Five Great Singers in Bad Bands
Hayley Williams of Paramore
Photo by Violeta Alvarez
A couple of months back, we discussed how so many great bands have ended up with some pretty bad singers in them, usually because they couldn't find a decent lead singer around when they started or they started off playing a wildly different style and eventually took a detour that forced their front person to start crooning.
This time we'd like to take a look at the flipside: bands that are pretty awful but somehow managed to land an awesome singer up front. It's a little bit tougher, because bad singers are often the reason a band sucks, but we've come up with some truly terrible bands whose singers would be so much better fronting just about anyone else.
Marilyn Manson (Marilyn Manson) It really sucks that Marilyn Manson painted himself into such a corner with his Alice Cooper wannabe stuff, because he's really an interesting musician with a lot of great influences behind him. I bet if he was free of trying to live up to his own image he might have attained the sort of post-angst late-career acclaim that his old buddy Trent Reznor has.
Besides all that, though, Manson has always had a great voice, especially for the kind of music he does. It's dark, seductive, scary and intense all at once. Ever the showman, he twists and contorts his delivery in exceptional ways to convey so much in single lines. With so much in his favor, he should have been a favorite of hipsters everywhere, but instead fell prey to commercial interests over artistic integrity. What a shame.
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Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) Here's the thing, Justin Vernon is just a boring songwriter. There's nothing interesting that he puts into his music. It's all airy, spacey bullshit folk that cleverly appeals to log cabin hipsters while missing out on anything that made folk an appealing style of music in the '60s. Go listen to Bill Callahan if you want to hear some good modern folk music.
He does have a great voice for singing pop hooks though. Check him out on Kanye West's records. He's brilliant there. I couldn't believe how much I enjoyed what he did to "I'm In It," "Monster," and "Lost in the Woods," the latter of which hilariously samples one of his exceedingly boring tracks and makes it good through the power of Yeezus. I would not mind if he just quit doing music on his own and lent his talents to singing Kanye's hooks full-time.
Hayley Williams (Paramore) Now carving out a niche for herself as a pop star singing the hooks for rap songs as well as the front woman for teen-emo-pop-punk rockers Paramore, Hayley Williams has proved her chops as a singer. No more questions on that. The problem is her choice of music; Paramore is such a waste of her talents.
Far be it from us to discourage someone from singing in a punk-rock band, but Paramore is about as punk as 2 percent milk. The most punk thing they've ever done is butchering an At the Drive-In song at their live shows. Frankly, Williams has already shown us she could be a great pop songstress, and we'd love to hear what she could produce under that guise. Unfortunately, she's stuck in a terrible band, like this generation's Amy Lee. It's a shame.
List continues on the next page.
Jon Bon Jovi (Bon Jovi) This is more on ol' Jonny himself, more than it is on his band. When the band is named after you and you write most of the songs, you're certainly to blame for your own suckage. That being said, it's a shame that JBJ is such a horrible songwriter, because he's actually a great singer.
We've heard him blow notes as of late, but back in the '80s the guy could really belt one out. He had a nice range and a terrific edge to his growls that could have improved just about any rock band of the era. He just happened to lend his talents to his own shitty one. I'd love to have heard him sing for a band where he didn't have any creative input outside maybe the lyrics.
Sammy Hagar (Van Halen) You have to feel for Sammy Hagar. Everyone wants to blame him for the Van Hagar debacle when, quite frankly, he was the only thing making that band work at that point. Eddie Van Halen was increasingly self-destructive both as a human being and as a songwriter throughout that entire era, drinking himself into stupors and writing horrible '80s ballads on his keyboard.
But Sammy Hagar was there to pick up the pieces and belt out each one of those cheesy songs with such dedication and commitment that you might really believe that "love walks in just like an alien." That's the thing: Sammy Hagar was actually a great singer and a fantastic front man trapped in an increasingly shitty band.
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