Archive for the ‘90s Music’ Category

Chris Cornell first invaded my ears back in the early 90s as frontman of Soundgarden – a Seattle band front and centre in the grunge music scene. Those formative years wouldn’t have been the same without that distinctive voice, his voice. Cornell’s vocals were what set them apart from the plethora of grunge bands trying to make it big at the time. His ability to hit such high octaves with perfect control, but also be raw and loud, gave him such versatility, and a sound that will always truly be his own (start video at 0:19) 

In Soundgarden’s early days, even before they “made it big” with 1994’s Superunknown, Cornell lived with musician Andrew Wood, of the band Mother Love Bone. After Wood died of a heroin overdose in 1990, Cornell got together with Wood’s bandmates, and wrote and produced a tribute album, under the name Temple of the Dog. It also featured backing vocals of newcomer Eddie (of yet-to-be-formed Pearl Jam.) The whole idea behind this entire project was friendship, so it’s no surprise I’ve made long-lasting friendships based on a mutual love for this powerful, anthemic track.

Soundgarden inevitably broke up in 1997, like the rest of the grunge bands. Cornell decided to kick off a solo career with 1999’s Euphoria Morning, which fared pretty well. As a solo artist, he also performed covers, appeared on soundtracks, and even had one of his albums produced by Timbaland (which did not fare well with his fans.) Point is, he was always experimenting, always making music, always in our ears. This track appeared in the movie Great Expectations – the one with Ethan Hawke and Gwyneth Paltrow. It was the best part of the movie, and revealed a much softer Cornell, reaffirming that he really was capable of anything.

If Cornell didn’t have enough going on already, in 2001 he joined ex-members of rock-metal band Rage Against the Machine, to form Audioslave. A hard rock band, similar in many ways to Soundgarden, just less grunge and more aggression. They were loud, but also musical. By this time, I was in University, a completely different phase in my life. But there he was – still ringing in my ears. This track is so incredibly haunting and proof that no matter how much noise was going on, Cornell’s voice could always rise above, and take the whole thing to another level.

I had the privilege of seeing Cornell play live 3 three times. Once as a solo act at a small venue in Hamilton. I drove through a snowstorm, in pitch black just to get there, and it was worth every second. The 2nd time was with Soundgarden on their reunion tour at an outdoor venue; when the sky turned gray, and they went into “Fell on Black Days,” the rain didn’t even matter. Lastly, a solo acoustic show at Massey Hall: just him, his guitar and a lot of incredible music. I went to this show all by myself, because I couldn’t miss this opportunity. I had goosebumps the entire time, and never felt I was there alone – Cornell, as usual, was right there.

There was never a time in my musical life that Cornell wasn’t doing something, or part of something. Everything he got involved with, somehow became a part of my life. A memory, a mood, a phase. It was comforting to know, no matter what he was doing, it would always resonate with me. When he performed live as a solo artist, the most remarkable thing was not only did fans get to see Cornell, but also Soundgarden, Temple of the Dog and Audioslave. So when Chris Cornell passed away on May 17th, not only was he gone, but he also took Soundgarden, Temple of the Dog, and Audioslave with him. As a music fan, that’s a whole lot of music to mourn.

Maybe it’s a sign of aging, but I find myself longing for music of the past more and more these days. I’ve never hidden the fact that the current state of music is deplorable compared to when I grew up. But this isn’t a post about that. It’s a post about trying to (rhetorically) figure out what truly connects a person to music, and if that changes over time, across generations and through individuals.

(Note: Everyone’s experience with music is different; I’m not trying to make all-encompassing blanket statements. These are just my observations over the years.)

When I was a kid, all my musical influences lay in the hands of my older family members. As such, it was all 80s rock – U2, INXS, Duran Duran, etc. At that time, cassette tapes were the only vehicle for music, and I still remember this INXS tape we had – 1987’s Kick album, loaded with classics like “Need You Tonight” and “Never Tear Us Apart.” I used to play that tape over and over and over again on my small pink tape player (that came with earbuds!) I would just lay on the ground, headphones in, and listen.

I continued on like this, album after album (including The Little Mermaid Soundtrack) until U2 essentially took over my entire world. I had this one U2 mixtape that I spent hours upon hours crafting, timing every track to perfection. I must’ve listened to it countless times over years and years. At the time, I had a shiny silver Sony Walkman that automatically switched the tape’s sides. I knew every single word to every single song on that tape – they were my first favourite band of all time, and felt like a part of me.

Adolescence is a time when one is easily influenced, inspired. We hang on to things that (we think) mean something to us. If we’re angry, we like loud music. If we like to dance, we pick dance music. Our minds are so malleable and spongey, we can absorb anything. During such a precious time, it’s also easy to just follow what your friends are doing, so you won’t feel left out. For me, it was a combination – my entire school listened to grunge in the 90s, therefore I did too. However, I also enjoyed the music, and felt some connection to it, because it became about learning about an entire genre, and all the bands involved.

But here’s what I’m trying to figure out: when I hear 90s music now, do I love it because of that previous connection to it, because of nostalgia? Is it attached to specific memories, or a more care-free time? Or do I truly think it’s better than a lot of the music of today? If I heard that same music now, what would I think? Would I enjoy it the same way, would it speak to me in the same way? Or was it just a right time, right place scenario? Let’s be real, grunge doesn’t exist anymore (in spite of some pitiful attempts at a comeback); it died a long time ago – is that why it has such a pull over me?

Same would go for those who are fans of 60s-70s music – maybe that attachment comes from the notion that there currently isn’t any music out there that resembles anything from back then. Maybe they feel like they experienced the birth and demise of a genre. Its evolution and inability to survive in the current world. Maybe they just miss it. In previous decades, music had so much more to say. Musicians used their voices to make statements.

Nowadays, the industry has gotten soft. No one (rather, not many) talk about anything real, which is why everything is so interchangeable and unrecognizable. It all kind of blurs together. For example, millennials all think Drake is the almighty – but will they still think that in 10 years? Or is it because they hear his songs at clubs and bars right now? In 10 year’s time though, will they still be going to clubs? Moreover, even if they did, would Drake still be playing over the speakers? Has the music scene just changed now?

These days, music can be heard anywhere and everywhere – which is great. But that also makes a lot of room for noise. I wonder if in this day and age, it’s possible to really connect to an artist, and still feel connected years later. If it is possible, I feel like it’ll still be different than how music was felt in the past; when you earned the ability to listen to a track over and over. You had to save up. You had to really want it, and if the album wasn’t all that good, you wouldn’t delete it or toss it, you’d make yourself listen because you invested in it. You would give it a real, solid chance.

Year after year, there’s so much turnover in tracks too, so many singles released, that it’s tough to really feel the impact of any of them, due to so much output volume. It seems as though Selena Gomez releases a track every week, so how does one even keep track? With programs like Spotify, essentially every single song you could ever want in life, can be found there. You don’t have to buy the album and only play it on your CD player, or if you’re lucky, in your car. You don’t have to commit to an artist.

You can download a track just as easily as you can delete it. No one has Walkmen/Discmen (RIP) anymore, so all music on-the-go comes from their phones. The flow of which can easily be interrupted by phone calls, txt msgs and taking photos. How are young people supposed to understand how to truly value music? People these days don’t get obsessed with albums; they get obsessed with songs. One track.

Don’t get me wrong, I use Spotify too – guilty as charged. It’s the easiest, fastest way to get a track I want when I want it. I don’t have invest so much time/energy in its acquisition. But here’s the thing: I kind of miss that process. I kind of miss getting to know the music, the artist. I kind of miss opening the plastic wrap around the CD. I kind of miss analyzing the album art, and flipping through the lyric books and footnotes. I kind of really miss that connection.

 

 

Maybe it’s because spring is around the corner, bringing its sense of new beginnings. Or maybe it’s a renewed sense of zen after taking a step back from reality for a little while. Whatever the case, I’ve decided it’s high time to just let things go. Grudges don’t help anyone out, don’t do anyone any favours. They really only affect you, occupying your every thought, impacting your every emotion. So if someone’s throwing shade your way, let it slide. Move on. Cut your losses. Because this can be a lot harder than it seems, here are a few tracks to help you rid yourself of all that drama.

“Shine” by Mondo Cozmo

This song from Philly-bred, LA-based artist Josh Ostrander, is about figuring out the right path to take, and finding one’s way through it. The music is hopeful and more than anything, it reminds us there’s nothing wrong with asking for a little help.

“Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac

A track from 1975, that remains relevant to this day. The sadness in Stevie Knicks’ voice, and the lyrics full of reflection, can’t help but make us think that no matter what happens to us, life moves forward. Sometimes, you just have to leave the past behind, be the bigger person, and focus on the future; as hard as it may be.

“Don’t Look Back in Anger” by Oasis

Wise words from these Britpop royals.

“Walk Away” by Ben Harper

Ben Harper has this magical way of using his voice, music and lyrics to convey the deepest of emotions, completely effortlessly. The track says it all.

 

“Let it Go” by James Bay

Typically, I don’t lean towards overplayed Top 40 pop music, but there’s just something about this one. Bay masterfully controls his voice, making you feel everything he does. The lyrics, though simplistic at times, are also real which helps the listener relate to Bay’s woes.