My mind is finally clear enough for this. And yes, my eyebrows went through a lot in 2012, let’s not talk about it right now.
Top 10ish Chris Cornell Songs: 10b) Birth Ritual Anyone whose ever relied on their own pipes to make music will know what it sounds like to struggle with a high note. Even when the note is still within your range, but touching its limits, it becomes difficult to sing the note loudly with the same control. Not a problem for Chris in Birth Ritual. The higher notes in this song are sung even louder than the notes that sit more comfortably within his range. Not only does he hit these notes with precision, he’ll drop one or two octaves within the same few bars comfortably. Power and control at its finest.
10a) Cochise Say what you want about Audioslave, even I’ll take my personal jab at Chris’ attempt to cover ‘Sleep Now in the Fire,’ but like them or not, Cochise storms out of the gate. The song takes Chris’ vocals from his coarse belting in the chorus to the hauntingly smooth verse into a full on gravel-rolling-down-a-hill scream at around the three minute mark. It’s complemented well in the video where you see Cornell’s silhouette lean back to unleash the scream.
By this time, Chris’ voice hardly sounds like it did in Ultramega OK or even Louder than Love. Hell, it’s even pretty far from Superunknown. Thing is, he didn’t let that stop him, he let it challenge him. Cochise isn’t the kind of song you’d give to a younger Cornell. It’s the older, matured, and weathered sound of his voice with Morello’s guitar that really lights the candle under this one. It shows Chris’ adaptability, versatility, and evolution as a musician and vocalist.
10) Smokestack Lightning Following his passing, I saw a lot of songs being passed around in honor of Chris and his voice. This is one I expected to see, but didn’t. One of the great things about Chris and Soundgarden in general was the exploration and incorporation of other genres into the music. In this cover, you get a bluesy side of Cornell. Although he’s quite young here, you hear those tinges of maturity in his voice we’d go on to know later on in his life.
Chris’ vocal control as he exits certain notes in this song is impressive. I’ve seen it argued whether or not the extremely high notes towards the end of the song are technically falsetto. Some argue he’s not even there in these notes, but whatever you want to call these otherworldly notes he belts at about the four minute mark, they’re blistering, intense, and unforgettable.
09) Fell on Black Days A lot of the songs on this list celebrate Cornell’s range, especially on the higher end. But that’s not to say his mid-range isn’t wonderful and almost viscous in its tones.
When listening to the discography in order, I imagined that few saw a song like Black Days coming. Fans of Screaming Life EP and Ultramega OK might not have known a lot about this version of the band; the version that loves the darker iteration of the Beatles, the version that borrows from sludge. The version that steps away from metal and into…this.
No exaggerated screams to be found in this song, no seam-splitting falsettos, just an occasional burst of 800 grit here and there.
Ben’s haunting bassline crawls under Chris’ melody. Black Days is a wonderful demonstration of the quality and depth of Cornell’s voice, never mind the range, never mind the control- just the quality of his natural voice shines completely on this unforgettable and wildly successful Superunknown track.
08) Incessant Mace A song for villains, Incessant Mace has this malicious sensuality about it. Chris voice wears a silk red spaghetti strap dress and feels its own curves during the first half of the song. The notes meander hypnotically, allowing Chris’ voice to slither from note to note in a slow burn of seductive prowess. The extremely present reverb in the song makes it sound as though his voice is traveling along the rails from hell to earth. As the song reaches its climax, these meandering notes go from a feral caress into a vicious chopping. As we reach the end of the song, it’s as though Chris shows his fangs and spits venom. It’s the moment the skirt is hiked high enough to show the blade concealed beneath.
The end of the song, when Chris just bellows, “Mace, mace, mace, mace” spits absolute aural venom as the song slithers out of reach.
07) Wooden Jesus Whether it was the slight change in musical styles, the chemistry with Eddie Vedder, the personal bearing this project had on Chris, or the hand of God itself, something motivated Cornell to perform like never before on Temple of the Dog. His voice hit like fists in Hunger Strike and would do so again on Wooden Jesus, where Cornell goes from a soft, hymnal style singing, straight into a mountain-moving belt.
06) Reach Down We again find ourselves in an interesting and atypical application of Chris’ voice in Reach Down; gospel. A bit inspired by Andy Wood’s style, Chris leads the choir-like ensemble of voices that make up the rest of Temple of the Dog.
Some of Chris’ vocal fills and humming sections add so much color and character to the song, moving the almost twelve minute opus down a flaming track. The instruments fall away at about 8:50 and make room for the almost apocalyptic sounding harmonies and eventually lift Chris’ voice into the foreground, where he grabs the song and doesn’t let go.
05) Slaves & Bulldozers Slave and Bulldozers is a tense push-pull of a song that appears on Badmotorfinger and thrashes the listener through about seven minutes of pipes waiting to burst. A real tug of war on the loud/quiet/loud front, it’s when the song completely lets Chris go where the song goes from good to amazing.
It’s particularly noteworthy that Chris doesn’t just scream the end of a syllable through the outro of a song like he would go on to do in song like Cochise, but in Slaves, Chris is screaming complete words, complete phrases, abandoning notes and vocal control for something more primal, something more visceral.
04) Black Rain What makes Black Rain particularly interesting was the challenge it presented on a recording basis; half the song was recorded near to the Badmotorfinger era in the 90s and the rest was filled in around the time of Telephantasm in the 2000s.
Chris’ voice sounded expectedly different for the second half of the recording. Rather than re-recording, Cornell opted to perform the missing sections of the song and pair them with the original performance. Knowing this, I could personally tell you exactly where the old Chris ends and the new Chris begins. But it’s not as jarring or disturbing as you’d think. In fact, it’s sewn together very well and the band was able to pull it off completely. I was surprised again that the band would perform the song live without issue, something I thought they’d avoid because of how this particular song sounded on wax.
Another testament to the timelessness and skill of Cornell, Black Rain reaches into early Soundgarden and late Soundgarden without skipping a beat.
03) Jesus Christ Pose Unlike a lot of the other songs on this list where Chris goes from low notes and gradually to high notes as a release in the third act of the song, JCP starts and ends at the exact same intensity. The 4/4 driving rhythm of the song keeps the song going at a breakneck pace, pushing Cornell to the top of his performance and making him stay there.
02) Beyond the Wheel A performance worthy of demon worship, Beyond the Wheel begins with a cult-worship like chanting verse in Chris’ lower register that makes absolutely no effort to create a smooth transition right into his upper register. It just happens. It happens without warning, without apology, without giving a shit. In a song where I hear some of Chris’ highest and lowest notes on record in the same few bars is downright astounding. Chris’ shrill scream is damn near blood curdling as it belts out into the empty spaces of the song, isolating him between notes in a beautiful love song to the void.
01) Hunted Down I’m as surprised as you are that my number one vocal performance comes in the form of Hunted Down. But something about this song always got to me. Chris’ voice digs its nails into your flesh and drags for about three minutes. My favorite aspect of this song in particular isn’t like other songs where i’m in awe of the range or power; it’s the annunciation of the lyrics.
The syncopation of the lyrics with Chris’ short bursts of energy read like a theatrical performance. It singles Cornell out as both a singer and a performer. From the first “HUUUUEUH” at the beginning of the song all the way to the bursts of notes that fade into the end of the song, Hunted Down has such a dramatic, theatrical element about it that the song itself is a character simply based on the way Chris chooses to sing and annunciate each word and note.
The only reason I haven’t posted my condolences and appreciation for my recently passed hero, Chris Cornell, is because of the utter shock I’m still caught in.
I woke up this morning to be devastated by this tragic news and I couldn’t even function. I’ve previously had panic attacks, and this morning I was on the brink of one when I read those articles online and realized that it wasn’t a nightmare or an illusion. It was real.
As a musician/songwriter myself, this was horrible. Chris Cornell was like a God to me, someone to ease my anxiety and depression and being pried away from that coping method is difficult. I expected Chris to come into this world and become stone, I didn’t think the day would actually come when life took its course.
This is only coming from a fan and admirer who didn’t even know him personally, far much for his family and friends. I’m truly saddened and sorry for them, especially how sudden this happened. I express my greatest sorrow and condolences for them and every single fan who ever treasured Chris like I did.
Chris was really a figure of inspiration not only to me, but to the Rock N’ Roll scene itself. I actually don’t know how to stop crying and grieving, its just heartbreaking.
But I want to thank Soundgarden and Chris for helping me through the toughest times in my life. For all they’re music and lyrics that did more than assisted me, but clung closely to me. That saved me several times. Rest in Peace Chris, we’ll always love you…
Chris Cornell would want his Fans to know that he didn’t take his own Life, he would’ve never have done that to his own Wife and Children, it’s about time that people start realizing there are evil forces in the world trying to destroy God’s Plans for Humanity