Author Topic: Singers who (upon reflection) can’t sing  (Read 3792 times)

FerriswheelBueller

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Singers who (upon reflection) can’t sing
« on: June 02, 2021, 03:01:55 AM »
I am a huge Talking Heads fan. Whatever you think about David Byrne (and I think he’s brilliant, and one of the all time greats), you cannot deny his magnetism, his showmanship, and his vision (and execution) as an artist. He is ever-watchable, and one of a kind. An incredible performer.

...not a great voice though. I mean... it’ll do, most of the time, but like... hmmm. I suppose he gets by on the fact that he’s a “frontman” in the purest form of the word, directing the band and offering genre-defying visuals (both for himself and for the band’s aesthetic) but as a singer? He doesn’t really bring much to the table at best.

The open secret back in the day was that matey out of Embrace couldn’t sing a note, but after that England football song they were untouchable so generations of exasperated sound men and studio engineers shouldered his burden.

Any others? I remember being struck by how bloody awful both of the Libertines were on a relisten about 10 years after those records came out and the fug of overly-loyal fandom had shifted. Must be loads of others but fucked if I can think of any.

Re: Singers who (upon reflection) can’t sing
« Reply #1 on: June 02, 2021, 03:05:19 AM »
The thing about Byrne is that whenever you hear people trying to rip off his style, (I'm thinking here of when Adrian Belew was doing the vocals in King Crimson and been excessively Byrney) you realise how hard that nerdy thing is to pull off without being annoying, especially over a whole LP.

Rev+

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Re: Singers who (upon reflection) can’t sing
« Reply #2 on: June 02, 2021, 03:49:08 AM »
He can pull a dramatic move and a certain kind of phrasing, but you've got to be very generous to rate Luke Haines as a singer.

Doesn't matter though, does it?  On an actual performance level it's all theatre, so there are no good and bad singers, just good and bad performers. 

Someone will say Mark E Smith, and that someone can fuck off before they even start.  He was just shit all over.

FerriswheelBueller

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Re: Singers who (upon reflection) can’t sing
« Reply #3 on: June 02, 2021, 04:00:01 AM »
Mark E. Smith is another “frontman” though, directing the aesthetics, ethos, and lyricism of the band while also acting as a spokesperson and on-stage character to draw in the punters and critics.

Then again, I would say that wouldn’t I, because I love the Fall (and not just because Stewart Lee tells me to).

Re: Singers who (upon reflection) can’t sing
« Reply #4 on: June 02, 2021, 04:13:39 AM »
MES and Kim Gordon are the canonical wrong answers to this question.

Landfill indie must have been the worst period for voice in pop music ever. No wonder people wanted to hear talent show winners instead.

(I'm thinking here of when Adrian Belew was doing the vocals in King Crimson and been excessively Byrney) 

Always found this totally embarassing and hard to take even a minute of. Discipline isn't for me, but there is very good music on the next two that sounds like Red mixed with Eno's Before and After Science, and he kills it. It's completely superfluous! They're playing postrock with Seinfeld bass, not what if Byrne fronted The Knack.

If ever a band needed to put out instrumental mixes of all their records, its Crim.
« Last Edit: June 02, 2021, 04:28:11 AM by Video Game Fan 2000 »

famethrowa

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Re: Singers who (upon reflection) can’t sing
« Reply #5 on: June 02, 2021, 04:43:54 AM »
I'm saying that Talk Talk guy. Obviously never learnt (or thought about) how to breathe while singing, that's why we got this throaty strangled noise every time he got near a microphone.

Elderly Sumo Prophecy

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Re: Singers who (upon reflection) can’t sing
« Reply #6 on: June 02, 2021, 05:23:14 AM »
Ian Brown

SpiderChrist

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Re: Singers who (upon reflection) can’t sing
« Reply #7 on: June 02, 2021, 07:01:11 AM »
I'm saying that Talk Talk guy. Obviously never learnt (or thought about) how to breathe while singing, that's why we got this throaty strangled noise every time he got near a microphone.

This has made me very angry. So angry.

My nomination is famethrowa’s favourite singer. Or Tom Jones.

Re: Singers who (upon reflection) can’t sing
« Reply #8 on: June 02, 2021, 07:01:50 AM »
I remember getting into The Flaming Lips when they released The Soft Bulletin and the thin reediness of Coyne's voice slowly wearing my tolerance down. I have a high tolerance for "quirky" vocals, I love Neil Young's reedy singing but I just can't tolerate WC and therefore the Flaming Lips are a no-go area for me.

BeardFaceMan

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Re: Singers who (upon reflection) can’t sing
« Reply #9 on: June 02, 2021, 07:51:28 AM »
Yer man out of Ash, that was the first time I heard a singer and thought "I could be in a band".

The Mollusk

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Re: Singers who (upon reflection) can’t sing
« Reply #10 on: June 02, 2021, 08:21:29 AM »
My stepdad once told me David Bowie was “a great performer but couldn’t sing to save his life”. I found that bitter pill especially hard to take considering his favourite band is The Jam.

Dr Rock

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Re: Singers who (upon reflection) can’t sing
« Reply #11 on: June 02, 2021, 08:22:21 AM »
Robert Smith.

Re: Singers who (upon reflection) can’t sing
« Reply #12 on: June 02, 2021, 08:36:35 AM »
Brett Anderson

I'd probably quite like Suede if they had a different singer, but his voice is proper nails-down-the-blackboard to me.

Lisa Jesusandmarychain

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Re: Singers who (upon reflection) can’t sing
« Reply #13 on: June 02, 2021, 09:39:49 AM »
Top Kenneth Williams lookalike Fred Schneider from the B- 52s. It's a good job the two lasses in that band are quite handy at the ol' singin'.

Re: Singers who (upon reflection) can’t sing
« Reply #14 on: June 02, 2021, 09:40:55 AM »
I'm saying that Talk Talk guy. Obviously never learnt (or thought about) how to breathe while singing, that's why we got this throaty strangled noise every time he got near a microphone.

How very dare you!  Mark Hollis may have had a unique and unconventional singing voice, but he knew how to use it.  I'd've said it was the opposite of 'throaty' - his tone was very pure, and his live performances were always pitch-perfect.

These days most singers go through so much pitch correction and production that it's hard to tell who can genuinely sing and who can't, but before this kind of tech was widespread in the 90s, you could get a feeling from live performances for who was just winging it.  The 90s was full of bands like this who would've needed 50 vocal takes in the studio just to get something satisfactory down.

Exhibit A (which I posted the other day): Sarah Cracknell and Tim Burgess
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qSEo383ThRo

Re: Singers who (upon reflection) can’t sing
« Reply #15 on: June 02, 2021, 09:58:05 AM »
All my favourite singers couldn't sing.

David Berman, Lawrence, Lee Hazlewood, Stephen Pastel, Aidan Moffatt, sure there are loads more who would get laughed off The Voice but whose voices I love and are perfect for the songs they write.

In terms of singers who are supposed to be able to sing but are just shit, I'd say Isobel Campbell.

Re: Singers who (upon reflection) can’t sing
« Reply #16 on: June 02, 2021, 10:05:57 AM »
I agree with you. And there are plenty of people who can technically sing well but sound bloody awful because of what they sing.


Anyway, imagine if Lou Reed had sung Heroin in a Mariah Carey voice.

(It'd be great possibly)

FerriswheelBueller

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Re: Singers who (upon reflection) can’t sing
« Reply #17 on: June 02, 2021, 10:20:09 AM »
Byrne hides a bit in a lot of Talking Heads stuff I like by doing his talky-sing voice (“you may find yourself! In another part of the world!”) and when an actual honest to god bit of singing comes up he gets the backing band to sing it with him and sweeten the vocals (“letting the days go by...”).

Re: Singers who (upon reflection) can’t sing
« Reply #18 on: June 02, 2021, 10:33:44 AM »
If you want to be a frontperson or pop star, having a recognisable voice is more important than being able to "sing" in a technical sense. The persona and charisma will take you a lot further than being able to sound like Pavarotti.

Re: Singers who (upon reflection) can’t sing
« Reply #19 on: June 02, 2021, 10:33:54 AM »
How very dare you!  Mark Hollis may have had a unique and unconventional singing voice, but he knew how to use it.  I'd've said it was the opposite of 'throaty' - his tone was very pure, and his live performances were always pitch-perfect.

The earlier stuff I think Hollis often elevates the material and I think the development of the bands style almost feels like looking for a sound that matches the soulfulness of his vocals.

I remember Byrne commenting on his own lack of singing ability in that section were he interviews himself in blackface.

Re: Singers who (upon reflection) can’t sing
« Reply #20 on: June 02, 2021, 11:39:35 AM »
Live clips of Ian Brown's singing are almost unbelievably shite.

kalowski

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Re: Singers who (upon reflection) can’t sing
« Reply #21 on: June 02, 2021, 11:41:11 AM »
Linda McCartney.

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Re: Singers who (upon reflection) can’t sing
« Reply #22 on: June 02, 2021, 11:42:23 AM »
Kurt Wagner from Lambchop.

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Re: Singers who (upon reflection) can’t sing
« Reply #23 on: June 02, 2021, 11:48:49 AM »
them rap singers. they're not even trying!

Re: Singers who (upon reflection) can’t sing
« Reply #24 on: June 02, 2021, 11:56:19 AM »
Bowie might not have a great range but his voice is lovely and his delivery is really powerful.

I hope the Tom Jones suggestion was a joke. Nobody can top Delilah. Incredible set of pipes on that man.

I'm not sure if Rihanna can sing. I think her ability - whatever there is of it - is so exceptionally well-hidden in her songs that she probably can't sing. Kylie Minogue is a little bit more obvious.

If you've seen I Can See Your Voice, most of the celebs on there have been vastly outperformed by some of the guests. This includes Nadine Coyle, Ronan Keating and Louise Rednapp.

Lisa Jesusandmarychain

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Re: Singers who (upon reflection) can’t sing
« Reply #25 on: June 02, 2021, 11:57:42 AM »
Yer  woman who looks like Judith Crumble's more serious, slightly less glamorous sister out of  Black Squid Midi, New Road The Dry Cleanings !!

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Re: Singers who (upon reflection) can’t sing
« Reply #26 on: June 02, 2021, 12:01:11 PM »
Bernard Sumner, though like a lot of these 'singers who can't sing', his lack of technique (pardon the pun) was part of the charm of early New Order. In 1985/86, working with John Robie taught him about writing songs to fit his natural key and range and he started taking singing lessons. He still wasn't the most confident or technically gifted vocalist after that, but they started making songs that fitted his voice (for better or worse).

I'm not sure if Rihanna can sing. I think it might be very well-disguised that she can't hold a tune. Kylie Minogue is a little bit more obvious.
In Rihanna's version of Diamonds, the harmony vocals are from Sia's vocal from the demo for the song. They just mixed out her lead vocal and replaced it with Rihanna's. Kylie owes her singing career to the capabilities of the Publison Infernal Machine 90 (as do most of that crop of late 80s S/A/W acts).

Re: Singers who (upon reflection) can’t sing
« Reply #27 on: June 02, 2021, 12:09:51 PM »
I'm saying that Talk Talk guy. Obviously never learnt (or thought about) how to breathe while singing, that's why we got this throaty strangled noise every time he got near a microphone.

What the hell man.

Re: Singers who (upon reflection) can’t sing
« Reply #28 on: June 02, 2021, 01:02:14 PM »
Bowie might not have a great range... 
The range from the low notes at the beginning of Sweet Thing to "It's safe in the city...." to the high "WIIIIIIIIIIIND!" at the end of "Wild is the Wind" is pretty good.

Elderly Sumo Prophecy

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Re: Singers who (upon reflection) can’t sing
« Reply #29 on: June 02, 2021, 01:15:36 PM »
Bernard Sumner, though like a lot of these 'singers who can't sing', his lack of technique (pardon the pun) was part of the charm of early New Order. In 1985/86, working with John Robie taught him about writing songs to fit his natural key and range and he started taking singing lessons. He still wasn't the most confident or technically gifted vocalist after that, but they started making songs that fitted his voice (for better or worse).

Not only his voice, he couldn't play guitar very well either. If you watch any Joy Division TV footage, he's always staring down at the fretboard, and is clearly having to try very hard at doing some extremely simple guitar lines.

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