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Seven Bad Singers in Good Bands

Eddie Van Halen and David Lee Roth
Eddie Van Halen and David Lee Roth
Photo by Groovehouse

I'm willing to bet you've heard more than one band and thought, "that guy can't sing." Maybe you even liked the music, but the singer was just so awful it ruined it for you. It's not simply the domain of local bands who couldn't find a decent singer off Craigslist either. Some popular bands have singers so bad they can ruin the whole band, though more often than not it can thankfully be overlooked.

It's hard to understand how it happens. Maybe they just really like the person, or maybe they just really couldn't find anyone else and got stuck. No matter how though, it's a recurring issue, and these are just a handful of the bad singers you find fronting great bands.

Dave Mustaine, Megadeth

Musically, Megadeth was one of the early forerunners of the thrash metal movement and has inspired countless metal bands over the last almost thirty years of their existence. On the other hand, many have struggled to enjoy the band for a fairly decent reason: front man Dave Mustaine has never been able to sing well.

He was kind of a victim of circumstances. After he got fired from Metallica and started Megadeth, he didn't have a singer, and he had always been a lead guitarist. He just started doing it himself for reasons of expediency. That's understandable, and hey, it's carried the band over the years. It's certainly never stopped me from loving Megadeth. But his bizarre, snarling voice has always been either outright bad or ridiculous as best, and it's only diminished with age.

Anthony Kiedis, Red Hot Chili Peppers

Let's be fair, he did start off mostly just rapping and making weird noises in the earliest days of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and that worked for their aggressive funk rock, punk rock style. When they started writing ballads though, it was all downhill. I love their ballads, and obviously his voice couldn't be too off-putting considering the massive success of songs like "Under the Bridge."

I don't think anyone would argue that he's a great singer though. He has just enough to carry a tune and get the band by, but that's it, and his enunciation can get downright grating at times. As the band has gotten softer and less and less funk based, his voice has only grown more annoying over time. Not to mention their success allowed him to get indulgent with it. Blech.

Jacob Bannon, Converge

Though massively influential on the hardcore scene over the years, Converge is mostly notable for their musical accomplishments, not vocal ones. Jacob Bannon is revered in the scene, but it's for altogether different reasons. His lyrics, artwork, and energetic performances are unparalleled.

He just can't quite scream with any great ability. Screaming is really not hard, and he can do it passably enough to get away with it. That being said, over the years he's tried on various styles from high screeches that sounded more like bizarre bird mating calls and growls that made him sound like an 80 year old chain-smoker, and none have ever turned out well. Good thing he's amazing at everything else.

 

James LaBrie, Dream Theater

Poor LaBrie. The thing is, Dream Theater's front man can sing decently enough, though your mileage may vary on how much you can take of his voice, which just sounds inherently cheesy in an inexplicable way. However, no matter what, his voice will never fit with the music Dream Theater plays. It has consistently dragged them down their entire career.

In the early '90s he could muster some of the aggression necessary for a metal band, but he blew out his voice after an illness and after that it was gone. Bad news for LaBrie when the band decided to start experimenting with heavier metal styles on albums like 2003's Train of Thought. His nasally high pitched wails and snotty aggressive growls which sounded as intimidating as a toy dog were sadly not suited to those styles of music.

Morrissey, The Smiths

I'll give Moz this: he's improved as a singer over the years. Though his droning baritone is the subject of much parody, it's an iconic voice at this point that has softened and become more enjoyable as time goes on. That being said, in the Smiths days, when he sounded a lot more like Boris Karloff, some of his vocals could be downright laughable, especially given the lyrics he was singing.

Worse though was his dreadful falsetto that he thankfully stopped employing after a short time in his Smiths career. Their first self-titled record, brilliant though it is, is marred by Moz's insistence on singing long portions of songs in the absolute worst falsetto ever put to wax.

Francis Mark, From Autumn to Ashes

A great post-hardcore band in all other aspects, From Autumn to Ashes firmly believed, like many bands of their time, that the key to crossover success was having sung choruses. That was pretty much true, and it even worked for them for a brief time.

Nevertheless, having their drummer sing the clean parts was a big mistake. Mark's voice was a nasal whine that would have sounded snotty and annoying even in a pop punk band where it belonged. Much the worse when their screamer Ben Perri left and Mark took over all the vocals.

David Lee Roth, Van Halen

Say what you will about Van Halen, but their early work was massively influential and impacted popular music in a way few bands have done before or since. In fact, I daresay the only thing that drags down their rep and street cred is their boisterous front man, whose cheesy one-liner lyrics, jazz scatting, and, oh yeah, horrible singing, really made the band seem like a joke to serious music lovers.

Of course, the basic simplicity of all the music so that Eddie Van Halen's guitar work would stand out even more probably didn't help, nor did the Van Hagar years, but one need only listen to Roth's vocals isolated to hear what a terrible singer he always was. Good thing he had charisma to carry him along.

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