cheek by jowl

Timbaland vs. Chris Cornell: Which New Partner Is More Washed-up?

Scream, Chris Cornell’s full-length collaboration with Timbaland, came out this week, and, as you might expect, the reception hasn’t been so great: the L.A. Times called it “A heartbreaking document of how many wrong decisions one can make in writing and performing a record”; just yesterday, Trent Reznor Twittered, “You know that feeling you get when somebody embarrasses themselves so badly YOU feel uncomfortable? Heard Chris Cornell’s record? Jesus.” Timbaland reconfigured pop music with his innovative production for Aaliyah and Missy Elliot earlier this century, but his recent hits have been far less exciting; Cornell’s Soundgarden was one of the greatest bands of the nineties, but Audioslave rocked and bored in equal measure. After indisputably great careers, are these two washed-up? And if so, who’s in worse shape?


Chris Cornell

Timbaland vs. Chris Cornell: Which New Partner Is More Washed-up?

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Early Sign of Trouble Bored with hip-hop, Timbaland told NME in 2003 that “The only [artist] I’d like to do a song with is Coldplay.” After leaving Audioslave, Cornell told MTV that it’s “time to just experiment with music.” Recent Sales Solo: Shock Value, certified Platinum (2007); fully produced Justin Timberlake’s FutureLove/SexSounds, certified Double Platinum (2006). Solo: Carry On, not even certified Gold (2007); with Audioslave: Revelations, certified Gold (2006). Recent Chart Performance “Apologize,” No. 2 on Billboard Hot 100 (2007); produced Madonna’s “Four Minutes,” No. 3 on Hot 100 (2008). Audioslave’s “Be Yourself,” No. 32 on Hot 100 (2005). Critical Pulse Shock Value sprung a bunch of singles, but most critics agreed it wasn’t worth hearing all the way through; attempt to make over Ashlee Simpson on 2008’s Bittersweet World was politely applauded but mostly ignored. Reaction to Revelations roughly split between “step in the right direction” to “more of the same.” The mellower solo album Carry On was more maligned: “Maybe this is what living in France does to you,” cracked Spin. Last Single “Apologize”: popular (see above), but inarguably terrible. Carry On’s “No Such Thing”: a widely ignored mess. Scream’s “Ain’t a Part of Me”: chorus goes, “that bitch ain’t a part of me.” Collaborators Has gone from Aaliyah and in-her-prime Missy to the likes of Ashlee Simpson, Nicole Scherzinger, and She Wants Revenge. Soundgarden was seminal; Audioslave played it safe but had their moments. And now, well, see to your left. Hope for Turnaround A return to hip-hop would always be welcomed. Or maybe just working with a higher grade of pop starlets? Does he still have Kim Thayil’s phone number?