Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Love in 2000 (Photo: Getty Images)

1. Nine Inch Nails, “Starfuckers, Inc.” (1999)

In October 2015, Courtney Love alleged in a Los Angeles Times interview that Nine Inch Nails’ The Downward Spiral contains a “very mean” song about her. While she didn’t provide specifics, Trent Reznor was more forthcoming in a Kerrang! interview about a NIN song that is partially about her: “Starfuckers, Inc.,” from 1999’s The Fragile. The song lambasts celebrity culture with thinly veiled jabs at Love (e.g., “My god pouts on the cover of the magazine / My god’s a shallow little bitch trying to make the scene”), while the official video features an extremely unflattering Love-like figure. The anger perhaps stems from some mid-’90s incidents where Love publicly dissed Reznor—which he discussed at length in a 1995 Details piece—or their rumored relationship: Love talked about them dating in a 2015 Billboard interview, although Reznor denied they slept together in that same Details piece, and has largely shied away from talking about her since. Either way, Reznor’s disdain for the shallow, insincere hangers-on that pop up once someone becomes famous gives “Starfuckers, Inc.” indelible bite. [Annie Zaleski]


2. Tori Amos, “Professional Widow” (1996)

Dig a little further into the remnants of ’90s internet, and you’ll find plenty of rumors, innuendo, and theories about the connections between Reznor, Love, and Tori Amos. Confirmed facts are few and far between, although Reznor admitted to Spin in 1996 that “some malicious meddling” from Love caused distance in his friendship with Amos. It’s no surprise, then, that the latter’s Boys For Pele song “Professional Widow”—which alludes to heroin, fame, and a “starfucker / just like my daddy”—was heavily rumored to be about the Hole leader. Neither side seems eager to confirm or deny this fact, however. Love once said she’s “never figured it out” if she’s the titular “Professional Widow,” while in a 1996 interview, Amos said the song is “about my own experience. I’ve never met Courtney Love. It’s based on that part of myself that’s Lady Macbeth.” Still, during a 2003 TV chat, when the host says that “Professional Widow” was inspired by Love, Amos immediately corrects him and says, “allegedly,” with a mysterious smile. [Annie Zaleski]


3. Stone Temple Pilots, “Too Cool Queenie” (2001)

The late Scott Weiland called “Too Cool Queenie” the “most distinctively non-love song” on Shangri-La Dee Da, Stone Temple Pilots’ 2001 album. Weiland says in his autobiography that he wrote the song after running into Love in New York, while she was feuding with the surviving members of Nirvana. When the track was released, though, Weiland was coy about the subject of the song, even though it’s quite obvious what he’s getting at from lines like, “There was this boy / He played in a rock-n-roll band / And he wasn’t half-bad, / At saving the world / She said he could do no right / So he took his life / His story is true.” Blaming Love for her husband’s death, these lyrics lob a much nastier insult than simply calling her a fame whore. [Molly Eichel]


4. Tracy Bonham, “Kisses” (1996)

Tracy Bonham has never directly confirmed the rumor that “Kisses,” from her debut The Burdens Of Being Upright, is inspired by Courtney Love’s attention-starved, self-destructive antics. But she certainly hasn’t refuted it, explaining that the song is about “someone who tries too hard to deteriorate in public for our enjoyment.” The description certainly fits Love, who at the time “Kisses” was released had recently come off Hole’s chaotic Live Through This tour. Also fitting were Bonham’s pointed lyrics, including “She’ll suck the living down to size three” and “People looking make it cool to die.” The worst sting comes in the hook: “She kisses harder than me / I guess I’m not that hungry.” Bonham wasn’t that hungry in the figurative sense, unwilling to perform a downward spiral in exchange for fame. But the line can also be read literally—watching Love happily circle the drain made her lose her appetite. [Joshua Alston]


5-6. Foo Fighters, “I’ll Stick Around” (1995) / “Stacked Actors” (1999)

After years of animosity due to legal issues and personality conflicts, the drama between Courtney Love and Dave Grohl appears to be water under the bridge as of Nirvana’s 2014 Rock ’N’ Roll Hall Of Fame induction. Things weren’t quite so serene 20 years ago, when Dave Grohl released the first Foo Fighters record. The single “I’ll Stick Around” was widely believed to be about Grohl’s Nirvana bandmate Kurt Cobain, with the line, “How could it be I’m the only one who sees your rehearsed insanity” referencing Love. In 2009, Grohl admitted to Paul Brannigan (author of the Grohl biography This Is A Call) that “I’ll Stick Around” is about Love: “I’ve denied it for 15 years, but I’m finally coming out and saying it. Just read the fucking words!” There are plenty of other Foo Fighters songs rumored to be about Love, especially “Stacked Actors”—mainly because that’s what she told Howard Stern in 1999. Grohl was more coy about the inspiration for this song, telling NME in 1999, “I wrote ‘Stacked Actors’ about everything that is fake and everything that is plastic and glamorous and unreal, so if that pertains to anyone that comes to mind, then there you go.” [Annie Zaleski]


7. The New Radicals, “You Get What You Give” (1998)

There’s no quicker path to one-hit wonderdom than mentioning celebrity names in a negative context. Gregg Alexander’s New Radicals’ one and only hit “You Get What You Give,” for instance, included the immortal lines, “Fashion shoots with Beck and Hanson / Courtney Love, and Marilyn Manson / You’re all fakes / Run to your mansions / Come around / We’ll kick your ass in.” Alexander would later claim he didn’t mean to hate on the specific celebrities he mentioned, saying the song was really just an experiment to figure out whether the media would focus on the song’s political message or celeb slamming. Marilyn Manson had a different view of the song, telling MTV’s Kurt Loder that he didn’t care that Alexander threatened to kick his ass, but was much more concerned about being mentioned on the same line as Courtney Love, which he considered more of a burn than the song itself. [Molly Eichel]


8. Primus, “Coattails Of A Dead Man” (1999)

It’s easy to see why some think Primus’ “Coattails Of A Dead Man” is about Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love’s relationship. The song—a junkyard-circus waltz featuring guest vocals from Tom Waits and Martina Topley-Bird—is about a man who married someone self-centered and hungry for stardom (“He gave her love, she took his name”). Depressed and drinking too much due to discomfort with fame, he tries to reach out to her for comfort, then commits suicide after finding none. In the end, the mystery woman puts on a big show of grief when receiving attention: “Whether crying for him or she cried for herself, the bigger the camera, the bigger the tear.” But such a surface interpretation seems like it goes against Primus’ byzantine musical premise. And the band members have never confirmed to what the song is referring; Love also doesn’t seem to have anything against Primus. The thematic speculation seems completely fan-driven, and spread via online-fanned guesswork and arguments in YouTube comments. Consider this C-Love diss a question mark. [Annie Zaleski]


9-11. Smashing Pumpkins, possibly “Where Boys Fear To Tread,” and “Bodies,” potentially most of Siamese Dream, and maybe “Tonight, Tonight”

Before she married Kurt Cobain, Courtney Love dated Billy Corgan in the early ’90s—a relationship that’s since spawned two decades of rumors, innuendo, sniping, backpedaling, and (in recent years) a truce. And so it’s tough to get a straight answer about which Smashing Pumpkins songs (if any) are actually, definitively inspired by Love, as a cloak of antagonism has shrouded their interactions for years. (Trying to ascertain if Corgan masterminded more of Hole’s Celebrity Skin than the credits state, another long-standing rumor, is also an exercise in futile internet rabbit-holing.) Still, Love has been eager to claim she’s the muse for myriad Smashing Pumpkins songs, even if the lyrics are critical. In 2014, she told BBC Radio 6 that most of Siamese Dream was about her—contradicting vintage interviews with Corgan, such as a 1993 Guitar World piece in which he revealed many of the album’s tunes were about his then-wife, “who was my ex-girlfriend at the time I wrote the songs.” During that same BBC interview, Love also claimed that the Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness songs “Tonight, Tonight,” “Bodies,” and “Where Boys Fear To Tread” are about her, with the latter focused on Corgan being “mad” about her relationship with Trent Reznor. But the head Pumpkin is notoriously cryptic about his lyrical inspirations. “There’s 30 themes on the album,” Corgan said in 1995 about Mellon Collie. “But people are going to focus on one or the other.” [Annie Zaleski]


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