Celebrity Skin
by Hole

Album: Celebrity Skin (1998)
Charted: 19 85
Play Video


  • Courtney Love spent time in San Francisco, Minneapolis, Alaska, and many other locales before settling in Los Angeles and forming Hole in 1989. The whole time, she was seeking celebrity, either as an actress or singer. (She had some success in both endeavors, appearing in the movies Sid And Nancy (1986) and Straight To Hell (1987), and briefly joining Faith No More and Babes In Toyland). Hole got some publicity with their first two singles, which Love amplified with outlandish behavior and provocative interviews. She lived her life like she was always on camera, putting on a show, on display for all to judge.

    Hollywood celebrities would carefully cultivate their public personas, always showing an airbrushed version of their best selves, but Love put forth an image that was disreputable and unkempt. It worked in getting her even more press, but when she married Kurt Cobain in 1992, it became more than even she could handle.

    Cobain killed himself on April 5, 1994, a week before Hole released their album Live Through This, their first on a major label. Love didn't get much sympathy and was often accused of contributing to his death by encouraging his drug use. The album did well, but Love got even more unhinged, often starting fights when the band toured in 1994 and 1995. She did time in rehab and landed a role in the 1996 movie The People vs. Larry Flynt, for which she earned Golden Globe and Critic's Choice nominations.

    All of this went into "Celebrity Skin," the first single and title track from Hole's next album, which appeared in 1998. The song is a look at celebrity culture and pressures of fame.
  • Love wrote this song with Hole guitarist Eric Erlandson and with Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins, who contributed to five songs on the album. Erlandson later revealed through posts on the fan site Kittyradio.com's message boards that he was very uncomfortable and displeased with Corgan's involvement on the record. All guitar riffs were written by Erlandson and all lyrics were handled by Love and Corgan, who also played bass on two of the tracks. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Jeremy - Shelbyville, KY
  • "Celebrity Skin" went to #1 on Billboard's Modern Rock chart and gave the album solid launch. Hole went on tour with Marilyn Manson to promote it, and the next single, "Malibu," also charted, but Hole ended up pulling out of the tour before it was over in a dispute with Manson, and fissures developed between Love and Eric Erlandson, her primary co-writer. They never made another album together, but Courtney Love did release another Hole album in 2010 with a different lineup.
  • The music video is crisp and colorful, in the style of movies from Hollywood's golden era. The band performs the song on a huge set, with Love dressed glamorously. This all represents the veneer; images of Love and Melissa Auf der Maur in coffins indicate the lasting effects of such spectacle on the performers.

    Nancy Bardawil was the director; she also did "Iris" for The Goo Goo Dolls.
  • Love went to lengths to avoid becoming what she calls "an isolated celebrity," meaning one who has lost touch with the real world. She says you can spot them when they mispronounce names or give false information, and no one corrects them.
  • Courtney Love is known to have encyclopedic knowledge of many musical, visual, and literary works, and apparently that includes Shakespeare. The "pound of flesh" in the line "I'm glad I came here with your pound of flesh" comes from The Merchant Of Venice. It's what Shylock demands from Antonio when he can't pay back a loan.
  • The title never shows up in the lyric. There was California rock band called Celebrity Skin in the late '80s and early '90s who may have inspired it. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Regina - Los Angeles, CA
  • This plays over the end credits of the 2019 movie Captain Marvel. It's the only song in the film released after 1995, when much of the movie takes place.
  • Doja Cat recorded a new version of "Celebrity Skin" in 2022 that was used in a Super Bowl commercial for Taco Bell where she plays a clown who masterminds an escape from some kind of clown asylum.

Comments: 11

  • Corey from Ede, Bhutanthis song is awesome i love it
  • Kait from Somewhere, OhIt does refer to merchant of venice
  • Theresa from Murfreesboro, TnI'm still in love with this song. Courtney can do no wrong.
  • Austin from Smallsville,new England, --This song was featured on the video game Rock Band.And yes I did like this song before the game.
  • Sibella from Pretoria, South AfricaI wonder whether 'pound of your flesh' refers to The Merchant Of Venice...?
  • Paige from Brisbane, Australiai think it is about the fakeness of holywood and just how hard it is to make it
  • Roxy from London, Englandthe song title is a reference to a hollywood magazine that prints unortharised pictures of naked celebrities, the band is also a reference to that magazine.
    "why celebrity skin?"
    Courtney: "because i've touched so much of it"
  • Madalyn from Greensburg, Panot my favorite hole song but still pretty good
  • Leah from Humboldt, Iagood song. kind applies to trying to be who everybody wants you to be.
  • Kira from Edmonton, CanadaOne a Hole's hits. This song was pretty good, post grunge. Shows the ficklness of Hollywood - "hooker, waitress, model, actress - oh just go nameless!"
  • Teri from Lewisville, TxThis is also a reference to the LA band Celebrity Skin... I think this was written not only "about the pressures of being a public figure" but also Courtney's personal experience of being made over, into someone acceptible and accessible in the industry, as opposed to being a "Grunge Queen". Remember all the fuss made about her appearance at the Oscars (I think) after she had her make over and suddenly she became a media darling (for a while at least)?
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Tim Butler of The Psychedelic Furs

Tim Butler of The Psychedelic FursSongwriter Interviews

Tim and his brother Richard are the Furs' foundation; Tim explains how they write and tells the story of "Pretty In Pink."

Taylor Dayne

Taylor DayneSongwriter Interviews

Taylor talks about "The Machine" - the hits, the videos and Clive Davis.

Brenda Russell

Brenda RussellSongwriter Interviews

Brenda talks about the inspiration that drove her to write hit songs like "Get Here" and "Piano in the Dark," and why a lack of formal music training can be a songwriter's best asset.

Harry Wayne Casey of KC and The Sunshine Band

Harry Wayne Casey of KC and The Sunshine BandSongwriter Interviews

Harry Wayne Casey tells the stories behind KC and The Sunshine Band hits like "Get Down Tonight," "That's The Way (I Like It)," and "Give It Up."

David Bowie Lyrics Quiz

David Bowie Lyrics QuizMusic Quiz

How well do you know your David Bowie lyrics? Take this quiz to find out.

Grunge Bands Quiz

Grunge Bands QuizMusic Quiz

If the name Citizen Dick means anything to you, there's a chance you'll get some of these right.