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Did Kurt Cobain leave the ultimate legacy?



Over the last 20 years team Akumen have read, manually themed, and made sense of hundreds of thousands of “lived experience” comments, stories, poems, and song lyrics, from patients, employees, and those of us who struggle with their mental health. This work is fundamental in creating our Hybrid intelligence capability, however only a handful stand out in my memory and Cobain is the top of my list – so insightful!


In Buddhism, Nirvana represents the highest state one can attain, where individual desires and suffering cease. This spiritual context mirrors Cobain’s lyrics, suggesting a longing for an ultimate escape from pain. He died seven months after penning these insightful lyrics.


I would like to share our interpretation of Kurt Cobain's last song "You Know You’re Right". It offers a profound and haunting insight into his psyche before he took his own life. Released posthumously by Nirvana, this track serves as a poignant testament to Cobain's inner turmoil and emotional struggles. The harsh reality is these song lyrics are what is known as “known outcome data” and is full of deep learning.

 



Akumen’s ontologists and linguistic experts have the arduous data annotation task of mapping mental health phrases to a framework that teaches the machine. Some phrases are obvious others are not, and you must read and feel the emotion behind the narrative, this can be exceedingly difficult and triggering for the individual. That is something Artificial Intelligence cannot do and what makes Akumen’s hybrid approach, adding in human intelligence so important.

 

The song is written in the evocative and melancholic key of F minor, let us look at the lyrics and how team Akumen have mapped each and every line…



I will never bother you

I will never promise to

I will never follow you

I will never bother you

Never speak a word again

I will crawl away for good

I will move away from here

You won't be afraid of fear

No thought was put into this

I always knew it would come to this

Things have never been so swell

I have never failed to fail

Pain (x3)

You know you're right (x3)

I'm so warm and calm inside

I no longer have to hide

Let's talk about someone else

The steaming soup begins to melt

Nothing really bothers her

She just wants to love herself

I will move away from here

You won't be afraid of fear

No thought was put into this

I always knew to come like this

Things have never been so swell

I have never failed to fail

Pain (x5)

You know you're right (x12)

You know your rights (x5)

 

The use of thirteen absolutes like "never" and "no longer" suggests a definitive and unchangeable state. This language can indicate a strong resolve or a sense of closure. In the context of Cobain's lyrics, it may reflect a profound sense of resignation or determination to distance himself from perceived burdens and conflicts.

The work of James W. Pennebaker on pronouns reveals more…


•        Twelve mentions of the word “I”

•        Forty-six mentions of “you”

•        Zero mentions of “we”


The frequent use of "I" reflects self-focus and potential depressive states, while the use of "you" highlights his struggles with interpersonal relationships and internal conflicts. The absence of we & us pronouns shows the level of disconnect and lack of crucial relationship protective factors.

The phrase "the steaming soup begins to melt" metaphorically refers to the process of preparing black tar heroin, which is cooked in a spoon. This imagery further underscores the theme of escape through drug use, highlighting a dissociation from his present self and circumstances.

These lyrics are jam packed with phrases that indicate Kurt is somewhere on the journey to taking his own life, but where? Despite the song's overall tone of distress, the line "I'm so warm and calm inside" stands out. This positive phrase suggests a fleeting moment of inner peace or tranquillity. However, its significance must be understood within the broader context of the preceding lyrics:

 

"I will move away from here"

"No thought was put into this"

"I always knew it would come to this"


These preceding lines reflect a sense of resignation and acceptance of an inevitable outcome, indicating a desire and intention to leave or escape his current state this is Cobain’s motivation and the emotional state of positivity that accompanies motivation even in suicide. Thus, the positive phrase "I am so warm and calm" could also be interpreted not as a current feeling but as a desired future state, achieved through suicide.


So, Cobain appears to be in the late motivational stage of suicide ideation, characterised by the desire and intention to “crawl or move away for good,” to end his suffering from the psychological pain.


"I always knew it would come to this…"



Paul Howarth, Research & Development Director/Founder

 


 

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