If any musical collaboration seems far-fetched, it’s hard-rock singer Chris Cornell working with R&B beat master Timbaland. But in a world of blurring musical boundaries and multicultural mash-ups, the pairing of the hip-hop rhythm king and the screamer from Soundgarden is not so odd, especially when you consider Cornell’s creative restlessness.
The Seattle native, who emerged from the ’90s grunge movement and went on to experiment with metal, acoustic rock and R&B vocals, had long admired Timbaland’s work. When the pair agreed to work together, Cornell thought they would do remixes from his second album, Carry On, but Timbaland wanted to collaborate on new material — the result of which is Cornell’s third solo album, Scream. “We worked quickly,” says Cornell. “Timbaland kept bringing in ideas, and I kept turning them into songs. Then he worked on tying them together so that you’d come out of the mood of one and enter the next one without really realizing it. And when he played it for me, it was mind-blowing. I played it live that way, and the response was amazing.”
After a career that has included winning Grammys and performing around the globe, Cornell says he feels like he’s just now hitting his high note. “For most of my career, I’ve felt there were areas of musicality I wasn’t reaching,” he says. “I love to play aggressive music, I love to scream, I love to use my range and I love to do my songs acoustically. But to have another dimension that is groovier and more soul-based is great.”
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