The Breeders started as the side project of Kim Deal, who was with the Pixies at the time, but often at odds with their frontman, Frank Black. Written and sung by Deal, "Cannonball" made the US Hot 100 - something the Pixies never did.
Deal formed the band with Tonya Donelly of Throwing Muses (and later, Belly), and they released their first album, Pod, in 1990 (Kim played bass in the Pixies; she switched to guitar with The Breeders). The Safari EP followed in 1992, with Kim's sister Kelley Deal joining the band. Donelly left for Last Splash, with drummer Jim MacPherson coming on board to round out the band with Josephine Wiggs. When Kelley got caught in a drug bust in 1995, Kim morphed the band into the Amps, which released the album Pacer in 1995. The Breeders would return in 2002 with the album Title TK.
The song was originally titled "Grunggae," a combination of "grunge" and "reggae." The name came from Kim Deal thinking the accented riff resembled the accent in reggae.
The British music paper Melody Maker named this song their Single of the Year for 1993.
Mojo magazine May 2013 asked Kim Deal if she had a sense this song would be a hit. She replied: "Did we record a song that opened with me saying, 'Check 1-2,' and then loads of vocal feedback from my brother's harmonica mike, and think, 'This is destined for radio?' That was the sort of thing that didn't get you played on the radio then. We thought no one would play it."
The loud/soft dynamics in this song is something Kim Deal brought over from the Pixies. The titular cannonball could portend the aggressive part of the track. Most songs with the cannonball metaphor (Supertramp
, Damien Rice
) use it to indicate a person who is reckless in love. Deal's lyrics are designed to complement the melody; we wouldn't recommend reading too much into lyrics like "I'll be your whatever you want, the bong in this reggae song."
The video was directed by Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon.
The single was released as a 4-song EP, which also included a cover version of Aerosmith's "Lord of the Thighs
Nissan used this in commercials for the 2000 Sentra. The song was also heard in trailers for the South Park movie.