The Grunge Rock Era
News just broke out that front man singer of Soundgarden and Audioslave Chris Cornell has died (20 July 1964 – 17 May 2017). His autopsy revealed it was by suicide from hanging . He was 52 years old. This is hauntingly familiar to the death of Michael Hutchence – the gorgeous and talented front man of INXS who at 37, died of asphyxiation by hanging. Chris Cornell came from the generation of grunge rockers who took the world by storm in the 90s. Everyone knew this music went hand-in-hand with drugs – coke, heroin, dope. A lot of these musicians from this era faded out due to this.
I come from a generation who idolized Kurt Cobain’s raw rock chords – and I’m not talking about his electric guitar; a generation who listened to the grunge rockers of my teenage youth, who spoke from their souls, as painful as the lyrics were. Soul Asylum sang about runaways in ‘Runaway Train’ and Billy Corgan came out with ‘Melancholy and the Infinite Sadness’ where butterflies had bullet wings. The Cranberries sang ‘Zombie’ and Eddie Vedder was my biggest crush – after all, who could sing ‘Better Man’ better than him?
Those early 90s songs fed my soul, where I hung out at places called The Viper Room and The Doors and met interesting, artistic people searching for themselves in one way or another. People bonded over guitar riffs, head banging and conversations, where familiarity was formed over mutually loved songs and artists.
Then came Britney Spears and after her, Christina Aguilera. Hanson soon followed with Mmmbop; boy bands such as Backstreet Boys and N’Sync and generally, just really ‘happy songs’ with no deep meaning with lyrics written to produce record breaking hits because ‘Hit me baby one more time’ and a little school girl outfit just captured the audience’s imagination, right? They were all packaged to fit a certain image, lyrics written to target the right audience, nothing authentic, nothing really real.
Slowly, Metallica, Guns n’ Roses, Pearl Jam, R.E.M, Counting Crows, Alanis Morissette, Tori Amos and other top musicians of the 90s grunge and rock eras, started filtering out. They just couldn’t compete. Nobody really wanted to listen to those kind of deep lyrics with raw emotion anymore because that kind of music was kind of sad. Beautifully executed songs with guitar riffs and lyrics that touched you deeply almost disappeared. The Rave scene came in and people just wanted to get high on the music by the likes of Carl Cox – a master DJ. The drug scene changed from dope and heroin to ecstasy, to give you energy for the whole night, and LSD to really enjoy the ‘Rave’ experience, with all its bright neon lights and colors and overly upbeat house music.
Alternative rock was lost. It was now all about tight neon outfits and glow-in-the-dark sticks, glitter eye shadow and getting really happy really fast – was life that sad that so many people had to escape into a pool of ‘love’ drugs and pump their bodies all night long connecting with people also high and feeling such love – as ecstasy does? Many got addicted to this way of life.
And today? Today we have great music. There’s Taylor Swift who captures the world’s imagination with romanticism, and Katy Perry and Pink who sing songs that empower women. There’s the ever-popular Rihanna who over-sexualizes women, as trendy as her music is and Nicki Minaj. The youth of today are the stars looking at Selena Gomez, Miley Cyrus and the very talented Justin Bieber. Hip Hop is everything just because a lot of people have to prove they are ‘gangsta’ and Drake is their homeboy. But as talented as these young stars are, I cannot help but look at the ‘packaged image’ they give off. They sell records because they look hot and their voices are nice to listen to.
But music is completely subjective and that is the beauty of what music is – a tool to enjoy and feed the soul, to have in the background or play when making love because Barry White’s ‘Can’t Get Enough of Your Love’ is kind of sexy.
But it will take a lot of hard work to ever produce another hit like U2’s ‘One Love’ or ‘With or Without You’. Anthony’s Kiedis’s hauntingly beautiful ‘Under the Bridge’ will always have its place as one of the greatest rock songs to have ever existed, Eddie Vedder’s deep growl of a voice won’t ever be forgotten, nor Kurt Cobain’s exquisitely beautiful lyrics when listened deeply to, covered up an immense need for love from a tortured soul in so much pain. And now, some of the lyrics to ‘Black Hole Sun’ written by Chris Cornell, when he was the front man of Soundgarden, which are not only desperately, achingly sad but almost a prediction to his nature of death:
In my shoes
A walking sleep
And my youth
I pray to keep
No one sings
Like you anymore
Hang my head
Drown my fear
‘Til you all just disappear
Black hole sun
Won’t you come
And wash away the rain?
Black hole sun
Won’t you come?
Won’t you come?