This list of songs is inspired by lists published by radio station KEXP-FM from Seattle in 2010, as well as the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part I will faithfully countdown from their lists, starting at Song #500 and going until I reach Song #1. When you see the song title listed as something like: Song #XXX (KEXP)….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. Song XXX (RS) means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: Song #xxx (KTOM), it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In any case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, just so everyone is aware, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Here is the story behind today’s song. Enjoy.
KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #351: Outshined by Soundgarden.
Soundgarden was one of the big bands that emerged out of the Seattle scene in the 1990s. The band consisted of lead singer Chris Cornell, lead guitarist Kim Thayil, bassist Hiro Yamamoto and Matt Cameron on Drums. Soundgarden had many Top 40 hits including “Spoonman”, “Black Hole Sun”, “Fell On Black Days” and the subject of today’s post “Outshined”. The band won two Grammy Awards, along with countless other awards from MTV and other music organizations. Chris Cornell was also involved in other major bands such as Audioslave and Temple of the Dog. Combined with his Soundgarden gig, Cornell was nominated for seventeen Grammy Awards and is often cited as having one of the best singing voices in all of Rock.
But, mental illness cares not one whit about fame or fortune. All through his life, Chris Cornell battled forms of mental illness, most notably, Depression. He is quoted as describing himself of feeling on top of the world one day and then feeling like a fraud and a failure the next. The challenges of living with a mental illness meant that Cornell often required medication in order to help him maintain an emotional equilibrium. As I am sure you can imagine, consistency and self-discipline are difficult to maintain while on the road for months at a time. Consequently, for all of his accomplishments, for all of the respect accorded him, Chris Cornell was never far from feeling like his life lacked worth. This internal battle to live a life worth living was often reflected in the subject matter of the songs he wrote over the course of his career. “Outshined”, “Show Me How To Live” and “Fell on Black Days” being just some examples.
In “Outshined”, Cornell writes a line that seems to sum up everything he was dealing with. The line is, “I’m looking California but feeling Minnesota“. He has said that this line encompasses all those who have judged him as being happy, simply because of his good looks. Even though “Outshined” is one of the songs that helped launch Soundgarden into the national spotlight, many of the band members have mixed feelings about it. This is partly due to the lyrics of the song but, as well, because of their disappointment with the music video which they felt was poorly done. Despite their reservations about the video, it was very popular on MTV. This, in turn, caused the band to question whether or not their fans got them. This perfectly encapsulates Cornell’s mental state. On the one hand, the video was a big hit and helped sell lots of albums for the band. But the band felt discouraged, despite the success they were achieving. Mental illness is a tough challenge to overcome.
“Outshined” is loud and can be mistaken for having an essence of coolness about it. It is a solid rock song and many fans enjoy screaming out the lyrics and banging their heads in time with the beat. But, if you allow yourself a closer inspection of the lyrics, you will hear a cry for help from someone who was struggling. In 2019, after completing a successful Soundgarden show in Detroit, Michigan, Chris Cornell committed suicide in his hotel room. He was 52 years of age.
The link to a the video of a live performance of “Outshined” by Soundgarden can be found here.
The link to the official website for Soundgarden can be found here.
Thanks to KEXP for helping to inspire the writing of this post. The link to their website can be found here.
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