Hear Chris Cornell’s Masterful Vocals in the Isolated Track for Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun”

Since Soundgar­den and Audioslave front­man Chris Cornell’s recent, trag­ic sui­cide, trib­ute after trib­ute has affirmed his sta­tus as a tow­er­ing icon of 90s grunge and a pow­er­ful pres­ence in con­tem­po­rary music ever since his first band emerged from Seat­tle with their sludgy met­al riffs and oper­at­ic cho­rus­es. Sure, all of the mem­bers of Soundgar­den deserve cred­it for that band’s thun­der­ing awe­some­ness. But as for Cornell’s con­tin­ued suc­cess and renown long after most 90s stal­warts had burned out or fad­ed away—well, you already know the answer: it’s that voice, an instru­ment over which, as Luke O’Neil writes at Esquire, the singer had “com­plete mas­tery.” Though it defined a spe­cif­ic time and place, Cornell’s voice also “tran­scend­ed gen­er­a­tions.”

The singer’s near four-octave range “made his live per­for­mances an incred­i­ble sight to watch” and his record­ings a stir­ring expe­ri­ence to lis­ten to, whether they show­cased his own mate­r­i­al or his unique tal­ent for cov­er­ing songs across a spec­trum of styles and gen­res. “The impos­ing archi­tec­ture” of Cornell’s voice, writes Pitch­fork in a ret­ro­spec­tive of some of his finest record­ed moments, “was part and par­cel to his lega­cy, but it would be noth­ing if he didn’t also know how to bril­liant­ly arrange it.”

Hit­ting every note on the beat, “build­ing ten­sion until the exact moment it unlocks.” Hear that dynam­ic con­trol above, stripped bare of instru­men­ta­tion, in the reverb-drenched, iso­lat­ed vocal tracks for Supe­run­k­nown’s “Black Hole Sun,” a song—with its dis­turb­ing video—that widened Soundgarden’s already con­sid­er­able fan­base when it debuted in 1994.

For con­trast, and to get a sense of just how rhyth­mi­cal­ly attuned Cor­nell was, lis­ten to the stu­dio release before and/or after the stripped ver­sion at the top to hear how the vocal gives the song its spine, bear­ing the meter, melody, and mood. L.A. Times crit­ic Mikael Wood describes Cornell’s voice as a “brawny yet soul­ful wail, ground­ed in sor­row but always reach­ing upward for a way out of the muck.” I can hard­ly think of a bet­ter way to char­ac­ter­ize such a unique­ly mov­ing singer, one who, for many of us, remained a bench­mark for rock vocals—in var­i­ous bands and solo projects—for a sol­id thir­ty years.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Soundgarden’s Chris Cor­nell Sings Haunt­ing Acoustic Cov­ers of Prince’s “Noth­ing Com­pares 2 U,” Michael Jackson’s “Bil­lie Jean” & Bob Marley’s “Redemp­tion Song”

7‑Foot Tall Clown with a Gold­en Voice Sings Chris Cornell’s “When I’m Down:” A Trib­ute Filled with Raw Emo­tion

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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