Appeared In
Special Issue
WWD Music issue 09/04/2008

Rocker Chris Cornell tries out a new sound.

Chris Cornell has come a long way since his flannel-sporting days during Seattle’s grunge rock era. In March, the former Soundgarden and Audioslave frontman appeared on Ryan Seacrest’s “On Air” radio show with hip-hop producer Timbaland, announcing their unlikely collaboration on Cornell’s third solo album, “Scream.” “This is the best work I’ve done in my career,” Timbaland boasted to Seacrest.

This story first appeared in the September 4, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Cornell, equally as excited about the unexpected pairing, added, “This is different from anything I’ve ever done. I’ve come from an indie rock world, where, if you have a producer, it’s somebody who’s not a musician, not a songwriter. He’s just someone who twists knobs and can kind of tell you if they think a song is too long or too short or needs to be more aggressive. Tim’s a songwriter, so I was working with him in a collaboration, sort of as if we were in a band.”

Since then, snippets from Cornell’s forthcoming album have been posted on his MySpace page. “Long Gone” features the rocker’s familiar, soulful voice singing heavyhearted lyrics over Timbaland’s soaring atmospheric beats. “Ground Zero” is an incensed refl ection on the aftermath of 9/11, while “Watch Out” is most indicative of Timbaland’s influence, oozing with hip-hop envy and a style that reveals an almost aspiring-rapper side of Cornell no one knew he had.

While the world has yet to see the 44-year-old guitarist trade his leather bombers and long rock locks for hip-hop streetwear and iced-out bling, Cornell’s fans are definitely due for a bit of shell shock when “Scream,” which took just six weeks to  write and record, is unveiled. In something of an induction to the crossover genre, Cornell will perform his new material alongside his producer and other Timbaland-persuaded artists such as One Republic, Justin Timberlake, Solange and the Pussycat Dolls at Fashion Rocks.

“If you get into a kind of comfortable corner, where you’re doing what you’re used to — you’re doing what you know how to do — you can get locked in that corner and stuck there and you’re done,” Cornell told MTV. “That’s never going to happen to me.”

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