Friday, June 06, 2008

Weekend Listomania (Special Fingernails on the Blackboard Video Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental flunky Hop-Sing and I are off to a screening of the Michelle Obama "Kill Whitey" video sponsored by the Republican National Committee and some guy named Larry Johnson. As said screening will necessarily have to take place in a mystical clime like the Bermuda Triangle (apparently Narnia is all booked up) my return date is uncertain. And as a result, posting by moi will necessarily be somewhat fitful for a few days.

But until then, as always, here's a fun project for you all to contemplate:


No arbitrary rules here, and obviously this is way subjective so there's going to be a few disagreements about the following. But I want to emphasize that we're talking vocal quality here, NOT stage demeanor or general personna. For example it doesn't matter how affectedly Patti LaBelle flutters her hands, annoying an affectation as that may be. Rather, it's her relentless oversinging of even the simplest song that makes me want to take a hostage every time I hear her.

Okay, here's my totally top of my head Top Eleven:

11. Russell Mael

I know Sparks are innovative and brilliant blah blah blah, and I've always loved the concept of a pretty-boy frontman with Hitler on keys. The voice, on the other hand, is...well, annoying is an inadequate word some times.

10. James Blunt

I'm sorry, whenever I hear that smug falsetto I think "somewhere an electric chair is waiting." Really -- this kid makes John Mayer sound like Howlin' Wolf.

9. Bjork

As my dear friend Laura put it the other night, "she sounds like two cats copulating."

8. Paul Williams

Williams is one of those guys, like Michael McDonald, who seems to sing from his jaw, rather than his throat, and he was one of the leading vocal annoyances of the early 70s. Fortunately for all of us, word has reached me that the man himself was in the wings at a some sort of industry function yesterday and was eaten by the backstage cat before anyone could intervene.

7. Morrissey

Frankly, without Johnny Marr's jangly guitar, the Smiths would have been unbearable, which is the word I associate with Morrissey's solo career. "Have I mentioned that I cried?"

6. David Bowie

Boy, does this guy have a lot to answer for. We can argue about his songwriting, but the singing? Yuk. I can't count the awful frontmen in his wake (mostly, but not exclusively, Brits), from Spandau Ballet to that putz in Coldplay, who basically recycle Bowie's emotion-free, affectless, pretentious quasi-operatic crooning.

5. A tie --

Axl Rose


Sebastian Bach

I can't think of a genre that's spawned so many unlistenable yowlers as 80s hair metal. Actually, these two aren't even the worst, now that I think of it.

4. David Clayton Thomas

It boggles my mind that this guy was ever even considered a rock singer. It boggles me even more that apparently he was singing in a blues(!) band when BS&T plucked him from obscurity.

3. Madonna

Joan Armatrading famously allowed how she actually liked Madonna's "little Munchkin voice," but I think she was being ironic.

2. Cristina Aguilera

Ah yes, growing up on the mean streets of The Mickey Mouse Club is precisely the sort of experience that gives a singer depth and soul. Seriously -- I doubt there's a song extant that this horribly amusical belter couldn't flog into submission, leaving it gasping, exhausted, and flopping about the stage floor like a porpoise out of water.

And the number one incredibly irksome, it's so obvious it's not even a fricking contest, singer is --

1. Geddy Lee

This song is a guilty pleasure for me (yes, there's actually a Rush song I like) but sometimes when I'm really depressed, I fantasize about somebody with a better voice singing it and I immediately feel better. In any case, I can't think of another rock vocalist who more consistently makes me want to rip my ears off.

Awrighty then -- what would your choices be?

[Shameless Blogwhore: My parallel movie Listomania, complete with choice MST3K clip, is now up over at Box Office. As always, if you can see your way to leaving a comment I can up my freelance rate, thus financing that romantic week in Paris I've been invited to share by a certain shady dame.]


ina said...

Damn you, steve

I had decided to give myself a challenge and start writing a song each week that fit your listomania for that week (and finish and post it before the next list came out!) Now, what am I supposed to do with this??

steve simels said...

I can see where this one might be a problem. Unless you can write a song about an annoying singer, which strikes me as unlikely.

Sorry kiddo..

TJWood said...

This is an easy one for me: I don't know, or care to look up, his name, but whoever the lead singer is of Simple Plan, the band that gave us two of the most annoying whine-o-ramas of this (or any decade): "Perfect" and "Welcome To My Life". I suppose the singer from New Jersey emo band Hoobastank has to get a mention as well. Granted, the material both bands write is a contributing factor, but still.

For the remainder of my choices, I'll a) go with singers I can mane and b) stay with singers that were or are actual full-time singers, which leaves Linda McCartney out of the mix. It's not a list of annoying pop/rock singers if Michael Bolton and Steve Perry aren't on it. Other random choices that I'll sign off with: Justin Hawkins from the Darkness, Dennis DeYoung from Styx (for "Come Sail Away" alone) and, it seems cruel to mention him, but indie fave Daniel Johnston

Ali said...

Wow, Geddy's hair looks fabulous in this video. Bounce and shine to die for!

I have a couple of Rush guilty pleasures, but this one isn't it. I don't like the preachy songs. Another reason I'm not fond of U2.

Hey! Bono! There's an annoying singer for you.

Joey Tabarlet said...

I guess it would be just piling on to mention Scott Stapp, huh? No? Okay.

The first time I heard Creed, I thought, "Crap, that new Pearl Jam song sucks donkey balls!" I think I probably heard the song three or four times before I realized it was just a PJ-lite wannabee fourth-rate imitation (and I know, there are those who consider Pearl Jam a fourth-rate Nirvana imitation, but I digress). Stapp's whole swallow-every-word-you-sing and grunt like you're constipated act got old within minutes. The guitar player is not as good as he thinks he is, either.

dave™© said...

In high school, I used to do a pretty good impression of Paul Williams singing "You and Me Against the World," and it got a lot of laughs! People actually knew who he was!

Turning the clock back even further, Blood, Sweat and Tears was the first "rock" concert I ever attended. Clayton-Thomas was the first time I'd ever seen anyone play a "Flying V" electric guitar (on "Go Down Gambling," then unreleased)...

MBowen said...

As mentioned earlier in the week, Billy Corgan.

MBowen said...

Oh, and Dave Matthews, too.

Gummo said...

If you wanna go all the way back, how about Buffy St-Marie? That vibrato could kill birds at 50 paces. Joan Baez's (another pre- and post-Beatles act, so I'm including her) vibrato is a close second for the "makes waterboarding look humane" award.

How about Natalie Merchant? Marchant? Whatever. I hate singers who think always lagging behind the beat in a totally rhythmless way makes them sound sultry and cool.

Donna Summers on "Love to Love Ya Baby". I could never believe THAT was supposed to be sexy. Annoying as hell, yes, I could accept that. But sexy??

John Lydon in his Public Image, Ltd. phase. Hey, John, snotty recitation does NOT equal singing. Nor does it equal a clever post-modern deconstruction of singing. It equal snotty recitation.

Anonymous said...

sorry about this simels, but Frankie Valli is way up on the list and so is that Eddy Vedder guy (sounds like a sick goat )

shrimplate said...

Curses, Simels! Now I have a Leo Sayers earworm stuck in my head.

Anonymous said...

did you forget ...


Mike said...

Gotta agree w/ Frankie Valli. That falsetto made my ears bleed.

And in another attempt to shoot down my cred, I could never get into that Ron Sexsmith guy purely because of his voice, which was only ever in tune purely by accident.

emma said...

Yoko Ono. Hands down worst.

Gummo said...

emma said...
Yoko Ono. Hands down worst.

Geez, might as well close down this whole topic right now.

It doesn't get worse than that.

ms. rosa said...

let me just throw my punk cred out the window while simultaneously throwing the book at Exene Cervenka of X. i have never understood her lasting appeal given vis a vis the relative obscurity of destory all monster's goddess niagara falls. now that ain't right.

exene is also the reason i stayed away from a *perfect* live band. i saw them earlier this week and will now go back and buy their first three. dang you, exene for detouring me!

Anonymous said...

Scrolling down the list, I was waiting, the closer to #1 it became urgent. Although I cannot disagree with Geddy Lee and the others, there shoud be, must be, a spot on anyone's/everyone's 'fingers on the blackboard' list for Lou Gramm.


Anonymous said...

the foreigner guy ?? humm , how about Russell Hitchcock and Graham Russell from Air Supply ..major yuck ! ..imho -

TMink said...

Wow, what a list, so perfect except for Bjork whom I enjoy listening to.

My wife decided that David Clayton Thomas sings the blues as he learned them from Pat Boone. Smart woman. And Christine has a lovely voice, it is the way she uses it that hurts so much.

Rush was one sock away from being the best band ever. Can you imagine the band with a real rock singer. Even Ann Wilson! She could sing them big words I bet.


Anonymous said...

i Tunes called and wondered why I hadn't downloaded any songs today. I said "well.................


MBowen said...

Judy Collins - the musical equivalent of an Upper West Side interior decorator.

Noam Sane said...

Dude from the Black Crowes. Talk about oversinging.

One horrid song of theirs in particular suggests a possible future List: most egregious use of the word 'angel' in a song.

"She must be uh.....A-HEEEEEN-JAIL!."

When does anyone in the world pronounce the word that way? But in rock songs, that's always how it's sung. Even Joni did it on "Court and Spark".

OK, I'm done.

steve simels said...

The reason people don't like Yoko is because she's a woman and an Oriental.

John actually said that...Tony Hendra then later put it into "Tragical History Tour"...

"I resent performing for you fuckers.."


MJConroy said...

Lots of good suggestions.
I'll add Mark McGrath of Sugar Ray.
Awful. I've left stores when their crap has come on the sound system as I find his voice extremely irritating.

dSmth said...

I've always hated Nina Simone. Her voice wobbles uncontrollably, but she always insisted in employing portamento and legato even though it only made her sound even worse. On top of that she had a superior air that always annoyed me. I once read about a time she was playing the Apollo and the audience was calling out for her hit "Porgy". She stopped singing and started lecturing the audience on manners.

The Kenosha Kid said...

I was preparing to throw Simels into the duck pit for his Bowie bashing, but Gummo's first post here is even more egregious. Donna Summers annoying?? What have we come to?

How about Roger Waters? That guy from the Happy Mondays? Lydia Lunch? That weasely dude from Sum 41? Now that's annoying.

steve simels said...

For what its worth, I kinda like Donna Summer.

Dirk Gently said...

i could not disagree more about christina aguilera.

well, that's not entirely true. i could disagree more, but you wouldn't be able to tell the difference.

steve simels said...

Dirk Gently said...
i could not disagree more about christina aguilera.

C'mon -- you're not seriously arguing that she's an interesting singer.

peter spencer said...

Jim Morrison.

Art Garfunkle.

geor3ge said...




Brooklyn Girl said...

If you wanna go all the way back, how about Buffy St-Marie? That vibrato could kill birds at 50 paces. Joan Baez's (another pre- and post-Beatles act, so I'm including her) vibrato is a close second for the "makes waterboarding look humane" award.

Yup. and you can throw Maria Muldaur and Melanie in there, too.




Double yup. The Dead were truly dead to me once she joined.

But my number one, hands down, no question about it is Kim Carnes. My idea of musical hell is "Bette Davis Eyes". Nails on a blackboard painful.

p.s. I like Donna Summer, too.

Marsupial said...

Steve Perry. The hideous little dwarf takes another category.

Anonymous said...

I agree with almost all of the alleged singers named, particularily Yoko Ono, who truly does set the standard by which all others must be judged. However many years ago I remember reading a glowing review of the Family album "Music In A Doll's House" (I truly don't remember the reviewer but it may have been Mr. Simels since I put great faith in his reviews). The music wasn't bad but that singer's warbling was so awful I remember re-reading the review to make sure I had purchased the same record. To my astonishment we apparently were listening to the same record but we sure weren't hearing the same sounds.

steve simels said...

That wasn't my review of Family.

To be honest, I don't think I ever listened to a Family album, and for the life of me I can't recall what Roger Chapman sounded like, although I suspect I saw them or him on TV at some point....

J. Neas said...

I'll jump to Christina's defense also - and I wouldn't have until I saw her do the James Brown tribute at the Grammy's the other year. She tore up "It's a Man's Man's World." My jaw was on the floor.

I won't buy any of her records, but as a vocalist, she has my respect.