"Heart-Shaped Box" is a song by American rock band Nirvana, written by vocalist and guitarist Kurt Cobain. The song was released as the first single from the group's third and final studio album, In Utero, in 1993. "Heart-Shaped Box" received much American radio airplay, reaching number one on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart. "Heart-Shaped Box" was the last song Kurt Cobain performed live in public with Nirvana, on March 1, 1994 in Munich, Germany.
Cobain said the song was inspired by documentaries about children with cancer. He told biographer Michael Azerrad, "Anytime I think about it, it makes me sadder than anything I can think of." Azerrad asserted in his biography Come as You Are: The Story of Nirvana that despite Cobain's explanation, the song actually appeared to be about Courtney Love. Charles Cross wrote in his Kurt Cobain biography Heavier Than Heaven that with the lyric "I wish I could eat your cancer when you turn black", the frontman "sang in what has to be the most convoluted route any songwriter undertook in pop history to say 'I love you'". Cobain said that the song's chorus of "Hey/Wait/I've got a new complaint" was him giving an example of how he was perceived by the media.
Nirvana originally wanted Kevin Kerslake, who had directed the videos for the band's singles "Come as You Are", "Lithium", "In Bloom", and "Sliver", to direct the "Heart-Shaped Box" music video. Kerslake prepared five treatments during July and August 1993, but no shoot arrangements were made and by the end of the month, the group decided to work with Dutch photographer and video director Anton Corbijn.
The video begins and ends with the band in a hospital setting watching an old man being administered medication through an IV drip. The majority of the video takes place in a surreal outdoor setting that incorporates imagery from the film The Wizard of Oz. During the song's first verse, the old man from the hospital, now wearing a Santa hat and later a mitre, climbs onto a crow-ridden Christian cross. The second verse introduces a young girl in a white robe and peaked cap reaching for human fetuses in a tree, and an overweight woman in a suit with human organs painted onto it and with angel wings affixed to her back (similar to the woman on the cover art of In Utero). In the video's final cut, the band is only shown performing in the outdoor setting during the choruses, where Cobain's face moves in and out of focus in the camera. While most of the video was devised by Cobain, Corbijn added elements such as the intentionally artificial crows, a ladder for the old man to climb onto the cross with, and a box with a heart at the top that the band performs inside of during the song's final chorus. Corbijn created another cut of the video featuring alternate footage during the final verse, including more shots of the young girl and the woman, and scenes of Cobain lying on his back in the poppy field, with mist surrounding him.
After the video's release, Kevin Kerslake sued Nirvana, alleging copyright infringement. The case was settled out of court. The "Heart-Shaped Box" music video was the number one most played music video on MTV.