Friday, March 21, 2014

Weekend Listomania Retro: Special Fingernails on the Blackboard Video Edition

Another one from the vaults, but I think it would be interesting to see what your choices might be after all these years.

I've changed a couple of things since this first ran in 2008 -- the number six entry, for example, was originally David Bowie, but in retrospect I've decided that I've flogged that particular deceased equine on more than enough previous occasions.

In any case, let us now praise with faint damns the MOST ANNOYING POST-BEATLES POP/ROCK SINGERS EVER!!!!

No arbitrary rules, you're welcome, and obviously this is totally subjective so there's going to be (I suspect) a few disagreements about the following, but I want to emphasize that we're talking vocal quality here, not stage demeanor or general persona. For example it doesn't matter how hyperkinetically Patti LaBelle flutters her hands, annoying an affectation as that may be. Rather, it's her relentless over-singing 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 Ten:

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 the Rock 'n' Roll Travel Agent so aptly put it, "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 his 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 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. James Blunt

Yeah, I know I already mentioned him, but he's so vile he really needs to be here twice.

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 to give somebody soul. Seriously -- I doubt there's a song extant that this horribly amusical belter couldn't flog into submission, leaving it gasping and exhausted on the floor of a stage 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, but sometimes when I'm really depressed, I think of 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?


The Kenosha Kid said...

This is such blasphemy. Christina Aguilera has a great voice, it's her phrasing and endless grandstanding that sucks.

Anyway, J. Mascis is a much more annoying singer than any of these people.

Anonymous said...

Hello, please remain seated,

Ok...I'm probably not going to make any friends with this, but...hey, you asked...

1) Rickie Lee Jones...after her first two albums I stopped being able to take her half swallowed, baby-voiced, slurry dictioned warbling. Loved the aforementioned first 2 albums, but...oofff.

2) Lucinda Williams...this pains me greatly because I adore her early and mid-period work. But lately, she's been affecting, at least to my ears, a very affected way of singing. She sounds like she's trying to do a circa-1970's Mick Jagger imitation. Don't believe me? Listen to Righteously from World Without Tears and compare it in your mind's ear to, oh, say, Loving Cup.

3)Elvis Costello...(ok,I'm casually sliding towards the door) Look, if you don't have a natural vibrato, that's fine. Just don't attempt to fake one. I know he's great. Really great, but I just can't get past the voice.

whoaaa...quit throwing things at me.


Gummo said...

Disagree on Aguilera and Clayton-Thomas. So sue me.

RichD -- you're part right about Costello - when he decided he was a pop crooner, he became self-indulgent and unlistenable.

I absolutely adored Lou Reed, but in the 90s and 00s, he just stopped trying. I mean, if you're just going to talk your way through songs, at least do it in time. But it seems even that was too much effort.

I find everyone's favorite English folk goddess, Sandy Denny, way over-the-top, even screechy, sometimes.

Sal Nunziato said...

"I find everyone's favorite English folk goddess, Sandy Denny, way over-the-top, even screechy, sometimes."

Be still my heart.

There is no voice more horrible than Axl Rose, but since you've already mentioned him, I will go with Mary J. Blige.

She is the single most-overrated vocalist in the universe.

Has she ever remained in key? Ever? Forever sharp, unless she's flat. This woman has been lauded by everyone from Tony Bennett to Prince. I don't get it. Even b-level R&B singers from the 60s never sang this poorly.

danny1959 said...

David Lee Roth's whoops and hollers always made Van Halen unlistenable to me. It reminds me of the forced fun of anything having to do with the Disney organization.

Gummo said...

OMG, how could I forget:

Celine Dion

The most unbearable singer of all time.

steve simels said...

"What is so rare as a Kink in tune?"

-- Paul Williams*

*the rock crit, not the singer/songwriter

Blue Ash Fan said...

Kudos on the Axl choice, Steve. When G&R first came out, I thought for sure that somebody at Geffen was effing with us.

And making Geddy Lee #1 was like shooting fish in a barrel.

Off the top of my head:

Natalie Merchant. I know, I know, but does she ever enunciate?

Jon Anderson. If I could stand their ceaseless, self-indulgent noodling -- I can't -- I'd still hate Yes because of that pretentious twit's vocals.

Roland Gift of Fine Young Cannibals. He drives ME crazy.

Dave Matthews. Just because.

Brooklyn Girl said...

Geddy Lee --- I had to mute the sound when they were inducted into the R&R Hall of Fame, and I finally had to turn it off completely because I could still imagine his voice and it made me want to stick hot pokers in my ears.

I HATE Kim Carnes. "Bette Davis Eyes" Is worse than nails on a blackboard --- it's the 4 train screeching into the station at Union Square.

And I also hate Joni Mitchell. And Buffy St. Marie. And Maria Muldaur. Sorry.

Billy B said...

I hear you on Morrissey. Such a tortured soul.

edward said...

As someone who like Bob Dylan, Tom Waits and Jonathan Richman, I probably shouldn't be talking about voices I can't stand, but here goes:

Neil Young, though I love Buffalo Springfield, is just like rusty fingernails on a chalkboard to me.

Gee, no one slammed Yoko yet.

And while I agree with Celine Dion, not sure if she's in the rock category, but it does give me a chance to step out of bounds and say Edith Piaf is like having ice picks stuck in my ears.

MJConroy said...

Geddy Lee #1 YES!!!
And I agree - add Dave Matthews.
I nominate Mark McGrath to the list.

B. Goode said...

I Absolutely can not stand Michael Bolton.

John F said...

Disagreement: I like some Bjork/Sugarcubes stuff. And there are a few Madonna songs where I'm fond of her voice, they fit - e.g., 'Material Girl', complete guilty, nostalgic pleasure there. And I think Morrissey fits quite well with the Smiths.

Agreement: Axl Rose & Geddy Lee - I've never understood the adoration for either the singers or the bands. Celine Dion and Dave Matthews are clearly in the Annoying Hall of Fame.

New nominations: Janis Joplin - I'm not partial to blues-rock, and her voice and the tunes she sings inspire me to change the station whenever they appear on the radio. As does Paul Rodgers/Bad Company - whenever he sings it's so pedestrian, and well, just boring.

But the absolute worst has to be the one-hit wonder of awfulness - whoever was the singer for the 80's tune 'You Spin Me Round Like a Record'.

Hannes A. Jónsson said...

Surprised no one mentioned Sting yet. Roooooxaaaannnne. Sounds like something is being tortured.

Mrs. Peel said...

Michael Bolton.

What do I win?

Mrs. Peel said...

Oh, I see someone beat me to it about Michael Bolton. He can have my no-prize. :-)

Mrs. Peel said...

Rick Astley.

NOW what do I win? :-)

buzzbabyjesus said...

Yoko isn't a singer, or even an artist, really. An opportunistic, manipulative, poison dwarf poser, maybe.

Anonymous said...

the singer in Pavlov's Dog made Geddy sound like a baritone.

Gordon Gano (tho when Peter Perrett did it in the Only Ones, I liked it)

Sammy Hagar (which means I cannot listen to the first 2 Montrose albums)

Those guys in the Incredible String Band

Anonymous said...

no one's mentioned Eddie Vedder? The multi-platinum success of his band is as big a mystery as that plane disappearing.

But what the hay I like Kenny Dino....

GLLinMO said...

Nice list. It seems like in these days Rush is the darling of ancient R&R. They have their points, good and bad. I find that in the mid '80s Geddy starting to sing - which helped tremendously.

Though how Rush beat out Paul Williams beats me.

Will say - as unlistenable most pop has been over the last 30 years. this list could go on. Cindy Lauper anyone?

GLLinMO said...

OMG Just clicked on the Smith's video. Morrisey wins an annoying award even without the vocals. I've got some Cd's to burn.... (toss into fire, not record on.. What was I thinking...)

Anonymous said...

kate bush
david byrne

Marsupial said...

There is no question for me: Steve Perry. His forced whine kicks up my gag reflex. (I have to believe it is a symptom of of being a hideous little dwarf.)

Roadmaster said...

Darius Rucker. Contrived to be corporate radio pablum.

And let us also take aim at the R&B 'performers' who sully the heritage of the genre. From Snoop Doggy-Dogg to R. Kelly - it's an affront to put them in the same category that Sam Cooke and Jackie Wilson once dominated.

And Rihanna sure ain't no new LaVern Baker.

Phil Cheese said...

Anyone mention Bonnie Tyler yet? Every time It's A Heartache came on the radio back in the 70s, I immediately changed the station.

Hannes A. Jónsson said...

Paul Williams? Really? OK, never a great singer. However, "Someday Man" is one of the best, under-appreciated albums ever. Just saying...

Anonymous said...

I concur with HANNES on the "SOMEDAY MAN" album. I first discovered it about a dozen years ago when British music magazine MOJO did a backgrounder on it in their "BURIED TREASURE" feature. For those readers who may still buy physical product, it was recently reissued on CD, with bonus material (backing tracks and mono single mixes), by a British company called NOW SOUNDS. Incidentally, Mr. Simels, the MONKEES, of whom you are (justifiably) fond, covered the title song; I believe it's on the B-side of the "Listen To The Band" single.

J. Lag

Hannes A. Jónsson said...

Indeed, J. Lag. And I concur with you concurring with me :-)

Anonymous said...

That version of Lucretia MacEvil made me vomit to a great extent then any of the other versions I've ever heard.