The music video Chris Cornell found personally offensive

Not many musicians could assume the mantle of rock and roll god throughout the grunge scene. While both Kurt Cobain and Eddie Vedder may have been key figures in the scene that influenced legions of bands that came after them, they were always wary of taking the role of generation spokesman, usually hiding behind their guitar or brooding in their thoughts. Whereas most frontmen shied away from the spotlight, few embodied the hallmarks of rock and roll in the 1990s like Chris Cornell did.

Despite making drastic left turns when working with Soundgarden, Cornell always assumed the frontman role with little reservations. From as far back as the band’s sophomore release, Louder Than Love, Cornell was known to play to all his strengths at the front of the stage, flaunting his booming voice with chops that put him on the same level as Robert Plant.

Although Cornell had all of the attributes that make a great frontman, he was never interested in the flashy side of the rock and roll lifestyle. Like most Seattle acolytes, Cornell was usually introspective off the stage, using his songs to let out his raw emotions in tracks like ‘Outshined’ and ‘Fell On Black Days’.

Around the time the band rose to prominence, Cornell also became desensitised by the kind of rock and roll plastered across MTV every minute of the day. As opposed to Seattle’s rootsy approach to rock music, the glamorous side of rock and roll still ruled the airwaves, with bands like Poison and Warrant still getting regular rotation on the station playing half-hearted attempts at rock and roll.

Amid the hair metal scene, though, Guns N’ Roses were always the main outliers. Instead of catering to the glam aesthetic, the band decided to take a similar rootsy approach, decked out like a street gang that happened to play rock music. On their sophomore release, though, the band started to play into every extravagant trope in the book.

The band had become far too overblown with the release of Use Your Illusion. Axl Rose took the reins and took a more glossy approach to rock music, complete with lavish orchestral arrangements and piano ballads that felt miles away from their roots. While Cornell never claimed to be a massive fan of the group, he thought that one video marked the moment when they jumped the shark.

Although most of the band’s videography around this time featured them in larger-than-life situations, ‘Estranged’ was one of the biggest productions they had ever undertaken, featuring Rose swimming in the ocean with dolphins. Despite all of the hair metal bands on the scene, Cornell thought this was the moment where everything went wrong.

When asked about the video upon release, Cornell was disgusted by what he saw, saying, “Who else is going to give a shit about the fact that he can afford that kind of attention? It goes beyond decadence; it’s spitting in the face of the people that have put you there. I was offended by it, and I don’t get offended by much”.

In the next few years, though, the rest of the rock scene would come around to what Cornell was getting at, making rootsier music that felt a lot more authentic than what was coming out of Los Angeles at the time. Guns N’ Roses may have released a grand statement, but it sometimes takes something this extravagant for people to start paying attention to authenticity again.

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