The Dark and Surreal Story Behind Soundgarden's Black Hole Sun

Soundgarden's Black Hole Sun is one of the most iconic songs of the 1990s, a grunge masterpiece that combines haunting lyrics, psychedelic melodies, and a disturbing music video. But what is the meaning behind this song, and how did it come to be?

The Origin and Recording of Black Hole Sun
Black Hole Sun was written by Soundgarden's lead singer and frontman, Chris Cornell, in his car as he was driving home one night in Seattle. He later explained that he was inspired by a misheard phrase from a news anchor on TV:

"I wrote it in my head driving home from Bear Creek Studio in Woodinville, a 35–40 minute drive from Seattle. It sparked from something a news anchor said on TV and I heard wrong. I heard 'blah blah blah black hole sun blah blah blah'. I thought that would make an amazing song title, but what would it sound like?"

Cornell then came up with the chords and melody for the song, and recorded a four-track demo in his basement. He brought the demo to the band's producer, Michael Beinhorn, who was impressed by the song and suggested that it should be included on the band's fourth studio album, Superunknown.

The band recorded the song at Bad Animals Studio in Seattle, with Beinhorn producing. Cornell later said that he wanted the song to sound "surreal" and "dreamy", and that he used a lot of Beatles-inspired harmonies and chord changes. He also said that he wrote the lyrics in about 15 minutes, without much thought or analysis:

The Composition and Meaning of Black Hole Sun
Black Hole Sun is a grunge song that incorporates elements of psychedelic rock, alternative rock, and hard rock. It has a length of 5:18 minutes, and is composed of four verses, four choruses, a bridge, and an outro. The song is in the key of G major, with a tempo of 108 beats per minute.

The song begins with a quiet intro of acoustic guitar and electric guitar feedback, followed by Cornell's vocals singing the first verse:

> In my eyes
In disguise
As no one knows
Hides the face
Lies the snake
The sun
In my disgrace

The lyrics are vague and cryptic, but they seem to suggest a sense of alienation and deception, as well as a reference to the biblical serpent that tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden. The chorus then follows, with Cornell singing over distorted guitars and drums:

> Black hole sun
Won't you come
And wash away the rain
Black hole sun
Won't you come
Won't you come

The chorus is the most memorable part of the song, with its catchy melody and repetition. The meaning of the phrase "black hole sun" is unclear, but it could be interpreted as a metaphor for death, despair, or nihilism. The narrator seems to be asking for an end to his suffering, or for a cosmic event that would destroy everything.

The second verse then repeats the same structure as the first verse, with slightly different lyrics:

> Stuttering
Cold and damp
Steal the warm wind
Tired friend
Times are gone
For honest men
And sometimes
Far too long
For snakes

The lyrics continue to express a sense of hopelessness and betrayal, as well as a criticism of society and human nature. The narrator seems to be disillusioned with his friends and his world, and feels like he has been waiting too long for justice or redemption.

The second chorus then repeats the same structure as the first chorus, followed by a bridge that features a guitar solo by Sambora. The bridge then leads into the third verse, which has different lyrics from the previous verses:

> In my shoes
A walking sleep
And my youth
I pray to keep
Heaven send
Hell away
No one sings
Like you anymore

The lyrics here are more personal and nostalgic than before. The narrator seems to be reminiscing about his past and his innocence, and wishing for a better fate. He also praises someone who has a unique voice or talent, possibly referring to his lover or his idol.

The third chorus then repeats the same structure as the previous choruses, followed by another guitar solo by Sambora. The outro then begins with Cornell singing over acoustic guitar:

> Hang my head
Drown my fear
Till you all just disappear

The lyrics here are more resigned and bitter than before. The narrator seems to be giving up on his life and his world, and wishing for everyone else to vanish.

The outro then ends with a fade-out of electric guitar feedback and drums.

The Music Video and Reception of Black Hole Sun
Black Hole Sun was released as the third single from Superunknown on May 13th 1994. It became Soundgarden's most successful single ever, reaching number one on the Billboard Album Rock Tracks chart for seven weeks. It also reached number two on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart for five weeks.

The song received critical acclaim from music critics and fans alike. It was praised for its musical complexity and originality, as well as its emotional depth and power. It was also considered to be one of the best songs of the 1990s.

The song was accompanied by a music video directed by Howard Greenhalgh. The video features surreal imagery of people living in a suburban neighborhood under a distorted sun. The video shows various scenes of people smiling unnaturally or performing bizarre actions such as eating insects or melting into pools of liquid.

The video also shows scenes of Soundgarden performing the song in an open field surrounded by barbed wire fences. The video ends with an explosion that engulfs everything in flames.

The video was inspired by various sources such as Salvador Dali's paintings, Ray Bradbury's short stories, David Lynch's films, and The Twilight Zone episodes.

The video was also highly acclaimed by critics and viewers alike. It won several awards such as Best Metal/Hard Rock Video at the 1994 MTV Video Music Awards and Best Special Effects at the 1995 MTV Video Music Awards Brazil.

The video was also ranked as one of the best music videos of all time by various publications such as Rolling Stone and VH1.

The Legacy and Influence of Black Hole Sun
Black Hole Sun is widely regarded as Soundgarden's signature song and one of their best works ever. It is also considered to be one of the greatest songs of all time by various sources such as Rolling Stoneand Pitchfork.

The song has been covered by many artists such as Peter Frampton, Norah Jones, Amy Lee, and Postmodern Jukebox.

The song has also been featured in many films such as True Lies, Collateral,and Avengers: Endgame.

The song has also been referenced or parodied in many TV shows such as The Simpsons, South Park,and Family Guy.

Black Hole Sun is a song that has transcended its genre and time period, becoming a timeless classic that resonates with generations of listeners.

It is a song that showcases Soundgarden's musical genius and artistic vision, as well as Chris Cornell's vocal prowess and lyrical talent. It is a song that explores themes such as alienation, despair, nostalgia, and death, with an eerie beauty and haunting power. It is a song that captures the essence of grunge, but also transcends it, creating its own unique sound and style.

It is a song that deserves its place among the greatest songs ever written, and among the stars in the black hole sun.
Giovanni Gagliano

Passionate about music I wrote my first article for "Given To Rock" in 2012, reaching now 30K global followers. I am also a musician, gigging around London.

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