"Outshined" is a song by the American rock band Soundgarden. Written by frontman Chris Cornell, "Outshined" was released in 1991 as the second single from the band's third studio album, Badmotorfinger (1991). The song was included on Soundgarden's 1997 greatest hits album, A-Sides, the 2010 compilation album, Telephantasm and the live album Live on I-5.
"Outshined" was written by frontman Chris Cornell. It features an opening guitar riff and is performed in drop D tuning. The verses are in 7/4 time, an unorthodox meter, common of some Soundgarden songs, such as "Spoonman", which is in 7/4, "Fell on Black Days", which is in 6/4, and "My Wave", which is in 5/4. Guitarist Kim Thayil has said that Soundgarden usually did not consider the time signature of a song until after the band had written it, and said that the use of odd meters was "a total accident."
In an interview, Cornell said, "I've never really been biographical in my lyrics, so when I wrote a line like 'I'm looking California and feeling Minnesota' from 'Outshined', it just felt refreshing." Cornell on the song:
I don't know how everyone else feels ... but I definitely go through periods of extreme self-confidence, feeling like I can do anything. Perhaps a fan will sense that, like in a performance, and the hero image creeps out. But then someone will say something, however insignificant, or I'll get something in my head and, all of a sudden, I'm plummeting in the opposite direction, I'm a piece of shit, and I really can't do anything about it. That's where "Outshined" comes from, and why I'll never consider myself a hero.
Cornell explained the song's most famous lines: "I'm looking California/And feeling Minnesota", in an interview with Details magazine in 1996:
One of the first times I remember writing something personal was on tour. I was feeling really freaky and down, and I looked in the mirror and I was wearing a red T-shirt and some baggy tennis shorts. I remember thinking that as bummed as I felt, I looked like some beach kid. And then I came up with that line—’I’m looking California / And feeling Minnesota,’ from the song ‘Outshined’—and as soon as I wrote it down, I thought it was the dumbest thing. But after the record came out and we went on tour, everybody would be screaming along with that particular line when it came up in the song. That was a shock. How could anyone know that that was one of the most personally specific things I had ever written? It was just a tiny line. But somehow, maybe because it was personal, it just pushed that button.
"Outshined" was released as a single in 1991 in various versions with the previously unreleased B-sides "Cold Bitch", "I Can't Give You Anything", "Girl U Want", "Show Me", "I Don't Care About You", "Can You See Me", and "Homicidal Suicidal". Outside the United States, the single was released commercially in Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.
"Outshined" became an instant hit and a fan favorite, and gained considerable airtime on alternative rock radio stations. "Outshined" features one of the most memorable Soundgarden lyrics, "I'm looking California, and feeling Minnesota". The lyric inspired the title for the 1996 film, Feeling Minnesota, although Soundgarden is not featured on the soundtrack. The lyric "feeling Minnesota" has also been used by ESPN anchor Stuart Scott in reference to Kevin Garnett, who spent the first 11 years of his career as a player for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Steve Huey of AllMusic called the song a "steadily creeping rocker with a main riff that strongly recalled the heavy murk of prime Black Sabbath". He added, "It's a powerful re-imagining of what the Sabbath sound can represent, and the song's encapsulation of early-'90s angst and directionlessness helps make it one of the definitive grunge anthems."
The song is featured on the soundtrack for the 1993 film, True Romance. "Outshined" was part of the soundtrack of the 1994 bike racing game, Road Rash, which received 3DO's 1994 "Soundtrack of the Year" award. It's also a playable song on the 2011 video game Rocksmith.
The music video for "Outshined" was produced by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris and directed by Matt Mahurin, who would later direct the music video for "The Day I Tried to Live". The video features the band performing the song in a steel mill. The video was released in December 1991. It is a fan favorite and gained considerable airtime on MTV, yet the band members themselves disliked it. According to Cornell, Mahurin was too busy concentrating on Metallica's video for "The Unforgiven" while working on the video for "Outshined".
Cornell on the music video:
[Matt Mahurin] does people on the street, social underbelly crap, but it's pretend underbelly. The clip was in the MTV Buzz-bin for a few weeks and then it fell off. About two months later he sent us the real cut, and it was fantastic, way better than the one that got on the air. It was frustrating. The unseen version was dangerous; the released version was a standard hard rock video. He kind of winged it, he was too busy with Metallica.
Thayil on the music video:
All I can remember is that they cut the guitar solo to make the video 'single-length'. I thought that was a stupid thing. Here we are, a guitar band, and the guitar solo—it may not be a great guitar solo—was edited out just for the video. That's ridiculous. It was a heavy song and our most popular video, even though it was a crap video. It never kicks in or explodes; there's no dynamics. The band never loosens up and explores the riff because the solo was taken out.
In another interview, Thayil said:
It was Buzz Bin at MTV and got played a lot. I think when it was in Buzz Bin, simultaneously Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and Pearl Jam's "Alive" were also in 'Buzz Bin' and they were also from Seattle, so maybe we were a little bit overshadowed—a little bit 'outshined' at that point! I didn't like our video either—it stunk! It was a last minute thing. I believe it was the couple who made that Smashing Pumpkins video where they were on the moon and stuff. Well, this was one of their early videos—and I hated it! That's what I remember most about that song—just how much I couldn't stand the video!
An alternate version of the music video for "Outshined" was shown on Canadian television. The video features the band performing the song in a yellow-lit studio.
All songs written by Chris Cornell, except where noted:
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