Black Hole Sun

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"Black Hole Sun"
Single by Soundgarden
from the album Superunknown
  • "Like Suicide" (acoustic)
  • "Kickstand" (live)
StudioBad Animals (Seattle, Washington)
Songwriter(s)Chris Cornell
Soundgarden singles chronology
"The Day I Tried to Live"
"Black Hole Sun"
"My Wave"
Music video
"Black Hole Sun" on YouTube

"Black Hole Sun" is a song by American rock band Soundgarden. Written by frontman Chris Cornell, the song was released in 1994 as the third single from the band's fourth studio album, Superunknown (1994). Considered to be the band's signature song, it topped the Billboard Album Rock Tracks chart, where it spent a total of seven weeks at number one. Despite peaking at number two on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart, "Black Hole Sun" finished as the number-one track of 1994 for that listing. Worldwide, the single reached the top 10 in Australia, Canada, France, and Ireland, while in Iceland, it reached number one.

"Black Hole Sun" was included on Soundgarden's 1997 greatest hits album A-Sides and also appeared on the 2010 compilation album Telephantasm.

Origin and recording[edit]

"Black Hole Sun" was written by frontman Chris Cornell. In 2014, Cornell explained the song's origins to Uncut Magazine:

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? It all came together, pretty much the whole arrangement including the guitar solo that's played beneath the riff. I spent a lot of time spinning those melodies in my head so I wouldn't forget them. I got home and whistled it into a Dictaphone. The next day I brought it into the real world, assigning a couple of key changes in the verse to make the melodies more interesting. Then I wrote the lyrics and that was similar, a stream of consciousness based on the feeling I got from the chorus and title.[1]

Cornell said that he wrote the song in about 15 minutes.[2] He used a Gretsch guitar to write the song, and commented, "I wrote the song thinking the band wouldn't like it—then it became the biggest hit of the summer."[3] Cornell came up with the song while using a Leslie speaker. Guitarist Kim Thayil said that the Leslie model 16 speaker was perfect for the song as "it's very Beatlesque and has a distinctive sound. It ended up changing the song completely."[4] Thayil said that the song "wasn't safe as milk, but it wasn't glass in someone's eye either. It was the spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down. Now it's the 'Dream On' of our set."[5] The song was performed in a slightly sharp drop D tuning, similar to the tuning used on the band's first single, "Hunted Down". Drummer Matt Cameron called the song "a huge departure". Credit is due to Michael Beinhorn and Brendan O'Brien, producer and recording engineer, respectively.

Appearing on The Pods & Sods Network in July 2017, Beinhorn detailed the process of recording Superunknown and shared his reaction to first hearing "Black Hole Sun": "I think for the rest of my entire life, until I draw my last breath, I'll never ever forgot how I felt when they started playing that song. From the very first few notes, I felt like I'd been hit by a thunderbolt. I was just absolutely stunned. What in the world is this? I get goosebumps thinking about it now."[6]


Musically, "Black Hole Sun" has been described as grunge,[8][9] psychedelic rock,[10] alternative rock,[11] hard rock,[12] and stoner rock.[13] Regarding the song's lyrics, Cornell stated, "It's just sort of a surreal dreamscape, a weird, play-with-the-title kind of song."[14] He also said 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."[15] In another interview he elaborated further, stating, "It's funny because hits are usually sort of congruent, sort of an identifiable lyric idea, and that song pretty much had none. The chorus lyric is kind of beautiful and easy to remember. Other than that, I sure didn't have an understanding of it after I wrote it. I was just sucked in by the music and I was painting a picture with the lyrics. There was no real idea to get across."[16] Commenting upon how the song was misinterpreted as being positive, Cornell said, "No one seems to get this, but 'Black Hole Sun' is sad. But because the melody is really pretty, everyone thinks it's almost chipper, which is ridiculous."[17] When asked about the line, "Times are gone for honest men", Cornell said:

It's really difficult for a person to create their own life and their own freedom. It's going to become more and more difficult, and it's going to create more and more disillusioned people who become dishonest and angry and are willing to fuck the next guy to get what they want. There's so much stepping on the backs of other people in our profession. We've been so lucky that we've never had to do that. Part of it was because of our own tenacity, and part of it was because we were lucky.[18]

Release and critical reception[edit]

"Black Hole Sun" was released in mid-1994 and became the most successful song from Superunknown on the American rock charts and arguably the band's most recognizable and popular song. It appeared on Billboard magazine's Hot 100 Airplay chart, reaching the top 30. The following week it debuted on the Top 40 Mainstream, where it peaked at number nine in its eighth week and remained on the chart until its 20th week. The song peaked at number one on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks chart and number two on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart. The song spent a total of seven weeks at number one on the Mainstream Rock chart. At the 1995 Grammy Awards, "Black Hole Sun" received the award for Best Hard Rock Performance and received a nomination for Best Rock Song.[19]

Outside the United States, the single was released in Australia, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. In Canada, the song reached the top 10 on the RPM 100 Hit Tracks chart. It remained in the top 10 for three weeks and became the band's highest-charting song in Canada. "Black Hole Sun" reached the UK top 20 and was the last single from the album that charted in the UK top 20; it remains the band's highest charting single in the UK. "Black Hole Sun" debuted at number 10 in Australia but quickly descended the chart; however, widespread airplay and a promotional visit to Australia stimulated a resurgence of interest in Superunknown. "Black Hole Sun" would peak at number six on the Australian Singles Chart. "Black Hole Sun" reached the top 30 in Germany, the Netherlands, and New Zealand, and was a top-10 success in France and Ireland. It topped the Icelandic Singles Chart for a week and was a moderate top-20 success in Sweden. The single has sold over three million copies worldwide.[20]

Greg Prato of AllMusic called the song "one of the few bright spots" of mid-1994, when "the world was still reeling from Nirvana leader Kurt Cobain's suicide the previous April". He said, "The song had a psychedelic edge to it (especially evident in the verse's guitar part), as the composition shifted between sedate melodicism and gargantuan guitar riffs. The lyrics were classic Chris Cornell—lines didn't exactly make sense on paper but did within the song."[21] Ann Powers of Blender proclaimed that "Cornell's fixation with the Beatles pays off with the hit single 'Black Hole Sun' ".[22] James Masterton wrote in his weekly UK chart commentary, "Easily the most commercial single the US band have released to date".[23] Jon Pareles of The New York Times said, "The Beatles' techniques—fuzz-toned low chords, legato lead-guitar hooks and lumpy Ringo Starr-style drumming...are linked to Lennon-style melody in 'Black Hole Sun'."[24] J.D. Considine of Rolling Stone stated, "With its yearning, Lennonesque melody and watery, Harrison-style guitar, 'Black Hole Sun' is a wonderful exercise in Beatleisms; trouble is, it's not a very good song, offering more in the way of mood and atmosphere than melodic direction."[25]

The solo for "Black Hole Sun", performed by Thayil, was ranked number 63 on Guitar World's list of the "100 Greatest Guitar Solos",[26] and number 56 on Total Guitar's list of the "100 Hottest Guitar Solos".[27] The song was included on VH1's countdown of the "100 Greatest Songs of the '90s" at number 25.[28] It was also included on VH1's countdown of the "100 Greatest Hard Rock Songs" at number 77.[29] According to Nielsen Music's year-end report for 2019, "Black Hole Sun" was the ninth most-played song of the decade on mainstream rock radio with 125,000 spins. All of the songs in the top 10 were from the 1990s.[30] In 2017, Billboard ranked the song number four on their list of the 15 greatest Soundgarden songs,[31] and in 2021, Kerrang ranked the song number one on their list of the 20 greatest Soundgarden songs.[32]

Music video[edit]

The surreal and apocalyptic music video for "Black Hole Sun" was directed by British video director Howard Greenhalgh,[33] produced by Megan Hollister for Why Not Films (London, England), shot by Ivan Bartos, and features post-production work by 525 Post Production (Hollywood, California) and Soho 601 Effects (London). The video follows a suburban neighborhood and its vain inhabitants with comically exaggerated grins, which are eventually swallowed up when the Sun suddenly turns into a black hole, while the band performs the song somewhere in an open field. In the video, Cornell can be seen wearing a fork necklace given to him by Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon.[2] In an online chat, the band stated that the video "was entirely the director's idea", and added, "Our take on it was that at that point in making videos, we just wanted to pretend to play and not look that excited about it."[34] They said that the video was one of the few Soundgarden videos the band was satisfied with.[35]

The video was released in June 1994.[36] After several weeks of airplay on MTV, a second version of the video was substituted containing more elaborate visual effects than the original, including the addition of a computer-generated black hole. The music video for "Black Hole Sun" became a hit on MTV and received the award for Best Metal/Hard Rock Video at the 1994 MTV Video Music Awards.[37] In 1995, it received the Clio Award for Alternative Music Video.[38] The video is available on the CD-ROM Alive in the Superunknown.


The information regarding accolades attributed to "Black Hole Sun" is adapted in part from Acclaimed Music.[39]

Publication Country Accolade Year Rank
Guitar World United States "100 Greatest Guitar Solos"[26] 2007 63
VH1 United States "100 Greatest Songs of the '90s"[28] 2007 25
VH1 United States "100 Greatest Hard Rock Songs"[29] 2008 77
Rolling Stone United States "500 Greatest Songs of All Time"[40] 2021 368
Kerrang! United Kingdom "100 Greatest Singles of All Time"[41] 2002 49
Q United Kingdom "The 1001 Best Songs Ever"[42] 2003 543
Total Guitar United Kingdom "100 Hottest Guitar Solos"[27] 2006 56
The Movement New Zealand "The 100 (+300) Greatest Songs of All Time"[43] 2004 80
The Movement New Zealand "The 77 Best Singles of the 90s"[44] 2004 32
Pure Pop Mexico "The 100 Best Singles of All Time"[45] 2003 100
Spex Germany "Singles of the Year"[46] 1994 15
Rock & Pop Chile "Rock&Pop 20 Años 200 Canciones"[47] 2013 174

Track listing[edit]

All songs were written by Chris Cornell except where noted.

CD (Europe and Germany)

  1. "Black Hole Sun"  – 5:18
  2. "Like Suicide" (acoustic)  – 6:11
  3. "Kickstand" (live) (Cornell, Kim Thayil)  – 1:58

CD (Europe)

  1. "Black Hole Sun"  – 5:18
  2. "Jesus Christ Pose" (live) (Matt Cameron, Cornell, Ben Shepherd, Thayil)  – 7:19
  3. "My Wave" (live) (Cornell, Thayil)  – 4:34
    • Recorded live on August 20, 1993, at Jones Beach Amphitheater in Wantagh, New York
  4. "Spoonman" (Steve Fisk remix)  – 6:55

Box set (UK)

  1. "Black Hole Sun"  – 5:18
  2. "Beyond the Wheel" (live)  – 5:56
  3. "Fell on Black Days" (live)  – 4:45
  4. "Birth Ritual" (demo) (Cornell, Cameron, Thayil)  – 5:50

CD (Australia and Germany)

  1. "Black Hole Sun"  – 5:18
  2. "Jesus Christ Pose" (live) (Cameron, Cornell, Shepherd, Thayil)  – 7:19
  3. "Beyond the Wheel" (live)  – 5:54

7-inch vinyl (UK) and cassette (UK)

  1. "Black Hole Sun"  – 5:18
  2. "My Wave" (live) (Cornell, Thayil)  – 4:34
    • Recorded live on August 20, 1993, at Jones Beach Amphitheater in Wantagh, New York
  3. "Beyond the Wheel" (live)  – 5:54
    • Recorded live on August 18, 1993, at Exhibition Stadium in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

7-inch vinyl (US)

  1. "Black Hole Sun"  – 5:18
  2. "Spoonman"  – 4:06



Certifications and sales for "Black Hole Sun"
Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[80] Gold 35,000^
Italy (FIMI)[81] Gold 25,000
United Kingdom (BPI)[82] Gold 400,000

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.
Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

Release history[edit]

Release dates and formats for "Black Hole Sun"
Region Date Format(s) Label(s) Ref.
United States 1994 A&M [citation needed]
United Kingdom August 8, 1994
  • 7-inch vinyl
  • CD
  • CD box set
  • cassette

In popular culture[edit]

Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock features the song in its downloadable content library, and it is a playable track in the TV mode of Guitar Hero Live.[84]

A cover version in the style of lounge music was performed by Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme.[85]


  1. ^ "Black Hole Sun by Soundgarden". Songfacts. Retrieved January 5, 2019.
  2. ^ a b "Gardener's Question Time". Kerrang!. March 1, 1997.
  3. ^ "Chris Cornell – Cornell Gets Prized Guitars Back From Ex-wife". March 30, 2009.
  4. ^ Gilbert, Jeff. "Sleepless in Seattle". Guitar World. May 1994.
  5. ^ Brambarger, Bradley. "The Modern Age", Billboard. June 8, 1996
  6. ^ "EM54 – Remembering Chris Cornell Part 1". July 25, 2017.
  7. ^ Ashare, Matt (March 4, 1994). "Bloom time". The Boston Phoenix.
  8. ^ Danaher, Michael (August 4, 2014). "The 50 Best Grunge Songs". Paste.
  9. ^ "500 Greatest Albums of All Time". Rolling Stone. May 31, 2012. Retrieved September 26, 2020.
  10. ^ Gerard, Chris (July 24, 2016). "The 100 Greatest Alternative Singles of the '90s - Part 4 (40 - 21)". PopMatters. Retrieved September 26, 2020.
  11. ^ Yglesias, Matthew (May 21, 2007). "The Ultimate Nineties Alt-Rock Playlist". The Atlantic. Retrieved February 16, 2020.
  12. ^ Kaufman, Gil (January 4, 2010). "Soundgarden's Chris Cornell Announces Reunion". MTV News. Retrieved February 16, 2020.
  13. ^ Stanley, Bob (September 13, 2013). "As a Defence, I'm Neutered and Spayed: Grunge". Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Story of Modern Pop. Faber & Faber. p. 698. ISBN 978-0-571-28198-5.
  14. ^ "Soundgarden: The Badass Seed". RIP. April 1994.
  15. ^ Crisafulli, Chuck. "Rogues Gallery". Request. June 1996.
  16. ^ Clay, Jennifer. "Soundgarden: Painting Beautiful Pictures". RIP. June 1996.
  17. ^ True, Everett. "Journey into the Superunknown". Melody Maker. March 19, 1994.
  18. ^ Rolling Stone. January 12, 1995.
  19. ^ "37th Grammy Awards – 1995". Retrieved December 8, 2007.
  20. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Soundgarden > Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved August 11, 2008.
  21. ^ Prato, Greg. "Black Hole Sun > Review". Allmusic. Retrieved on May 19, 2008.
  22. ^ Powers, Ann. "Soundgarden: Superunknown". Blender.
  23. ^ Masterton, James (August 14, 1994). "Week Ending August 20th 1994". Chart Watch UK. Retrieved September 8, 2021.
  24. ^ Pareles, Jon. "RECORDINGS VIEW; Lightening Up On the Gloom In Grunge". The New York Times. March 6, 1994. Retrieved on March 23, 2008.
  25. ^ Consideine, J.D. "Soundgarden: Superunknown" Archived July 5, 2008, at the Wayback Machine. Rolling Stone. July 31, 1997.
  26. ^ a b "100 Greatest Guitar Solos". Guitar World. 2007.
  27. ^ a b "100 Hottest Guitar Solos". Total Guitar. May 2006.
  28. ^ a b "VH1: 100 Greatest Songs of the '90s". VH1. Retrieved August 9, 2008.
  29. ^ a b "100 Greatest Hard Rock Songs". VH1.
  30. ^ a b Trapp, Philip (January 14, 2020). "Nirvana Were the Most-Played Band of the Decade on Rock Radio". Loudwire. Retrieved January 23, 2020.
  31. ^ Unterberger, Andrew (May 18, 2017). "The 15 Greatest Soundgarden Songs: Critic's Picks". Billboard. Retrieved April 12, 2022.
  32. ^ Law, Sam (May 10, 2021). "The 20 greatest Soundgarden songs – ranked". Kerrang. Retrieved April 12, 2022.
  33. ^ "Howard Greenhalgh: Exclusive Interview". Archived from the original on November 20, 2007. Retrieved June 22, 2008.
  34. ^ "Interview With Chris Cornell and Kim Thayil of Soundgarden". Spin Online. November 15, 1995.
  35. ^ Maloof, Rich. "Kim Thayil of Soundgarden: Down on the Upbeat". Guitar Magazine. July 1996.
  36. ^ "Soundgarden music videos". Music Video Database. Archived from the original on June 2, 2008. Retrieved February 22, 2008.
  37. ^ "1994 MTV Video Music Awards". Retrieved February 20, 2008.
  38. ^ "Clio Awards Search Archive". Archived from the original on February 12, 2008. Retrieved February 20, 2008.
  39. ^ ""Black Hole Sun" accolades". Acclaimed Music. Retrieved May 6, 2008.
  40. ^ "Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. September 15, 2021. Retrieved January 29, 2022.
  41. ^ "100 Greatest Singles of All Time". Kerrang!. Retrieved May 6, 2008.
  42. ^ "The 1001 Best Songs Ever". Q. Retrieved May 6, 2008.
  43. ^ "The 100 (+300) Greatest Songs of All Time". The Movement. Retrieved May 6, 2008.
  44. ^ "The 77 Best Singles of the 90s". The Movement. Retrieved May 6, 2008.
  45. ^ "The 100 Best Singles of All Time". Juice. Retrieved May 6, 2008.
  46. ^ "Best – Singles of the Year". Retrieved April 16, 2008.
  47. ^ Soundgarden – Black Hole Sun Rock & Pop Chile
  48. ^ "Soundgarden – Black Hole Sun". ARIA Top 50 Singles. Retrieved November 7, 2016.
  49. ^ "Soundgarden – Black Hole Sun" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved July 2, 2019.
  50. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 2578." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved November 7, 2016.
  51. ^ Schlüter, Johan (October 7, 1994). "Official Danish Singles Chart". IFPI Report. No. Week 40. IFPI Danmark.
  52. ^ "Eurochart Hot 100 Singles (Last Week's position)" (PDF). Music & Media. September 17, 1994. p. 13. Retrieved August 3, 2018.
  53. ^ Pennanen, Timo (2006). Sisältää hitin - levyt ja esittäjät Suomen musiikkilistoilla vuodesta 1972 (in Finnish) (1st ed.). Helsinki: Tammi. ISBN 978-951-1-21053-5.
  54. ^ "Soundgarden – Black Hole Sun" (in French). Les classement single. Retrieved November 7, 2016.
  55. ^ "Soundgarden – Black Hole Sun" (in German). GfK Entertainment charts. Retrieved October 10, 2018.
  56. ^ "Íslenski Listinn Topp 40 (29.9.–5.10. '94)". Dagblaðið Vísir (in Icelandic). September 29, 1994. p. 16. Retrieved October 1, 2019.
  57. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Black Hole Sun". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved November 7, 2016.
  58. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – week 46, 1994" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40. Retrieved July 2, 2019.
  59. ^ "Soundgarden – Black Hole Sun" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved July 2, 2019.
  60. ^ "Soundgarden – Black Hole Sun". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved November 7, 2016.
  61. ^ "Official Scottish Singles Sales Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved July 2, 2019.
  62. ^ "Soundgarden – Black Hole Sun". Singles Top 100. Retrieved November 7, 2016.
  63. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved July 2, 2019.
  64. ^ "Official Rock & Metal Singles Chart Top 40". Official Charts Company. Retrieved November 3, 2012.
  65. ^ "Soundgarden Chart History (Radio Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved November 7, 2016.
  66. ^ "Soundgarden Chart History (Alternative Airplay)". Billboard. Retrieved November 7, 2016.
  67. ^ "Soundgarden Chart History (Mainstream Rock)". Billboard. Retrieved November 7, 2016.
  68. ^ "Soundgarden Chart History (Pop Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved November 7, 2016.
  69. ^ "USA Cashbox Charts Summaries". popmusichistory. Retrieved December 14, 2022.
  70. ^ "Soundgarden Chart History (Digital Song Sales)". Billboard. Retrieved November 4, 2017.
  71. ^ "Soundgarden Chart History (Hot Rock & Alternative Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved November 4, 2017.
  72. ^ Ryan, Gavin (2011). Australia's Music Charts 1988–2010. Mt. Martha, VIC, Australia: Moonlight Publishing.
  73. ^ "RPM Top 100 Hit Tracks of 1994". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved July 2, 2019.
  74. ^ "Árslistinn 1994". Dagblaðið Vísir (in Icelandic). January 2, 1995. p. 16. Retrieved May 30, 2020.
  75. ^ "Jaarlijsten 1994" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40. Retrieved May 19, 2022.
  76. ^ "Jaaroverzichten – Single 1994" (in Dutch). MegaCharts. Retrieved July 2, 2019.
  77. ^ "Årslista Singlar, 1994" (in Swedish). Sverigetopplistan. Retrieved May 30, 2020.
  78. ^ Macdonald, Patrick (December 23, 1994). "Music Notes". The Seattle Times. The Seattle Times Company. Retrieved July 2, 2019.
  79. ^ "Hot Rock Songs – Year-End 2017". Billboard. Retrieved May 19, 2020.
  80. ^ "The ARIA Report: Issue 1422 (Week Commencing 29 May 2017)" (PDF). Australian Recording Industry Association. May 29, 2017. p. 3. Archived from the original (PDF) on May 29, 2017. Retrieved June 20, 2019.
  81. ^ "Italian single certifications – Soundgarden – Black Hole Sun" (in Italian). Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana. Retrieved January 14, 2021. Select "2019" in the "Anno" drop-down menu. Select "Black Hole Sun" in the "Filtra" field. Select "Singoli" under "Sezione".
  82. ^ "British single certifications – Soundgarden – Black Hole Sun". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved July 30, 2021.
  83. ^ "Single Releases". Music Week. August 6, 1994. p. 21.
  84. ^ Mastrapa, Gus (August 3, 2010). "New Guitar Hero Packed With Soundgarden's Greatest Hits". Wired. Retrieved August 3, 2010.
  85. ^ "Steve and Eydie: Black Hole Sun (1997)". Elsewhere by Graham Reid. April 24, 2013. Retrieved June 16, 2022.

External links[edit]