Author Topic: Singers who (upon reflection) can’t sing  (Read 3730 times)

gilbertharding

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Re: Singers who (upon reflection) can’t sing
« Reply #60 on: June 03, 2021, 10:34:09 AM »
I would put part of that down to shyness and trying to look anywhere but the audience/camera. I think for a lot of the 80s, he needed a fair bit of alcoholic/chemical encouragement to get up on stage and front the band.

That said, I remember Johnny Marr saying that the thing that surprised him most about Sumner's guitar playing from their working together was the fact he never practised, so maybe it is more him trying not to hit bum notes.

I remember reading an interview where Marr said he always thought of Sumner's guitar playing as "naïve". Other people's recollections of similar interviews are probably more complete, but no-one used the actual word.

non capisco

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Re: Singers who (upon reflection) can’t sing
« Reply #61 on: June 03, 2021, 10:38:38 AM »
Damon Albarn needs to be mentioned in this thread. He's got by on very little in the vocal department.

During a recent bout of insomnia I was tortured by the looped remembrance of whatever Blur song it is where he screeches "And grandma loses her knickerrrrrrs!", an especially irksome noise dredged up from memory's fetid canal.

gilbertharding

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Re: Singers who (upon reflection) can’t sing
« Reply #62 on: June 03, 2021, 10:38:59 AM »
Ian Brown is obviously the one for me because unlike Byrne, MES, Berman et. al. his voice has absolutely no presence.

It's not just the lack of presence in Brown's case, is it?

Live, he takes tunelessness to new depths. The fact that he does this with such a thin, weedy voice is merely the icing on the cake.

Re: Singers who (upon reflection) can’t sing
« Reply #63 on: June 03, 2021, 11:13:43 AM »
Damon Albarn needs to be mentioned in this thread. He's got by on very little in the vocal department.

I think he's become better more bearable on the Gorillaz and later Blur stuff.
Seems to have ditched the Mockney wanker style and found his (admittedly limited) range.

Still a pretty weak singer though.

buzby

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Re: Singers who (upon reflection) can’t sing
« Reply #64 on: June 03, 2021, 12:07:57 PM »
I remember reading an interview where Marr said he always thought of Sumner's guitar playing as "naïve". Other people's recollections of similar interviews are probably more complete, but no-one used the actual word.
On a related note, there's a really good interview with Marr & Sumner where they discuss their approaches to songwriting here. this particular quote from Sumner encapsulates how he viewed his role in the band and why his lyrics were mostly cryptic:
Quote from: Bernard Sumner
New Order was escapism, clearly, above all it was a game of hide and seek. As the songwriter of New Order I never said a word about the lyrics that I wrote. With New Order everything is unclear and indistinctly laid out. It is intentionally unclear and misleading. You must understand that I was never a songwriter and never wanted to be a singer. I only became a singer because Ian Curtis, our singer, killed himself. We nonetheless needed to and wanted to continue, and the idea of replacing him with someone from outside seemed to us all disconcerting and even artificial. Through his suicide he interfered with my future, he changed my life. I had to suddenly do something that I had never considered. I had to change the way I looked at life. Up to that point I was always the one who stood in the corner and could observe the others. Even on stage. I was the guitar player, the observer. In this role I could also sit back in peace and register what all those around me were doing. I found that very interesting. As the singer you can’t do that. As the singer you have to face the people directly, you are the object being viewed and you receive the attention. That is the mental state of the singer and frontman. I had to change my worldview, my manner and as a consequence myself in order to make it as a singer and to be successful. My lyrics with New Order were therefore arranged as a way of protecting myself, so that no one, really no one, should know what was going through my head. I had to sing because it was my job. I was the only one that could steer the ship off of the reef that it had landed on with Ian’s suicide, and I therefore gave myself the right the hide myself.

Elderly Sumo Prophecy

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Re: Singers who (upon reflection) can’t sing
« Reply #65 on: June 03, 2021, 01:01:57 PM »
I have always thought about
Staying here and going out
Tonight I should have stayed at home
Playing with my pleasure zone

buzby

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Re: Singers who (upon reflection) can’t sing
« Reply #66 on: June 03, 2021, 01:46:20 PM »
I have always thought about
Staying here and going out
Tonight I should have stayed at home
Playing with my pleasure zone
To be fair, The Perfect Kiss was largely written and recorded in a sleepless 72-hour session before they were due to fly off for an Antipodean tour. That's why it basically consists of a medley of bits they had come up with while jamming. Even then, Bernard's rushed, placeholder lyrics were an improvement over the improvised lyrics of it's initial incarnation that they were playing live at the time:
Quote
The Perfect Kiss (aka I've Got A Cock Like the M1) 14 May 84 Royal Festival Hall - London England
I've got a cock, it looks like the M1
It's long and thin, it's got a white line down it It curls about, it curls about
There's crashes on, and service stations too

I've got a cock like the M1...like the M1...like the M1...

This is about a man called me and you
a night for us, just with you
Of all the things we need some now
Before the end comes to our home

This is the first time, this is the last time I saw you in front of my house
You had a shotgun, you had a knife
You shot(?) at me and killed my wife

How did you get your name in front of me? Cuz I found you like I knew I should
I won't get laid with them...cuz belsen was a gas...

Artificiality, artificiality, artificiality, Artificiality, artificiality, artificiality

I looked to the right I saw my ride
You saw me with her long legs
You said 'I am at last on my own'

its not your own fault....
its not your own fault....
its not your own fault....
its not your own fault....

PaulTMA

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Re: Singers who (upon reflection) can’t sing
« Reply #67 on: June 03, 2021, 02:36:40 PM »
I remember watching the Electronic 'For You' video with some folk and someone said "he can't play the guitar!", as in Bernard.  As if he'd just strapped on a guitar for the video.

Dr Rock

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Re: Singers who (upon reflection) can’t sing
« Reply #68 on: June 03, 2021, 02:39:30 PM »
Perhaps if Bernard couldn't sing, couldn't write lyrics and hated being the frontman so much, they really should have got someone in who was good at those things. Yes I read why they didn't, but if they had done maybe they would have been better.

Re: Singers who (upon reflection) can’t sing
« Reply #69 on: June 03, 2021, 02:48:51 PM »
James Murphy? It works for his music but he is mainly speaking in different notes. Seems to be a reluctant singer though.

Daft Punk fairly hammered the auto-tune too...

Re: Singers who (upon reflection) can’t sing
« Reply #70 on: June 03, 2021, 02:56:22 PM »
Also, as much as I like them, Stephen Pastel also came to mind when reading this. There are quite a few examples given in this thread where the 'flat' singing is at least in step with the music, but this one certainly ain't.

https://youtu.be/8XcDgt9o3NY

Ballad of Ballard Berkley

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Re: Singers who (upon reflection) can’t sing
« Reply #71 on: June 03, 2021, 05:11:52 PM »
Speaking of New Order, I've always been on the fence about Ian Curtis' voice. It's certainly distinctive and occasionally quite powerful, but you could always tell that he wasn't a natural baritone. He forced himself to sing in that register, hence why his pitch often wavered.

He was obviously trying to emulate Jim Morrison, a singer who crooned with sonorous ease. Curtis sounds quite mannered and gauche by comparison.

Buzby, am I right in saying that Hannett encouraged Curtis to sing outside of his natural range? Possibly because it added an extra layer of vulnerability to his performance? I'm no Joy Division expert, but I have a vague memory of reading that once.

Re: Singers who (upon reflection) can’t sing
« Reply #72 on: June 03, 2021, 05:19:56 PM »
It was a surprise to me when I first heard Curtis' natural speaking voice from some radio interview, as it didn't seem to match what I heard on the Joy Division albums at all.

pigamus

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Re: Singers who (upon reflection) can’t sing
« Reply #73 on: June 03, 2021, 05:21:27 PM »
I really like Bernard Sumner's voice. His lyrics, however, are laughable.

Matthew Rudd played Thieves Like Us on Forgotten 80s recently. I think if it was anybody else I might have found it laughable, but he just has this sincerity about him.

Ballad of Ballard Berkley

  • a hopeless vanity... a stupefyingly futile conceit
Re: Singers who (upon reflection) can’t sing
« Reply #74 on: June 03, 2021, 05:47:21 PM »
It was a surprise to me when I first heard Curtis' natural speaking voice from some radio interview, as it didn't seem to match what I heard on the Joy Division albums at all.

Similarly, I remember being quite surprised when I first heard Michael Stipe's natural speaking voice. It's quite deep, nothing at all like that sort of yodelling coyote whine (which I like) you hear on REM records.

PaulTMA

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Re: Singers who (upon reflection) can’t sing
« Reply #75 on: June 03, 2021, 06:36:43 PM »
Also, as much as I like them, Stephen Pastel also came to mind when reading this. There are quite a few examples given in this thread where the 'flat' singing is at least in step with the music, but this one certainly ain't.

https://youtu.be/8XcDgt9o3NY

I always thought he was interesting as his vocal style is reminiscent of early Edwyn Collins, whose signing matured considerably over the years, whereas Pastel sounds exactly the same nearly 40 years on.

DJ Bob Hoskins

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Re: Singers who (upon reflection) can’t sing
« Reply #76 on: June 03, 2021, 07:58:08 PM »
James Murphy? It works for his music but he is mainly speaking in different notes. Seems to be a reluctant singer though.

Can't really argue withe the 'speaking' thing and he does seem an unlikely lead vocalist, but he can sing.  A decent example is I Can Change. He may not have the prettiest voice but he can hit the high notes of the "love is a murderer" part.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tW8FKkVnqng

I reckon he does a great job on "New York I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down" too.

DJ Bob Hoskins

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Re: Singers who (upon reflection) can’t sing
« Reply #77 on: June 03, 2021, 08:04:15 PM »
It's not just the lack of presence in Brown's case, is it?

Live, he takes tunelessness to new depths. The fact that he does this with such a thin, weedy voice is merely the icing on the cake.

He's a strange one, in that I reckon he can sing in tune, but he just seems to be totally inconsistent from gig to gig. I've seen him 3 times solo and once with the Stone Roses when they reformed. First time, he sang OK. Not bad, not great. The 2nd time I saw him was the worst gig I've ever been to. The 3rd one, he was terrific, and his Stone Roses covers in particular were better performed by him and his band than the versions I subsequently saw him perform with the actual Stone Roses.

Re: Singers who (upon reflection) can’t sing
« Reply #78 on: June 03, 2021, 08:43:57 PM »
The Roses Live In Blackpool thing that everyone used to love so much is dogshit, the band are boiling but he destroys it. He doesn't even do the swooning ooo ooo ooos he did on the record he goes erru erru and urra urra in his speaking voice.

But shots of him shaking his head to music under lights are iconic as the kids say and he sounds incredible when reverbed to oblivion on the LP. The only criteria to fronting the Roses was 1) you're in the best band since Joy Divison, act like it and 2) sound as loved up as possible even when the songs are about car crashes and riots. He brings those in spades, be able to perform live was wouldn't crack the top 20 on the list. I haven't seen him perform live but I know people who have and who don't share my idolisation of the Stone Roses record and said he was great, so I dunno.

edit: the unreleased stuff mostly pitiful but I will say he sounds incredible on the Sex Pistolsy "Heart On The Staves", he could've easily fronted a first wave punk band with performances like that. He even does Joey Ramone style "ooh woahs" in the chorus, wouldn't be out of place on a Husker Du record. Great stuff.
« Last Edit: June 03, 2021, 08:54:51 PM by Video Game Fan 2000 »

Elderly Sumo Prophecy

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Re: Singers who (upon reflection) can’t sing
« Reply #79 on: June 03, 2021, 09:07:55 PM »
She bangs the erru erru

buzby

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Re: Singers who (upon reflection) can’t sing
« Reply #80 on: June 03, 2021, 11:00:32 PM »
Buzby, am I right in saying that Hannett encouraged Curtis to sing outside of his natural range? Possibly because it added an extra layer of vulnerability to his performance? I'm no Joy Division expert, but I have a vague memory of reading that once.

It was Frank Sinatra's crooning Ian was trying to emulate during the Closer era - Wilson had given him a Sinatra album with the suggestion that he try to develop a more crooning style (Morrison was also a major influence on Curtis' vocal style too). He wasn't a natural baritone though and there is still debate as to how this was achieved - the most likely explanation was that Hannett recorded his vocals with tape pitched up slightly using varispeed (the fact that most of their songs are not perfectly pitched is evidence for this). When performing live during that later era they sometimes used a harmonizer to add a lower pitch harmony that was mixed into Ian's vocals to add a baritone effect (this can be heard during the sound check footage at the start of the Here Are The Young Men video from their 1979 tour supporting The Buzzcocks).

Re: Singers who (upon reflection) can’t sing
« Reply #81 on: June 03, 2021, 11:15:32 PM »
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.

Right that's it Ferris, you really are going to prison this time.

When Byrne belts, his voice is strong, clear and true. Example

purlieu

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Re: Singers who (upon reflection) can’t sing
« Reply #82 on: June 03, 2021, 11:52:58 PM »
During a recent bout of insomnia I was tortured by the looped remembrance of whatever Blur song it is where he screeches "And grandma loses her knickerrrrrrs!", an especially irksome noise dredged up from memory's fetid canal.
'Bank Holiday', although it's "mother" who loses her knickers, rather than "grandma" ("grandma", apparently, needs new dentures to eat the crust on pizza).
Damon's a limited vocalist and tends to do well on more subtle performances - the line of slightly atmospheric arty pop that runs from 'Sing' through to 'Battery in Your Leg' - but I quite like his voice because, when he's not overdoing the mockney thing, it has some character. And he can hold a note.

Obviously the Mark Hollis post on the first page was the absolute nadir of CaB. He's one of the finest singers in the history of popular music.

I'll second whoever said Isobel Campbell, though. I can deal with Stuart Murdoch's fey Lawrence-aping, especially as his songs were once utterly magnificent, but Campbell's asthmatic wispiness backed with almost hilariously bad 'my first pop song' compositions, no thanks.

There's a whole discussion to be had about Nicky Wire, but I'm not sure I can be arsed. I think having a singer like James Dean Bradfield in the band and letting someone with the voice of a tone-deaf 60 year old with a 40 year 50-a-day smoking habit sing at least one song an album for the past 17 years is a genuinely brave move.

Re: Singers who (upon reflection) can’t sing
« Reply #83 on: June 04, 2021, 12:05:11 AM »
Damon's fine. He's irritating as shit on most of The Great Escape but its not because of his singing voice.

When Byrne belts, his voice is strong, clear and true. Example

Or the performance of What A Day That Was on SMS. Can't say anyone who could belt out that tune with the brides of funkenstein didn't have vocal chops. If he was a poor singer that would be embarrassing.

non capisco

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Re: Singers who (upon reflection) can’t sing
« Reply #84 on: June 04, 2021, 12:22:13 AM »
Yeah, that "Oh-oh-oh-OHHHHHHHHHHHHH-AYE-AYE-AYE-AYE-AYE-AYEooooooo" bit on Psycho Killer takes some pipes to hit on key whilst giving it the requisite oomph.

Re: Singers who (upon reflection) can’t sing
« Reply #85 on: June 04, 2021, 12:27:24 AM »
Yeah Byrne can sing.

I get what's being said about Isobel Campbell but I love this

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SMCwaaT0D1g

Never got through the whole of that album though and never bought anything else.

Ballad of Ballard Berkley

  • a hopeless vanity... a stupefyingly futile conceit
Re: Singers who (upon reflection) can’t sing
« Reply #86 on: June 04, 2021, 01:09:23 AM »
I'll second whoever said Isobel Campbell, though. I can deal with Stuart Murdoch's fey Lawrence-aping, especially as his songs were once utterly magnificent, but Campbell's asthmatic wispiness backed with almost hilariously bad 'my first pop song' compositions, no thanks.

Murdoch is a far better singer than Lawrence - and I really like Lawrence's Lou Reed-style drawl. Early B&S were certainly influenced by Felt, but Murdoch always pitched his voice somewhere between Donovan and Nick Drake. He never tried to emulate Lawrence.

As for Campbell, she can't really 'properly' sing at all, I agree, but Is It Wicked Not to Care? is a lovely song. And I think her voice suits the stuff she writes. Tastes may vary.

Re: Singers who (upon reflection) can’t sing
« Reply #87 on: June 04, 2021, 08:23:49 AM »
Speaking of New Order, I've always been on the fence about Ian Curtis' voice. It's certainly distinctive and occasionally quite powerful, but you could always tell that he wasn't a natural baritone. He forced himself to sing in that register, hence why his pitch often wavered.

He was obviously trying to emulate Jim Morrison, a singer who crooned with sonorous ease. Curtis sounds quite mannered and gauche by comparison.

Buzby, am I right in saying that Hannett encouraged Curtis to sing outside of his natural range? Possibly because it added an extra layer of vulnerability to his performance? I'm no Joy Division expert, but I have a vague memory of reading that once.
I did wonder why he sounded so different on Warsaw.

Re: Singers who (upon reflection) can’t sing
« Reply #88 on: June 04, 2021, 08:32:17 AM »
The OG of this of course being Posh Spice. Remember the demos of that song she did with Dane Bowers and her aborted album produced by Damon Dash leaking? They turned her mic off for Spice Girls live performances.
I always thought it was Geri who couldn’t sing. According to Bob Herbert, one of their original managers, one of the girls was going to be kicked out because she couldn’t sing and that was why they did a runner. I can’t remember his exact words but it was pretty obvious he meant Geri. Geri was the only one who didn’t have any dance and/or stage school training, so she really struggled when they started doing proper gigs.

I’ve heard mixes of Spice Up Your Life where all but one of the Spice Girls had their vocals removed and Victoria wasn’t that bad, but she may well have had a lot of work done on her vocals. She’s also the least arsed about music these days, she’s concentrating on her failing fashion label instead.

Re: Singers who (upon reflection) can’t sing
« Reply #89 on: June 04, 2021, 08:35:27 AM »
I did wonder why he sounded so different on Warsaw.
If you listen to him speaking (see link below), he sounds quite like Bernard Sumner and you realise that even on the 'spoken' part of 'No Love Lost', he was putting on a voice.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ag5h5O3-MKY

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