The dreary beauty of Black Hole Sun met with success


Drew Ruppel, Staff Writer

  Black Hole Sun is the seventh track from the band Soundgarden’s 1994 album entitled Superunknown.  This song is one of the band’s most well-known songs and met with great success when released as the band’s third single in support of Superunknown

     Black Hole Sun started as an idea lead singer Chris Cornell had while driving home from the studio after mishearing a radio news anchor. “I heard ‘blah blah blah black hole sun blah blah blah’. I thought that would make an amazing song title,” according to Uncut Magazine. As for the melody side of the song, that got a humble start with Cornell messing with a Leslie speaker, a type of speaker that spins to give the tremolo effect heard on the track. Interestingly, Cornell has also stated how he thought the band wouldn’t like the song when he showed it to them. 

     The lyrical meaning of Black Hole Sun is shakey. During the recording process, Cornell was adamant about not telling the other band members what the song meant. According to The Ringer, guitarist Kim Thayil has said, “Chris didn’t really like to have to do an exposition on his lyrics.”

This is only affirmed by producer Michael Beinhorn, who, according to The Ringer, got a simple response of, “Well, they’re just some words,” when he asked Cornell what he was singing about. 

     So what’s the true meaning of this track? Absolutely nothing. Cornell told RIP magazine how it was,  “Just sort of a surreal dreamscape, a weird, play-with-the-title kind of song,” also mentioning that, “Lyrically it’s probably the closest to me just playing with words for words’ sake, of anything I’ve written. I guess it worked for a lot of people who heard it, but I have no idea how you’d begin to take that one literally,” This song is a prime example of people being touched by a song due to perceived “deep meanings” when in reality the song’s lyrics are just word vomit that sounds pleasant when accompanied by the instrumentals. Perhaps, there being no real meaning is the best so that the listener can conjure up a meaning the song has for themselves. 

     So what’s my oh-so-important opinion on this song? Well, I think it’s one of the best songs I’ve ever heard. If they had audio examples in dictionaries, “despair” would have this song right next to it. The opening arpeggiated riff is the gloomiest yet entrancing piece of music to scrape my eardrums. It’s tense, lumbering, and awkward in the most captivating way. The verses are high-pitched yet suffocated-sounding guitars juxtaposed with Cornell’s raspy yet resonant voice belting out psychedelic imagery, which like mentioned before, makes you captivated by trying to unravel what the heck he’s talking about. This all comes crashing down with the Overdriven guitars, thundering bass, and almost monotone vocals of the Chorus. It’s amazing how Cornell’s voice can sound so flat yet expressive at the same time. Also of notable mention is the song’s bridge, a heavy descending riff that veils Thayil’s Wah-heavy guitar solo underneath. 

     I’d be doing a great disservice to anyone who isn’t acquainted with this song by failing to mention its accompanying video. For such a dreary, beautiful song like this, the video is a stark juxtaposition filled with trippy yet goofy visuals. The video follows a suburban neighborhood and its residents. The video employs many digital effects like very primitive-looking green screens, cartoonish distortion of the character’s faces, and a metaphorical cherry-on-top of a cheesy CGI black hole swallowing the neighborhood residents. If you get anything out of this article, I implore you to watch the music video for this song in all its 90’s era computer visual glory. 

     To wrap this silly little article up, Black Hole Sun is a 90’s grunge classic that stands out in its uniqueness. Whether you see it as depressing, beautiful, or an odd mix of the two, it’s an undeniably captivating track that I highly recommend to anyone who wants to hear a true highlight of 90’s alt/grunge rock.

5/5 Paws