Chris Cornell was a born rock star, with the looks and talent to sell out arenas, but he was, at heart, much too complex an artist for just that. His vocals had power and hooks, but also depth, subtlety and authentic emotion, and so many his songs will live forever. Because we're assholes, we asked you to pick his single greatest vocal performance, and you came back swinging across social media with a range of great picks. Below are the top five vote-getters.
It's an overused word, but it would be hard to describe "Jesus Christ Pose" with any term other than "epic." After over a minute of instrumental build-up, Chris Cornell bursts onto the song in a piercing falsetto, hitting some of the highest notes he could muster, his vocals tangled in a sonic battle with Kim Thayil's off-kilter guitar work. But as always, Cornell's vocals win out in end, as he drives the song to its, yes, epic climax.
After a few stunning Soundgarden LPs, Chris Cornell gave us the first glimpse into his full range as a singer on the Singles soundtrack, with "Seasons." An acoustic number, it's just Cornell and a guitar and nowhere to hide. It's here that we truly discovered the deep emotionality and the jaw-dropping versatility of this incredible vocalist.
Chris Cornell pushed his range to the limit yet again on this forlorn highlight from Audioslave's eponymous debut, bounding between octaves with Olympian perseverance. Not even Tom Morello's shrieking solo — often cited as the track's primary sonic landmark — could overshadow with his haunting, frisson-laden swoops on the verses, the agonizing screams heralding its conclusion — or any other aspect of his performance, for that matter.
Starting with a sliding bass line and a discordant guitar riff, this Badmotorfinger standout doesn't truly lift off until Chris Cornell's otherworldly wail comes into play, sewing it all together perfectly. Songs like "Slaves and Bulldozers" helped to cement the Soundgarden frontman as one of the most important singers of the 20th century, and a modern-day Ronnie James Dio when it came to vocal dexterity.
Chris Cornell wrote "Say Hello 2 Heaven" before Temple of a Dog was even a thing. His friend Andy Wood, of Mother Love Bone, had just died from a heroin overdose, and Cornell was on tour in Europe with Soundgarden, too heartbroken to talk to anyone about the tragedy. He channeled all his emotion into this song and ultimately his vocal performance on it, instead. Achingly bitter sweet at the time, "Say Hello 2 Heaven," which rides almost solely on Cornell's bluesy, slow-burning, seemingly effortless delivery, takes on a whole other level of almost unbearable poignancy today.