Chris Cornell



    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”).


    Timbaland claims that he took on work with Cornell because he’s a Soundgarden fan, which would be credible if he didn’t force Cornell out onto the ice with tracks like the videogame-soundtrack cut of “Time,” the rejected T-Pain joint “Get Up,” the CSI Miami-ready “Never Far Away,” and the decidedly quiet title track. The only time Cornell doesn’t sound like an empty leather-pants version of his old self is on the slow ‘80s power ballad for 2009, “Long Gone,” which sounds most like the material Cornell would be making if he was doing this on his own. Not that that’s a good thing, but it proves that not even a hit king like Timbaland can make Cornell an exciting solo artist. 


    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.