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View Full Version : Dope Idol - Lead Singers Who Can't Sing


Mixolydian
09-08-2011, 09:34 AM
The 'Toob is blocked at worked, so I can't provide example links, but

Nick Cave
Lou Reed
Ian Dury
Leonard Cohen
Bob Dylan (progressively worse, though passable at one time)

Sure, they're all songwriters, so it's somewhat excusable.

I know I took the easy ones...:D

Annie-Xmas
09-08-2011, 09:45 AM
Sting. I bought a solo CD of his. God, he is terrible.

astorian
09-08-2011, 09:51 AM
Keith Relf- I loved a lot of the Yardbirds' songs, but he was a pitiful vocalist. When a guy with a wimpy, whiny, pipsqueak voice like his tries to sing a macho blues song, the results are comical!


http://youtube.com/watch?v=JAdCePtwoW4


"Meck luv tuh yuh, behbeh... yuh kent ruhsist...."

Hampshire
09-08-2011, 10:02 AM
Billy Corgan- I guess it fit the music of the Pumpkins but it's really a pretty nasty nasaly drawl.

charmstr
09-08-2011, 10:20 AM
The wonderful and evocative song stylings of Tom Waits.

Biffer_Spice
09-08-2011, 10:24 AM
Sting and Tom Waits are both excellent singers :-/

definitely second Lou Reed. I would add Axl Rose

Sunshine and Smiles
09-08-2011, 10:28 AM
John Darnielle, from the Mountain Goats
Dave Davison, from Maps & Atlases

Blake
09-08-2011, 10:51 AM
Sting. I bought a solo CD of his. God, he is terrible.

Is this a joke? Sting is highly regarded even within the music industry as a vocalist and has picked up a swag of awards for his vocal performances.
:confused:

He frequently gets into the top 10 lists for people who have good voices who sing crap songs: exactly the opposite of this thread.

Haunted Pasta
09-08-2011, 11:41 AM
In my view, the gentleman who sings for the Rolling Stones has a voice that is iconic, that IS the Rolling Stones, and that may be a lot of other things, but is not actually, you know, good.

I very much agree with an assessment I've seen posted in other threads here, namely, that Mick Jagger may be a bad singer but a terrific rock star, hence his lasting success.

MegaBee
09-08-2011, 11:43 AM
Courtney Love

cjepson
09-08-2011, 12:07 PM
Keith Relf- I loved a lot of the Yardbirds' songs, but he was a pitiful vocalist. When a guy with a wimpy, whiny, pipsqueak voice like his tries to sing a macho blues song, the results are comical!

This is what I was going to say. He got a decent snarl going on "Heart Full of Soul", but a lot of his other efforts are cringeworthy.

woodstockbirdybird
09-08-2011, 12:12 PM
Yeah - while I don't like them, Sting and Axl Rose can both definitely sing. Weird choices.

My vote goes to David Lee Roth. Like Jagger, he was all attitude, no real vocal skill.

Lancia
09-08-2011, 12:40 PM
How 'bout Kevin Cronin? His singing is awful.

Blaster Master
09-08-2011, 12:43 PM
Courtney Love

And Kurt Cobain. I guess it fits the whole punk thing, but his voice is just awful.

Swords to Plowshares
09-08-2011, 12:43 PM
It would be nice if, for the rest of the thread, posters list the bands/acts of the singers when it isn't obvious.

Spit
09-08-2011, 01:07 PM
A bit of a third rail with some people, but Julian Casablancas of The Strokes. I like The Strokes, but his voice is a bit whiny/nasally.

corvidae
09-08-2011, 01:15 PM
I have to admit, I can't appreciate the vocal stylings of Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders.

Duckster
09-08-2011, 01:25 PM
Taylor Swift
Justin Bieber
Kings of Leon (all of them)

Invisible Chimp
09-08-2011, 01:38 PM
Sure, they're all songwriters, so it's somewhat excusable.

Richard Thompson

WOOKINPANUB
09-08-2011, 02:27 PM
I have different categories for people who can't sing.

There's those that I feel objectively can't sing (a contradiction in terms, I know. Humor me).

Neil Young
Kings of Leon dude (dear god, that braying ass of a voice)
Billy Corgin (homicide inducing)
Joe Cocker
Roger Daltry

Then there's those that I think probably technically suck but I like them anyway.

Tom Petty
Madonna
Van Morrison

And finally, those that I can't stand but imagine are probably talented and just not my cup o' tea

Stevie Nicks (haaaaaaate)
Geddy Lee
Tina Turner

Earthworm Jim
09-08-2011, 02:44 PM
Dave Mustaine of Megadeth. Sorry dude, you should've kept looking for that vocalist.

There's a band that my daughter listens to, which I wish I could remember the name of, because EVERY time I hear one of their songs start up I think "Oh sweet - this is awesome, I wonder who it is??" - and then the dude starts singing in this terrible voice that I swear sounds like he's wearing grease-paint and a big red rubber ball nose. But I can't remember who it is, so I guess it doesn't count...

cjepson
09-08-2011, 03:30 PM
These "can't sing" threads are always interesting because people always list a number of individuals whom I consider to be among the greatest rock singers of all time.

Myself, I would nominate the guys in Phish. I'm judging solely by Round Room and Undermind, but it seems to me that none of those guys can sing their way out of a paper bag. That impression may be partly due to the fact that they seemed to record the vocals really dry. It helped when they did harmonies.

(Note: Their vocals don't actually bother me much; they just seem to be kind of meh. There are other singers who have, I suppose, better voices, but their styles really grate on me -- like Lucinda Williams, the Indigo Girls, Owl City, Secondhand Serenade, and that guy in Buckcherry.)

Superdude
09-08-2011, 04:48 PM
Lemmy

Laggard
09-08-2011, 04:59 PM
Tom Waits - can't hear is voice without laughing.

ptr2void
09-08-2011, 06:29 PM
Robert Smith of The Cure comes to mind immediately for me.

Smapti
09-08-2011, 07:24 PM
Taylor Swift


Them's fightin' words. I caught Taylor Swift in concert last night and she was amazing.

I GUESS you could make a case that her voice gets too high on the faster songs - I could definitely tell hearing her live that she was higher-pitched than on the recordings. (Some of her songs are auto-tuned on the album, but we'd be here all day listing off singers who use auto-tune.) On her slower songs, though, this problem disappears entirely.

Crafter_Man
09-08-2011, 07:29 PM
Jim Morrison. Had absolutely no range.

Mixolydian
09-08-2011, 09:47 PM
I have different categories for people who can't sing.

Then there's those that I think probably technically suck but I like them anyway.

Van Morrison



What do you think he's missing, technically?


And what's up with Daltrey?

Everything else I'm with you, though.

The Tooth
09-08-2011, 09:53 PM
David Byrne. But that's fine, because he's David Byrne.

Arrendajo
09-08-2011, 09:59 PM
Jah Wobble, fer sure.
Some of the suggestions, like Billy Corgan, have grating voices, but they hit pitch. So to me it's a matter of not liking the timbre of the voice, which is different from not being able to sing.
Jah Wobble cannot hit pitch, and though he writes interesting songs and is a terrific bass player, he ought to get others to sing them. Which he often does, to his credit. Plus he has never (to my knowledge) claimed to be a good singer nor pushed his vocals up in the mix.
Peter Gabriel is one who I consider a great song writer and musical innovator, but I just don't like the sound of his voice. To me it is thin and strangled sounding. He's a terrific performer, though, and I have never let the sound of his voice put me off his music.

Princhester
09-09-2011, 12:54 AM
Mark Knopfler in DS's early years. I can only assume he got lessons because he became reasonable. Not good - he's not a singer as such, he's a guitarist/songwriter who sings songs - but at least in the later albums he could carry a tune.

The problem with these threads is that they get clogged up with people naming people who can sing but who are not to taste. There is just no way you can justify saying Sting can't sing. He carries a tune in perfect pitch. He just isn't to everyone's taste. Contrastingly, Richard Thompson, Lou Reed and Bob Dylan, well perhaps they can sing (Bob certainly can) but much of the time they are simply are not singing, they are talking or yelling but not in tune and not always in time.

Dogzilla
09-09-2011, 10:00 AM
Dogzilla's List of People Who Are Great* Musicians, But Should Not Sing:

Bob Dylan
Billy Corgan
Tom Petty
Neil Young
Fred Durst*

* Not so great, actually

Death of Rats
09-09-2011, 10:27 AM
Avril Lavigne. One of those performers who gets A LOT of help from studio tricks. I have heard her live a few times and it always sounded like a cat having sex during a fight.

RealityChuck
09-09-2011, 11:16 AM
Many of the listings here are merely voices that sound differently than the current popular sound. For example, I hated Neil Young's voice, but that doesn't make him a poor singer. It has character (as do people like Bob Dylan). Joe Cocker is one of the top singers in rock, yet people list him because his voice isn't the current style (which tends toward sameness -- the idea being that a certain vocal style is popular, so you only promote artists with that particular style).

Too many people can't appreciate great voices because they can't understand anyone who doesn't sound like everyone else.

Don Draper
09-09-2011, 11:26 AM
Jimi Hendrix famously remarked that one of the biggest influences on his career was Bob Dylan. Most especially because Hendrix believed he could never make it as a solo performer because of his rotten singing vioce, then he heard a few Dylan records and thought (paraphrasing) "Well if that cat can get that far, with that voice, then..."

Grace Slick has also commented over time that one of her biggest influences was Mick Jagger, because (paraphrasing) "Even though - like Mick - I really can't sing, I do have tons of attitude."


Natalie Merchant frequently sounds (or sounded - has she done anything in the last 10 years?) flat, nasally and off-pitch to me.

GargoyleWB
09-09-2011, 11:37 AM
...
Peter Gabriel is one who I consider a great song writer and musical innovator, but I just don't like the sound of his voice. To me it is thin and strangled sounding. He's a terrific performer, though, and I have never let the sound of his voice put me off his music.

Someone mentioned Sting earlier, and this is exactly how I would describe his voice. Combined with his terrible enunciation, Sting is completely replaceable as a singer, but his songwriting chops more than make up for it overall.

Most of the post-grunge growl-rockers like David Cook, Daughtry, and their ilk are nearly unlistenable to me because of their vocals.

WOOKINPANUB
09-09-2011, 11:38 AM
What do you think he's missing, technically?


And what's up with Daltrey?

Everything else I'm with you, though.

I have no musical training (except four years of clarinet about three hundred years ago) so it's just my extremely humble opinion, but to me he sounds kind of monotone most of the time. I also can see how someone could find his voice grating and shouty. Remember; I like him.

As for Daltrey, to me he never does anything but shout, and not in a pleasing way.
Even on slow songs he never seems to lose that shouty tone. To be fair, he can be moved to my "has talent but not my cup o' tea " categeory", but I still do not like.

Hippy Hollow
09-09-2011, 11:47 AM
This thread went off the rails when Sting was mentioned, unless it was a whoosh.

Most of the singers mentioned suit a particular style of music. Bob Dylan suits his folk style, Geddy Lee suits the prog rock style, Neil Young suits the proto-grunge style, and Madonna suits the pop style.

Nick Cave and Tom Waits, IMO, are indeed testing the listening public's definition of singer. I get it's their style, and I do think it works, but it's hard on my ears. I think Jim Morrison is in this category as well.

Dr. Rieux
09-09-2011, 02:06 PM
Randy Newman

cjepson
09-09-2011, 02:50 PM
How could I forget David Bromberg? I like him and I can deal with his voice, but... sometimes it sounds like something from "Worst of American Idol Auditions". Prime example: "The Holdup (http://youtube.com/watch?v=8QxqEALeoVU)".

Kolga
09-09-2011, 04:18 PM
Stephen Pearcy of Ratt. Even back in my hairband days, we called his style "singing by speaking in one note."

Billy Baroo
09-09-2011, 04:55 PM
Anthony Kiedis (Red Hot Chili Peppers). His tone and pitch are ruinous.

El_Kabong
09-09-2011, 05:03 PM
Liam Gallagher, Oasis
George Thorogood
Ozzy Osbourne
Bob Welch, mid-period Fleetwood Mac

Not that I don't like them. Or Dylan and Tom Waits, who are so deliberately and ludicrously bad that I've always assumed it was something of an affectation.

Marley23
09-09-2011, 05:19 PM
Myself, I would nominate the guys in Phish. I'm judging solely by Round Room and Undermind, but it seems to me that none of those guys can sing their way out of a paper bag.
The Grateful Dead didn't have a true lead singer for most of their tenure. But they did have three guys who tried to sing. Jerry Garcia didn't have range but I can see why people liked his voice. I don't think anyone should have ever allowed Phil Lesh or Bob Weir to sing. Weir's voice has gotten even worse with age, too.

Anthony Kiedis (Red Hot Chili Peppers). His tone and pitch are ruinous.
Another legit nomination, I think. Most of their slow songs are pretty painful for this reason. I do like Soul to Squeeze because- well, Flea is Flea.

In my view, the gentleman who sings for the Rolling Stones has a voice that is iconic, that IS the Rolling Stones, and that may be a lot of other things, but is not actually, you know, good.
From a technical standpoint I'm sure he isn't, and I'm not big Stones fan to begin with. But he does have personality and his voice fits their music.

And Kurt Cobain. I guess it fits the whole punk thing, but his voice is just awful.
I think his voice is very expressive. I've been listening to more Nirvana recently than I have in a long time. What I'm hearing is that while he's not singing a lot of notes and you don't always know what he's singing (because he didn't want you to), there is a lot happening in that voice. It's intense and it's gripping.

Neil Young
I didn't used to like his singing, particularly the high-pitched stuff, but now I do. I just finally heard the right song and saw how the falsetto stuff fits into what he is going for. Lots of people have covered Neil Young songs but I think it's hard to imagine some other voice fitting on the originals.

David Byrne. But that's fine, because he's David Byrne.
Is famous for talk-singing, but can definitely sing.

Bob Dylan [...] Tom Petty
I think Petty based his vocal style heavily on Dylan's, so this makes sense. ;)

Jimi Hendrix famously remarked that one of the biggest influences on his career was Bob Dylan. Most especially because Hendrix believed he could never make it as a solo performer because of his rotten singing vioce, then he heard a few Dylan records and thought (paraphrasing) "Well if that cat can get that far, with that voice, then..."
I was thinking about Hendrix's voice recently, and while I don't think a lot of people have him on their list of favorite singers, I will say that some of his lyrics are very wordy and I think a lot of other singers would have struggled to make them fit with the music. Hendrix made it work. I don't think he was ever fully confident in his singing. His best performance might've been the version of Bleeding Heart" on the recent outtakes album - he forgets the words a couple of times, but the vocals themselves are pretty strong.

Billy Baroo
09-09-2011, 05:41 PM
Very few of these nominees make sense. It's not "lead singers you don't like".

Ozzy and DLR are two of the greatest heavy metal singers of all time. Bob Dylan and Tom Waits can sing, they just choose to sing not so pretty.

Phish doesn't have a lead singer. And they are actually pretty good singers for a jam band.

Steophan
09-09-2011, 07:13 PM
Most of my favourite singers are mentioned in this thread... Rather that attempt to refute what is, obviously, personal opinion, I shall just be sad, and listen to some recent Dylan.

I will point out that I consider there to be a difference between whether you consider someone's voice to be attractive, and whether you consider that they use the voice they have effectively. The latter is emphatically what I would consider when judging whether someone can sing.

Aspidistra
09-09-2011, 10:10 PM
Fred Schneider of the B52s

Peter Garrett of Midnight Oil


Both these guys are awesome performers, that I'd pay money to see any day of the week. Fred Schneider presumably knows damn well he can't sing, which is why he mostly talks, with only the occasional foray into musical vocalisation. Peter Garrett gets by on enthusiasm and stage presence.

This thread should have been "lead singers who can't sing but nonetheless create great music". Then it would have been much more interesting. Much shorter though.

Laggard
09-10-2011, 01:26 PM
Nick Cave and Tom Waits, IMO, are indeed testing the listening public's definition of singer. I get it's their style, and I do think it works, but it's hard on my ears.

Excellent post.

I don't think it "works" though.

Saint Cad
09-10-2011, 02:28 PM
In my view, the gentleman who sings for the Rolling Stones has a voice that is iconic, that IS the Rolling Stones, and that may be a lot of other things, but is not actually, you know, good.


Change Rolling Stones to U2 and you've described Paul "Bonovox" Hewson

Dr. Strangelove
09-10-2011, 03:26 PM
The wonderful and evocative song stylings of Tom Waits.

I didn't know who Tom Waits was, so I googled him. I immediately thought "He sounds like a muppet! Oscar the Grouch? No, not quite... oh, Cookie Monster!"

So I then googled for "Tom Waits sounds like" and Google has "...like Cookie Monster" as the only auto-complete choice.

Then I found this (http://youtube.com/watch?v=U5X4N2exOsU). Perfect.

Huerta88
09-10-2011, 03:38 PM
I would add Axl Rose
I could not disagree with you more.

Rose has an extremely broad vocal range and is uniformly spot on with the melody in all of those ranges.

Which Rose are you talking about? The anthemic hard driving voice he uses on Paradise City? The tuneful baritone crooner on So Fine or Patience? The soft-then-hard alternation of Civil War? The slow build from a sad love song to an anguished falsetto howl on Don't Cry?

Rose's voice is one of the best things about G n' R. I can't think of many lead vocalists whose voice was more adapted (and adaptable) to the other aspects of the band's sound.

Novelty Bobble
09-10-2011, 05:25 PM
Ian Brown, my god!

and yet...........The Stone Roses first album is superb. My 4 year old was bopping along like a mentalist to "she bangs the drum" just today. At the end he waited a beat then said......"I LIKE that one daddy!" Of course he does, how can he not?
To be honest, the technical excellence of the lead singer is a minor contribution. It really doesn't matter. A bad singer can't spoil a great song, but a good singer can't make a bad song good.

Huerta88
09-10-2011, 05:51 PM
I could not disagree with you more.

Rose has an extremely broad vocal range and is uniformly spot on with the melody in all of those ranges.

Which Rose are you talking about? The anthemic hard driving voice he uses on Paradise City? The tuneful baritone crooner on So Fine or Patience? The soft-then-hard alternation of Civil War? The slow build from a sad love song to an anguished falsetto howl on Don't Cry?

Rose's voice is one of the best things about G n' R. I can't think of many lead vocalists whose voice was more adapted (and adaptable) to the other aspects of the band's sound.

Aww GD Duff did lead vocals on (and wrote) So Fine. But my point remains.

gonzomax
09-10-2011, 07:54 PM
I second Jagger. I had a radio once that separated his singing. It was just terrible. Zero range.

Catfood Purrito
09-11-2011, 02:48 PM
Colin Meloy of The Decemberists. I love their music. LOVE it. Went to see them in concert in July and it was really excellent. But the dude does horrible things with vowels that needs correction.

MisterPeabody
06-04-2012, 10:18 PM
Hey guys. If it's rock and roll it's not suppose to sound gooood.

One name not mention yet but I absolutely loathe to hear sing is
Scott Stapp from Creed. Fingernails on a . . . .

Maserschmidt
06-04-2012, 10:35 PM
Anthony Kiedis (Red Hot Chili Peppers). His tone and pitch are ruinous.

How on earth did it take 42 posts to get to this? Kiedis often slides his way up to notes in the attempt to find the right pitch, and yet misses.

Maserschmidt
06-04-2012, 10:36 PM
And while Nick Cave absolutely cannot sing, he's still one of my favorite singers. :)

montag01
06-05-2012, 12:19 AM
Wayne Coyne. I love the Flaming Lips, and I think Coyne's voice works very well for their material. But any time I've heard him do a cover, I think it sounds awful--tinny, thin and pitched just a bit too high.

njtt
06-05-2012, 12:05 PM
Nobody mentioned Brian Ferry yet! :eek:

gaffa
06-05-2012, 02:13 PM
Nobody mentioned Brian Ferry yet! :eek:
Because he can sing. Listen to Roxy Music's Avalon. His voice is a bit affected, but definitely on pitch and with enough range to sing the songs.

The only singer mentioned in this thread that I concur with 100% is Lou Reed. He seems to have a total range of two notes. There was a project called One World, One Voice (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One_World_One_Voice) that featured musical contributions from all over the world. Amazing music and great singing, until it gets to Lou's bit. Then it all collapses to...what's the two note equivalent of a monotone? A duotone?

The album is bubbling along with amazing singers from all over the world, and then Lou happens (http://youtu.be/KXUp_VFUgVQ?t=4m19s).

Greg Charles
06-05-2012, 02:20 PM
I vaguely remember in Bring On The Night, Sting saying that his voice wasn't great, but it was distinctive. I can't find the exact quote though.

Ashley Pomeroy
06-05-2012, 03:22 PM
Surprisingly, in the ten months since this thread started, no-one has mentioned late Manchunian sadcase Ian Curtis of seminal top proto-goth new wave crusaders Joy Division. It feels wrong to rag on him, but you can tell what he was going for - a kind of deep, doomy baritone of a style nailed by Peter Murphy from Bauhaus - but he didn't have the technique or the power. Or at least he wasn't consistent. Actually his voice is maddening. He was never good, but sometimes he was great, e.g. on "Dead Souls (http://youtube.com/watch?v=MhEm4S-4v_U)".

It's fascinating to compare them with U2, who started out as Joy Division wannabes and ended up massive; Bono had a better voice, but I can't say that Joy Division would have been a better band with Bono as the lead singer. There's a whole essay you could write about technical precision, passion, style, objective brilliance and quirky flukery and the nexuses where they meet. Yes, nexuses is the right word. Not nexii.

Shaun Ryder, there you go. Sorry, "scally chancer Shaun Ryder, formerly of quasi-baggy proto-chav legends Happy Mondays and late-period Britpop oddballs Black Grape". Also, Bez, who almost certainly couldn't sing but, to his credit, never even tried.

Typo Negative
06-05-2012, 03:27 PM
Fat Mike of NOFX

Richard Pearse
06-05-2012, 09:58 PM
Roger Waters of Pink Floyd. He has a distinctive voice that suits his music and provides a nice counterpoint to David Gilmour's sweeter style, but he can't hold a note to save himself. It's most obvious on live recordings.

Hippy Hollow
06-06-2012, 05:33 AM
Surprisingly, in the ten months since this thread started, no-one has mentioned late Manchunian sadcase Ian Curtis of seminal top proto-goth new wave crusaders Joy Division. It feels wrong to rag on him, but you can tell what he was going for - a kind of deep, doomy baritone of a style nailed by Peter Murphy from Bauhaus - but he didn't have the technique or the power. Or at least he wasn't consistent. Actually his voice is maddening. He was never good, but sometimes he was great, e.g. on "Dead Souls (http://youtube.com/watch?v=MhEm4S-4v_U)".

It's fascinating to compare them with U2, who started out as Joy Division wannabes and ended up massive; Bono had a better voice, but I can't say that Joy Division would have been a better band with Bono as the lead singer. There's a whole essay you could write about technical precision, passion, style, objective brilliance and quirky flukery and the nexuses where they meet. Yes, nexuses is the right word. Not nexii.

Shaun Ryder, there you go. Sorry, "scally chancer Shaun Ryder, formerly of quasi-baggy proto-chav legends Happy Mondays and late-period Britpop oddballs Black Grape". Also, Bez, who almost certainly couldn't sing but, to his credit, never even tried.

Agree on all points. I'm a massive Joy Division fan, and a lot of it has to do with Curtis' voice. But on the first New Order album Movement (which is essentially a JD album with Barney and Hooky singing lead) I felt they sounded better. Not more emotional or impactful but technically better. Barney is a great singer but very hit or miss lyrically.

Tony Wilson often lauded Shaun Ryder as a musical genius but I don't see the artistry in his voice. I typically try to block his voice out of Mondays music and quite enjoy it.

Morrissey got a lot of shit about his singing early on, but I think his newer music is actually quite impressive, voice wise.

SunSandSuffering
06-06-2012, 05:57 AM
Fred Schneider of the B52s

Peter Garrett of Midnight Oil


Both these guys are awesome performers, that I'd pay money to see any day of the week. Fred Schneider presumably knows damn well he can't sing, which is why he mostly talks, with only the occasional foray into musical vocalisation. Peter Garrett gets by on enthusiasm and stage presence.

This thread should have been "lead singers who can't sing but nonetheless create great music". Then it would have been much more interesting. Much shorter though.

Yeah, I agree about the B-52s. Mesopotamia was surely done just for the lolz.

HMS Irruncible
06-06-2012, 08:08 AM
M.I.A (the rap artist). She cannot carry a tune in a bucket. I don't know why she ever needs to, being a rapper, but unfortunately sometimes she tries.

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