After his second solo album (2007’s Carry On) and three mostly bad albums with Audioslave failed to make Chris Cornell a star for something other than being the singer and only good-looking guy in Soundgarden, he went into disaster mode and hired Timbaland -- who knows a thing or two about disasters (his solo album obviously included) -- to produce his third solo effort, Scream. Timbaland rose to the challenge of making Chris Cornell a solo star by producing arguably the worst album he’s ever had a hand in.
Cornell used to be known as the wailing Tyrannosaur who gave voice to the Zeppelin-esque power of Soundgarden’s sludge. Timbaland decided that Cornell should sing over R&B grooves, and then proceeded to reduce Cornell’s roar to but a whimper. His voice is filtered through effects, hidden behind austere, Bollywood-sounding and roundly uninteresting beats, and Cornell is even forced to drop lines like he’s a rapper (“That bitch ain’t a part of me,” he squawks on opener “Part of Me”).
At least when Cornell was in Audioslave, those crafting the tunes around him knew that he worked best over air-raid guitars that had power (even if he commandeered the spotlight to work on trite ballads too often). His previous solo album found him willing to try to be a folk troubadour (which he’s not), and now Scream finds Cornell dancing merrily on the grave of his former strengths as a performer. It used to be that every Cornell album led to a wish for another Soundgarden album. At this point, even another Audioslave record will do.
Following Chris Cornell’s 2007 kamikaze run into complete and utter schlock (Carry On -- the one with the dead-eyed cover of “Billie Jean,” remember?), the former lead singer of Soundgarden and, sigh, Audioslave has emerged from the heat-twisted rubble of his formally respectable reputation to release Scream, his “R&B-oriented” third solo album, which features production from Timbaland and songwriting from Justin Timberlake. Cornell has claimed that the album seeks to meld club music with Dark Side of the Moon psychedelia. That’s Timbaland and Chris Cornell, collaborating on modern R&B, while copping ‘70s psychedelia. I’m going to leave this blank space right here _________________________ for you to insert your own punch lines.
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