Timbaland: Shock Value II

RIYL: Scott Storch, Dr. Dre, Pharrell Williams

It has the Roman numeral II after its title, but Timbaland’s latest effort has more in common with the artistically bankrupt misery common to watered-down later sequels – think “The Karate Kid III,” “Jason X,” and “Superman IV: The Quest for Peace” – than any mere sophomore jinx can explain. As with 2007’s Shock Value, Timbaland assembles an eclectic-by-modern-standards group of guest vocalists to try and create a sort of jukebox effect; problem is, the once-innovative producer didn’t bother to come up with any interesting beats, and most of the artists in question – including Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry, and the dreaded Chad Kroeger – don’t have enough personality to carry these pedestrian tracks on their own.


All things considered, there really should be some shock value in Timbaland collaborating with the likes of Daughtry and Jet, but there isn’t a song in the bunch that feels like anything more than calculated pandering, and the album lacks the kind of savvy songcraft that makes this kind of blatant soullessness forgivable. As competent as it is deeply unmemorable, Shock Value II will probably squeak out a few hits, but that’ll be more about the marquee value of participants like Justin Timberlake and Drake than anything to do with the music. Modern R&B at its most mechanized and least inspired. (Interscope/Mosley 2009)

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Cornell’s Post-Grunge Woes

Chris Cornell's

As the former front man to 90’s rock icons Audioslave and Soundgarden Chris Cornell played sold-out shows to adoring fans, and celebrated top 10 records. Now more than two years after the split of Audioslave, Cornell’s solo project, Scream—a collaboration with world-renowned beat-maker, Timbaland—has been mixed, mastered, pressed, and distributed to every physical and virtual outlet that can still move product.  With one of the hottest producers, hordes of adoring fans waiting in the wings, and more than five studio albums under his belt what could go wrong you ask. Unfortunately for Cornell, the answer is everything.

From the first synthesized horn and layered guitar of the records opener, whatever message was intended is immediately lost. Cornell’s dynamic voice is buried in cumbersome beats, and inorganic elements that just don’t quite make sense for the grunge master. Rollingstone.com said Scream, “feels like it belongs in a time capsule, a strange mutation that could only have been born this decade.” The general consensus is that this record comes across like a bad Michael McDonald special featuring nothing but Justin Timberlake covers.

It seems as though, for such a well-known rocker, the switch from grunge to synth could only come with criticism. While Timbaland calls Scream, “the best work I’ve done in my career,” Nine Inch Nails front man Trent Reznor publicly bashed Scream on his Twitter account saying, “You know that feeling you get when somebody embarrasses themselves so badly YOU feel uncomfortable? Heard Chris Cornell’s record? Jesus.” Cornell has yet to respond to the attack via tweet, probably because he’s so busy fielding a heap of negative press.

The L.A. Times also gave Scream an abysmal review that read, “Scream, is a fascinating but heartbreaking document of how many wrong decisions one can make in writing and performing a record.” They may be right, but that’s not exactly the kind of press you’re looking for as an artist.

Luckily, there may be light at the end of this long, dark tunnel. While most people would agree that the collaboration between Cornell and Timbaland doesn’t correctly translate to listeners, the musical meat of the record isn’t all that bad. There are some standout moments where an unexpected beat drops, or a clever turnaround sneaks its way in through the mirage of brassy guitars. Will Harris at Bullz-eye.com wrote, “There are some phenomenal choruses [on the record], including “Never Far Away” and “Enemy,” both of which would readily fill most dance floors with little remixing required.” It also helps to know that Cornell is completely behind this new project. In a review on RollingStone.com Cornell said, “Maybe I’m an optimist or just an idiot but I really think the fans will come around to the concept.” In all reality the fans that have stuck with Cornell throughout his musical transformation will, more than likely support this record. Hardcore Cornell fans probably had it pre-ordered months before the release date, without ever hearing a note, and who knows, there might even be a few Timbaland followers just waiting to add this record to their library.

It’s hardly ever well received when an icon goes schizo and completely changes their musical profile. It didn’t work when Garth Brooks channeled Chris Gaines, and in the same respects Chris Cornell is going to have a hard time converting his grunge-hungry fans to Timbaland-heavy beats. The moral of the story here: stick to what you know. Change scares a lot of people, and a change as drastic as the one brought about by Scream is certainly no exception. Better luck next time Chris.