towns, that's the only place kids can buy records."[11]

Meaning, composition and lyrics

"Rape Me" was conceived as an anti-rape song, written from the point of view of the victim. "It's like she's saying, 'Rape me, go ahead, rape me, beat me,'" Cobain told Darcey Steinke of Spin in 1993, "'You'll never kill me. I'll survive this and I'm gonna fucking rape you one of these days and you won't even know it.'"[12] Gllian G. Garr described the song's lyrics as "part submissive invitation, part defiant taunt, a mix that confused and disturbed many listeners," and led to Cobain frequently having to explain the song's meaning.[13]

When asked by MUCH's Erica Ehm in an August 1993 interview how the band was helping to raise awareness about sexism, Cobain replied, "By writing songs as blunt as 'Rape Me.'"[14] He stated that it was a song meant to be so blunt that no one could misinterpret its meaning.[15]

American musician Tori Amos commented on the song in a 1994 interview with the NME, saying that she "thought it was very clear what it was about....It's a defiant song. But the scariest thing to a rape victim are the words 'rape me'. When I first heard it I broke out in a cold sweat, but when you get over that you realize he's turning it back on people."[16]

The song has also been interpreted as an attack on the media for its perceived mistreatment of Cobain and his wife, Courtney Love. While most of the song was written before Nevermind was released, the bridge, which was written later, contains lyrics that address his occasionally contentious relationship with the media.[17] As Cobain explained to Nirvana biographer Michael Azerrad, "It was actually about rape ... but now I could definitely use it as an example of my life for the past six months or year, easily."[18] In line with this interpretation, Azerrad suggested that the chorus lyric "I'm not the only one" was Cobain's way of saying that Love and their infant daughter, Frances Bean Cobain, were being hurt along with him by the media and public attention.[19] According to Azerrad, the lyric "My favorite inside source," from the bridge, was a reference to the manager of a Seattle band Cobain and Love suspected of being anonymously interviewed for a controversial Vanity Fair profile of the couple published in September 1992.[20]

Release and reception

"Rape Me" was released as a double A-side single with "All Apologies" on December 6, 1993 on CD, cassette, and 7" and 12" vinyl record formats.[21] The single was not released commercially in the United States.[21]

In her Spin cover story on the band, Steinke described the song as carrying a "quiet biblical angst."[12] David Fricke, in his review of In Utero for Rolling Stone, wrote that "'Rape Me' opens as a disquieting whisper, Cobain intoning the title verse in a battered croon, which sets you up beautifully to get blind-sided by the explosive hook line."[22] Cobain biographer Charles R. Cross described the song as having "the same catchy soft/loud dynamic as "Teen Spirit," which "created a perfect Cobain aesthetic - beautiful, haunting and disturbing."[3]

In 1999, "Rape Me" was voted number 90 in Kerrang!'s "100 Greatest Rock Tracks Ever!".[23] In 2015, Rolling Stone placed it at number 31 on their ranking of 102 Nirvana songs, with Julianne Escobedo Shepherd calling it "the closest to an actual Bikini Kill song that [Cobain] would ever write, using the lyrics as a woman-empowering taunt to show would-be rapists that their victims’ spirits would not be tamped."[24]

In November 1993, "Rape Me" was voted the third "Most Wanted to be Heard" song by listeners of the Hawaii Free Radio.[25]

"Rape Me" has occasionally received criticism for its intentionally blunt handling of sensitive subject matter. John Mulvey of the NME wrote that "while you can’t doubt Cobain’s personal political correctness, there’s a distinct moral dubiousness about welding the words “RAPE ME!” to ‘In Utero”s best sing-along chorus."[26] Will Bryant of Pitchfork wrote that the song, despite its victim-empowering intent, "comes off as a shallow and transparent attempt to court controversy."[27]

The song was re-released on both of Nirvana's greatest hits albums, Nirvana (2002) and Icon (2010).

Music video

Although no music video was made for "Rape Me", two treatments for a proposed video were published posthumously in Cobain's Journals in 2002.[28] They included scenes set in a prison, footage of flowers and seahorses as well as a man being prepared for a gynecological exam.[28]

In 1999, a live version of the song, from Nirvana's appearance on Saturday Night Live in September 1993, was aired as a music video on MTV2 to promote the album, Saturday Night Live: The Musical Performances, Volume 2.[29]

Rwandan Genocide

"Rape Me" was frequently misappropriated by the RTMLC radio station prior to, and during, the April–July 1994 Rwandan Genocide as propaganda to encourage the rape of the Tutsi population.[30][31][32]

Track listings

Released as a double A-side with "All Apologies".


Chart (1993/1994) Peak
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[33] 43
European Hot 100 Singles (Music & Media)[34] 77
Ireland (IRMA)[35] 20
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[36] 32
US Rock Tracks National Airplay (Radio & Records)[37] 57


Recording and release history

Demo and studio versions

Date recorded Studio Producer/recorder Releases Personnel
May 1991 Los Angeles, California Kurt Cobain With the Lights Out (2004)
Sliver: The Best of the Box (2005)
  • Kurt Cobain (vocals, guitar)
October 26, 1992 Word of Mouth Productions, Seattle, Washington Jack Endino With the Lights Out (2004)
Sliver: The Best of the Box (2005)
  • Kurt Cobain (guitar)
  • Krist Novoselic (bass)
  • Dave Grohl (drums, backing vocals)
February 12-26, 1993 Pachyderm Studios, Cannon Falls, Minnesota Steve Albini In Utero (1993)
Nirvana (2002)
Icon (2010)
  • Kurt Cobain (vocals, guitar)
  • Krist Novoselic (bass)
  • Dave Grohl (drums)

Live versions

Date recorded Venue Releases Personnel
October 31, 1991 Paramount Theatre, Seattle, Washington Live at the Paramount (2011)
  • Kurt Cobain (vocals, guitar)
  • Krist Novoselic (bass)
  • Dave Grohl (drums, backing vocals)
September 25, 1993 NBC Studios, New York City, New York Saturday Night Live: the Musical Performances, Volume 2 (1999)
  • Kurt Cobain (vocals, guitar)
  • Krist Novoselic (bass)
  • Dave Grohl (drums, backing vocals)
  • Pat Smear (guitar)
December 13, 1993 Pier 48, Seattle, Washington Live and Loud (2013)
  • Kurt Cobain (vocals, guitar)
  • Krist Novoselic (bass)
  • Dave Grohl (drums, backing vocals)
  • Pat Smear (guitar)
February 4, 1994 Studio 3, Canal +, Paris, France Live and Loud (2013)
  • Kurt Cobain (vocals, guitar)
  • Krist Novoselic (bass)
  • Dave Grohl (drums, backing vocals)
  • Pat Smear (guitar)

In popular culture

In The Simpsons episode "That 90's Show", guest star "Weird Al" Yankovic sings a parody version called "Brain Freeze". Homer also creates a band called "Sadgasm", a parody of Nirvana, and is seen singing "Shave Me".[38]

In the South Park episode "Hummels & Heroin", Cartman, Kenny, Kyle, and Butters perform a Barbershop Quartet cover of "Rape Me" for a retirement home.

Cover versions

Year Artist Album
2000 Richard Cheese Lounge Against the Machine
2012 Vampires Everywhere Hellbound and Heartless


  1. ^ Azerrad, Michael (1994). Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana. Doubleday. p. 323. ISBN 0-385-47199-8.
  2. ^ Gaar, p. 19
  3. ^ a b c d Cross, Charles R. (August 15, 2001). Heavier Than Heaven. United States: Hyperion. ISBN 0-7868-6505-9.
  4. ^ Azerrad, Michael (1994). Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana. Doubleday. p. 277. ISBN 0-385-47199-8.
  5. ^ Azerrad, Michael (1994). Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana. Doubleday. p. 137. ISBN 0-385-47199-8.
  6. ^ Azerrad, Michael (1994). Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana. Doubleday. p. 276-277. ISBN 0-385-47199-8.
  7. ^ Gaar, p. 19–20.
  8. ^ Gaar, p. 56.
  9. ^ Gaar, p. 61.
  10. ^ "Untitled Document". www.kurtsequipment.com.
  11. ^ True, Everett (13 March 2007). Nirvana: The Biography. Da Capo Press. p. 488. ISBN 9781322438757.
  12. ^ a b Steinke, Darcey. "Smashing Their Heads On That Punk Rock". Spin. October 1993.
  13. ^ Gaar, Gillian G. (2006). In Utero. United States: Continium. p. 57. ISBN 0-8264-1776-0.
  14. ^ "Much: Our Last Time w/ Kurt Cobain (1993)". August 10, 1993.
  15. ^ Azerrad, p. 322–23.
  16. ^ Hess, Amanda (12 March 2010). "Date Rape Anthem: Nirvana's "Rape Me"". Washington City PAper. Retrieved 30 October 2018.
  17. ^ Gaar, Gillian G. (2009). The Rough Guide to Nirvana. Penguin. ISBN 978-1-4053-8119-2.
  18. ^ Azerrad, Michael (October 1993). Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana. U.S.: Doubleday. p. 323. ISBN 0-385-47199-8.
  19. ^ Azerrad, Michael (October 1993). Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana. U.S.: Doubleday. p. 323. ISBN 0-385-47199-8.
  20. ^ Azerrad, Michael (October 1993). Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana. U.S.: Doubleday. p. 323. ISBN 0-385-47199-8.
  21. ^ a b Gaar, Gillian G. "Verse Chorus Verse: The Recording History of Nirvana". Goldmine. February 14, 1997.
  22. ^ Fricke, David (16 September 1993). "In Utero". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 13 November 2018.
  23. ^ Kerrang! magazine, issue 746, April 17, 1999. (voted by readers).
  24. ^ Escobedo Shepherd, Julianne. "No Apologies: All 102 Nirvana Songs Ranked" (8 April 2015). Rolling Stone. Retrieved 28 October 2018.
  25. ^ "The Hawaiian Island Music Report". November 21, 1993. Retrieved November 10, 2018.
  26. ^ Mulvey, John (4 September 1993). "Nirvana : In Utero". NME. Retrieved 6 November 2018.
  27. ^ Bryant, Will. "Nirvana - Nirvana". Pitchforkmedia. Retrieved 6 November 2018.
  28. ^ a b Gaar, Gillian G. (2006). Nirvana's In Utero Bloomsbury Publishing USA. Retrieved August 8, 2016.
  29. ^ Billboard - The Clip List (PDF). Billboard. October 23, 1999. p. 94. Retrieved July 28, 2018.
  30. ^ Condee, William F (May 2013). "THEATERTREFFEN". Theatre Journal. Johns Hopkins University Press. 65 (2): 264–268.
  31. ^ Sherwood, Miriam Rose. "What Is Hate Radio?". Retrieved 31 May 2015.
  32. ^ "Hate Radio". Retrieved 31 May 2015.
  33. ^ "Ultratop.be – Nirvana – All Apologies / Rape Me" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
  34. ^ "Eurochart Hot 100 Singles" (PDF). Music & Media. January 15, 1994. p. 15. Retrieved July 28, 2018.
  35. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – All Apologies/Rape Me". Irish Singles Chart.
  36. ^ "Nirvana: Artist Chart History". Official Charts Company.
  37. ^ "Rock Tracks National Airplay" (PDF). Radio & Records. Radio & Records. June 10, 1994. p. 66. Retrieved February 20, 2019.
  38. ^ "Sadgasm - "Shave Me"". Video fragment (19 seconds) from an Episode of "The Simpsons". YouTube. Retrieved 2018-09-12.


External links

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