Composed by Kurt Cobain / Dave Grohl / Krist Novoselic

Song Review by

For all the sound and fury of Nirvana's epochal album, Nevermind, it's significant that the album's best and most affecting song is also among the quietest. "Lithium" is an emotionally devastating tale of a blissfully blank member of some nameless religious cult, where "Sunday morning is everyday," and he's allowed an unquestioning faith to whitewash his fears, anxieties, and brutally negative self-image, without ever really clearing them away. Kurt Cobain is the very picture of measured calm in the song's verses, where his low, open guitar lines sketch in the outlines of the song's melody. But when the song comes to its chorus, Cobain hits the distortion pedal on his Marshall, and the rage and denial he's been bottling up inside himself pours out, as his many agonies -- "I love you," "I miss you," "I killed you" -- are punctuated with the determined wail that "I'm not gonna crack." The liberating force of Nirvana's inspired anger was rarely more powerful than in the service of this song, about someone who refused to liberate themselves and paid a terrible emotional price.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Nevermind 1991 DGC / Geffen 4:17
Lithium 1992 DGC 4:19
Music That Hits a Nirvana Whole Lot More 1992
Various Artists
MCA 4:18
In Utero 1993 Geffen / DGC 0:00
Into the Black 1994
Roma 1994 KTS
No Image 1994 KTS
No Image 1994
No Image 1995 KTS 4:44
Singles 1996 MCA 4:16
No Image 2000 Diamond Recordings
Nirvana 2002 Geffen / DGC 4:15
With the Lights Out 2004 Geffen 1:49
Sliver: The Best of the Box 2005 Geffen 1:49
Icon 2010 Geffen 4:17
All Acoustically Kiss the Stone 4:07
No Image