‘Something in the Way’ is the latest song to get Nirvana back into the modern pop parade. Thanks to its prominent appearance in the 2022 film The Batman, the closing track to the band’s multi-platinum sophomore LP Nevermind saw a massive resurgence in popularity. Even though the song had never seen a single release, ‘Something in the Way’ made its first appearance on the Billboard Hot 100 in March of 2022, giving Nirvana a post-mortem top 50 hit.
The story behind ‘Something in the Way’ is classic Nirvana lore. Kurt Cobain spent his early adulthood hopping from home to home and occasionally spent time under the Young Street Bridge in his hometown of Aberdeen, Washington. Cobain probably never lived under the bridge, but a fantastical recollection of events eventually found its way into the lyrics of ‘Something in the Way’.
The musical inspiration behind the song is a bit clearer. Cobain had recently collaborated with close friend Mark Lanegan on his 1990 album The Winding Sheet. Taking influence from folk and blues, The Winding Sheet was a largely acoustic affair. When Cobain began writing the material that appeared on Nevermind, songs like ‘Polly’ and ‘Something in the Way’ were kept in their acoustic arrangement.
But Lanegan’s contributions to ‘Something in the Way’ might have gone beyond inspiration. According to the new oral history on the legendary Screaming Trees frontman, Lanegan, former Queens of the Stone Age bandmate Nick Oliveri, Lanegan had actually helped Cobain finish the set of lyrics that appeared on the finished version of ‘Something in the Way’. Lanegan initially went uncredited, robbing him of what likely would have been millions of dollars in royalties.
“Mark said he wrote some lyrics on ‘Something in the Way’ with Kurt on Nevermind,” Oliveri claimed. “But Kurt had played on some of Mark’s solo stuff, The Winding Sheet. So, instead of getting paid, they just did this thing where, ‘Hey man, I added a lyric on your song and you added a lyric on my song. Let’s just call it even. Whatever happens, happens.’ Little did Mark know, if he would have had publishing on ‘Something in the Way’ on Nevermind, he would have had a lot of money. I remember him kicking himself in the butt a little bit about that – ‘If I had that ‘Something in the Way’ publishing…’”
There didn’t appear to be any major dispute between Cobain and Lanegan over the songwriting credits. It certainly didn’t effect the pair’s friendship, seeing as how they formed a brief supergroup around the same time. Whether Lanegan actually deserves songwriting credit for ‘Something in the Way’ is up for debate, but both potential songwriters can no longer make direct claims for authorship.