Posts Tagged ‘Chris Cornell’

We often hear about celebrities being triple threats. Usually that entails having a music, acting and some sort of entrepreneurial career, ie perfume line, clothing line, etc. Sure these celebrities are somewhat successful in all their paths, but for the most part: actors can’t make music, musicians can’t act and neither are actually all that involved with their businesses (except to use their face to sell them.) So I’d like to turn your attention to those celebrities that truly are dangerous: musicians who lend their talent to several bands, all of which get them recognition.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Dave Grohl. He first appeared as the mad-tastic drummer for Nirvana. A 90s grunge band that defined a generation. After lead singer Kurt Cobain’s suicide, Grohl wasn’t ready to leave music just yet so he decided to make his own band: Foo Fighters. But this time, he was on guitar and song writing. In their illustrious 19-year career, they have won a whopping 11 Grammys, and have released seven studio albums.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            During his stint with Foo Fighters, Grohl took a mini-break and joined Queens of the Stone Age (QotSA) in 2002 as their drummer. He recorded their third and most successful album, Songs for the Deaf, and toured with them in support of it. In 2009, Grohl took another vacation from the Foos and joined QotSA frontman Josh Homme and ex-Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones to form Them Crooked Vultures, with Grohl back on drums. They’ve released one album to date and are currently working on their next one. So that’s four bands, playing two different instruments and even songwriting. He may not have a shoe named after him, but that’s one talented dude.

Emily Haines. Haines hails from Toronto and is best known as lead singer, guitar player and keyboardist for the uber popular indie band Metric who put out their first album in 2003. And she plays a mean tambourine. Prior to forming Metric, Haines was part of the Toronto music collaborative Broken Social Scene: a concept formed by two indie musicians who bring together the best of indie music in Toronto. The band has had as little as three members to as many as eleven. The musicians are typically part of other bands, and just lend their vocal or other music talents when they can.

After releasing two albums with Metric, Haines formed Emily Haines and the Soft Skeleton, a much more mellow version compared to Metric, and where she more often uses her piano skills. She released one album in 2006 which included the single “Our Hell” which is sure to give you goosebumps. In 2007, Haines got back in the studio with Metric and between then and 2012, have released three more albums, including 2009’s Fantasies, easily one of the best albums released that year. One band, a solo project, and guest starring vocals in an extensive indie music project, mostly consisting of Canadian artists. Plus the ability to play multiple instruments. Can she be any cooler?

Chris Cornell. First known as lead singer/guitarist for prominent grunge band Soundgarden. They’ve been around since the late 80s and have released six albums and won two Grammys. While Soundgarden was rising to fame in 1990, Cornell combined forces with most of the members of yet-to-be-famous Pearl Jam, to form Temple of the Dog, as a tribute to his roommate Andrew Wood, who had passed away earlier that year. They released only one self-titled album which spawned the classic track “Hunger Strike.”

In 1997, Soundgarden hit a rough patch and they broke up, so Cornell went solo. His 1999 debut release wasn’t incredibly well received, but the single “Can’t Change Me” was nominated for a Grammy. Next, he joined Rage Against the Machine’s band (minus lead singer Zack de la Rocha) and formed Audioslave. Another hard rock band who put out three albums and were nominated for three Grammys. Due to creative differences, they disbanded in 2007, and Cornell went back to his solo career, made two more albums, the more recent Scream produced by Timbaland. Again, not critically acclaimed but it was Cornell’s highest charting solo album.

Finally, in 2010, Soundgarden reunited, put out an album and are touring. Cornell writes all his lyrics, his vocal range is out of control and he has also lent his voice to several soundtracks, including my personal favourite “Sunshowers” from Great Expectations. So three bands, a solo career, writing credits and having his music in movies. Bonus: if you ever see him live, it’s like seeing four bands at once.

Anyone who wants to become a celebrity will find some way to do it. With all the mediocrity we see out there, all the reality-show-fabricated talent, all the YouTube sensations, it becomes increasingly difficult to recognize true celebrity: being famous/recognized for being amazing at what you do best. Not being average at several avenues leading to celebrity. These three musicians are a breath of fresh air, a sight for sore eyes because they are so talented and live for music so much so that they will find any way to be able to create it. And for us who long for what’s real, without all the glitz and glam, it’s a reminder that it still exists. And that’s a beautiful thing.

Every member in a band has a specific role based on where they talents lie. Some are meant to play instruments, others are meant to sing; each one is key in bringing the band’s sound together. They consider themselves a family, a team, in which all members contribute and have a say. Yet we often hear about lead singers starting solo projects, venturing out on their own. With their band they already have fame, fortune and fans; so what then compels these lead singers to cut the cord and move forward?                                                                                                                                                                                                             Reason #1
Because they need a side project.
Lead singers in this category have every intention of continuing to make music with their band, but need to take a break to explore other musical directions. It’s not an ego trip or a diva moment, they just want to do their own thing for a while. Clear their heads. Gwen Stefani did it with No Doubt. They were at the top of their game with the release of Rock Steady in 2001 and then Gwen decided to follow her own inspirations and explore her creative mind. By herself. So she went out and got herself some Harajuku Girls, put out two solo albums, launched a clothing line and had two kids somewhere in there. In September 2012, No Doubt is finally set to release their next album. This is a classic case of having your cake and eating it too. Stefani wins no matter what: not only does she remain the face of the band, but now due to all the extra exposure as a solo artist, there’s even more attention on her. It becomes distracting and as a result, the rest of the band fades into the background.

Reason #2
Because they can do better.
This is most common in groups that feature more than one lead singer, because they inevitably end up competing with each other so they don’t get replaced. Justin Timberlake is a perfect example. As ‘N Sync gained popularity, it was abundantly clear he had the best voice. The division of vocals started to work in Timberlake’s favour and he became their unofficial lead singer. Although they were doing incredibly well, he knew (or at least his people did) he could do better on his own, no sharing required. Like he used the rest of them as supporting acts to launch himself. Well we all know how that turned out. As for the the rest of the group they all sort of fell apart and only re-appeared on reality television and as a wannabe astronaut. This comes off as a clear decision, no confusion, no looking back. Everyone appears to be amicable about the situation, everyone has moved on, gone their separate ways. Timberlake’s the only one left in the music industry and let’s face it, he deserves to be there.

Reason #3                                                                                                                                       Because they think they can do better.                                                                                                    A lot of the time lead singers will go off and do their own thing seemingly to make a statement. To irritate band members, because of their own egos, because they think they are the band. The break up is usually unfriendly, chalked up to irreconcilable differences, too many differing opinions and no one getting along. It usually involves storming out of a room and dramatically slamming the door. Chris Cornell, lead singer of Soundgarden, fits right in here. During the 90s, they were one of the top grunge bands to enter the scene. They dropped five albums in eight years and then broke up abruptly in 1997. He’s a talented musician who thought he could do better, thought he was better. Since then, Cornell released a solo album in 1999, followed by three albums with a new band Audioslave, who broke up in 2007. Next he put out three more solo albums, last of which was released in 2011. But last year, Soundgarden decided to reunite and go on tour. So many years gone by and he decides to crawl back to his original band. Like his temper tantrum was finally over. This displays signs of a fickle mind, uncertainty, regret; like he doesn’t know what he wants or where he belongs. He needs to figure that out.

Lead singers will pursue a solo career for a number of reasons: more attention, more fame, more money, more freedom of expression, and so on. Some thrive, some fail and some don’t make any mark at all. What remains consistent is the original band is forever changed. No Doubt has become that band Gwen Stefani sings for on the side; ‘N Sync has been removed from everyone’s vocabulary; Soundgarden is now that grunge band Chris Cornell came back to. They lose their identity as a band and fans lose interest and move on. Flying solo has its rewards, no question. Too bad the rest of the band ends up alone too.

Year after year new artists emerge, new songs are created and new stars are born. Or at least that’s how it should be. Lately it seems as though current artists are benefiting from older music – taking an original and making their own version. They always say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but that’s not always true – sometimes it’s just downright insulting. Here’s an in depth look at the wonderful world of recycled music, for better or for worse.                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Let’s take a look at covers/remakes: when an artist takes an old song, keeps the lyrics the same, but puts their own spin on it without straying too much from the original. It’s common for bands to do this as their own personal tribute to a monumental tune. Like Hendrix, U2 and Dave Matthews Band did for Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower”, or one of my personal favourites (along with Johnny Cash’s cover of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt”), Chris Cornell’s cover of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean”. They’re not trying to recreate the original song because they know nothing will ever compare; but as fans of the song, they want to be able to play it, to perform it as they heard it.

But it seems now as though some bands cover old songs just to get their name on the map: even if music fans have never heard of them, they will at least recognize the song they’re covering and have an instant familiarity or connection with the band. Case in point. Does anyone remember Alien Ant Farm? Didn’t think so. They covered Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal”.  Michael Jackson is a music genre in himself, so covering one of his tracks is very risky and Alien Ant Farm failed. Miserably. It’s almost like a teenage-angry-band version of the song. It’s whiny, irritating and they even tried to re-enact the video by having portions of the sidewalk light up as they walked on it. They tried to get by just riding the coattails of someone else’s creativity. Shame on them.

Remixing involves taking the audio elements in a track (pitch, tempo, etc) and altering them. I don’t particularly understand the need for an artist to do multiple versions of the same song. Or more confusing are artists like J. Lo who put out an album (J. Lo) followed by a remix album (J to tha L-O!: Remixes) – so basically the same songs, just slightly different. Other than the obvious making more money aspect of it, what’s the point? What does infuriate me is the notion that just because a song can be remixed, that it should be. I know that DJs and producers like to be creative and forward thinkers and remix songs that no one ever would have thought of remixing. But just because you do something no one’s ever done, doesn’t make it right. For example, we all know and love Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. It’s a classic 90’s tune that defined the grunge movement, even moreso significant because of the untimely death of lead singer Kurt Cobain when the band was at peak of their career. Grunge music is about angst, indifference and not caring about appearances. It’s rock, it’s punk, it’s heavy metal and it makes teenagers jump around and get angry. Now who in their right mind thought it would be a genius idea to techno remix it? It’s an insult to the band and borderline blasphemy. A word to the wise, not every song needs a remix: certain tunes just need to be left alone.

Now on to my least favourite form of flattery something I like to call a rip off. It’s a combination of a cover and a remix, completely different from the original but still has enough of its elements subtly placed so it’s still familiar. To those who want to be politically correct, it’s also referred to as sampling. It seems to be an incredibly popular method of ‘creating’ music these days and this I can’t seem to wrap my head around. P. Diddy is the king of rip offs. “I’ll be Missing You” was ripped from The Police’s “Every Breath You Take”; “Can’t Nobody Hold me Down” was ripped from “Break my Stride” by Matthew Wilder. Some lyrics are different, there’s more of a hip-hop vibe but there are just enough underlying features of the song that we think of the original song.
More recently, Karl Wolf and Kardinal Offishal’s “Ghetto Love,” rips 80’s band Chicago’s “Glory of Love” and it irritates me so much because it’s almost like these artists think they’re being clever and getting away with more or less copying someone else’s song but presenting it like its their own – unlike covers, where it’s clear they are just paying homage to a great song.                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Pop star Alyssa Reid ripped 80’s band Heart’s “Alone” with her track “Alone Again”; the lyrics in the chorus are unchanged, but the verses are different and the sound is more updated. Wow, how talented of her. Lastly, Lupe Fiasco. Here’s a rapper I actually thought was cool. Until his current track “The Show Goes On” which was completely ripped from Modest Mouse’s “Float On”. Don’t get me wrong, some rip offs can work: Jay-Z’s “Young Forever” which samples 80’s band Alphaville’s “Forever Young” retains the chorus as it was in the original version; almost like Jay-Z is respecting that part of the song by leaving it alone and not trying to take all the credit for track. Whatever the case may be, emerging artists, for the love of real music, try and create your own.
Music from the past heavily influences music in the present. Musicians get inspired from what they grow up listening to, from what they hear around them, what their family and friends introduce them to, so it’s inevitable then that traces of older music appear in newer music. Musicians should stick to what they know and who they are; they should be real and authentic. The minute they start taking short cuts, borrowing sounds from one source, cutting/pasting from another, and slacking on creativity, everything gets mixed up. Leaving us fans wondering who they’re going to imitate next.