The Joup Friday Album: Chris Cornell – Scream

screamReleased in 2009, “Scream” was Chris Cornell’s third solo album. It debuted at #10 on the Billboard 200 chart, but its sales were abysmal — it secured that spot with only 26,000 units moved, which tells you a lot about the state of music sales even six years ago. It was also met with a lot of negative press, most of which seemed not to appreciate the scope, subject matter or musical experimentation that the former frontman of Soundgarden was pursuing at the time. Granted, this was a semi-radical departure insofar as it brought in a lot of electronic, bass-heavy elements to the production (mostly courtesy of producer Timbaland, whose label Mosley co-released “Scream”).

 

Reviews of the album called it a “big-budget disaster” (AllMusic), misguided and flat-out terrible. It’s not surprising, six years post-release, that Cornell has rejoined Soundgarden and is cashing in on the reunion bandwagon, since most critics and fans weren’t really interested in what else he wanted to do, or other styles he wanted to experiment with — and that’s a shame, because there are some really interesting things going on both musically and lyrically with this album.

 

The first song on the album, “Part of Me,” finds Cornell throwing down about a possible fling and its consequences, with a heavily syncopated drumbeat behind him. Lyrics that should be semi-offensive to women — e.g., “That bitch ain’t a part of me” — wind up coming across more as a man justifying/reconciling his own actions to himself than a particularly derogatory statement toward women. On a purely musical level, the song is catchy and polished and showcases Cornell’s muscular voice in a completely different setting.

 

One of the best songs on the album is the title track, which starts out with a sort of hybrid electronic guitar and skittering drum track. It is a natural extension of the direction Cornell used for his James Bond song, “You Know My Name,” released three years prior. All of these tracks highlight Cornell’s voice, maybe even more than Soundgarden did since there aren’t competing elements. The reception this album received isn’t altogether different than what other established artists have endured when trying to do something radically different — people get used to someone singing a certain way, or performing in a particular genre, and when that person breaks out of it or pursues something else, there’s a knee-jerk backlash that is out of proportion to the reaction the album would have received had there not been a pre-established identity.

 

The album quickly disappeared; in its second week, it dropped from #10 to #65 on the charts. It’s too bad that Cornell, instead of talking about a woman in “Part of Me,” hadn’t instead been talking about critical and public reception. Had reaction to this album gone the other way, it’s easy to think that he might have gone on to record a reggae album, or even a 7″ featuring traditional gospel songs. Instead, we can shell out the $100 or so to see him perform the Soundgarden catalog. C’est la music industry.

 

Tag: Chester

 

 

 

 

Sara Farr

Sara Farr

Sara Farr is currently an adjunct marketing instructor at the School of Advertising Art. Previously, she worked as a graphic designer at Variety for six years, and spent 10 years before that as a music writer for various Midwestern and Los Angeles-based newspapers and magazines. Her work appears in “The Little Black Book, Music: Over a Century of the Greatest Artists, Albums, Songs, Performances and Events That Rocked the Music World.”

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