Don't get me wrong, "Smells Like Teen Spirit" is a damn catchy tune. And in their short time Nirvana was able to put together a string of fine pop rock songs.
But they didn't do anything that hadn't been done before. And Cobain never pretended he did, openly acknowledging that Smells Like Teen Spirit was his attempt to write a Pixies song. At other times, he referred to Nirvana as the Cheap Trick of the 90's . Some have said that was an attempt a humility. Others say it's proof that this depressed martyr didn't understand the extent of his genius. I disagree. I think it sums up Nirvana pretty well. Both groups were fronted by blonde-haired, blue-eyed pretty boys who penned some simple, straight-forward pop rock songs. And, hey, there's nothing wrong with that. I like Cheap Trick. Nirvana too.
But Nirvana's main accomplishment was to make a style of music ---they neither invented nor expanded--- cool. They made it okay again to be lo-fi and aggressive, and they did it in a way The Pixies or Screaming Trees or Mudhoney couldn't. Because Curt Kobain was cool. He had a cool attitude. And, most importantly, he was really good-looking --- something noticeably lacking from some of the aforementioned bands. I mean, Christ, which is Cobain and which is Brad Pitt?
So, I'm sorry, but Cobain doesn't get Lennon or Hendrix status. I will put him in league with Jim Morrison, but then again, that's another guy whose legend is based on looks and personal charisma at least as much, if not more, than the music.