Favourite Music Reads of the 00s #7 (Wheezers)

“Some bad singers whine and moan. Some bad singers wheeze and groan. Some bad singers wait to exhale. Others work the soulful wail. Some testify, and some emote. Others sugar every note. Some sing too little, some sing too much, some sing ‘Sometimes When We Touch.’ But of all the bad singers in the world, the third worst has to be… Steve Earle.

“The second worst is Tom Petty.

“Billy Bragg is the worst.”

Nobody Can Touch Him, Rob Sheffield, Village Voice, 2003

3 thoughts on “Favourite Music Reads of the 00s #7 (Wheezers)

  1. I dunno, Rob, I can live with the vocals of Steve Earle, Tom Petty, et.al. — they’re not necessarily my favorites, but they don’t bug me either. Your final bad-voice-choice, Michael Bolton, is of course an exception to all rules. The eternally great thing about Bolton (which is also the terminally terrible thing about him) is that his overacted vocals were the auditory equivalent of his overdone mullet hairdo which was the visual equivalent of his overacted vocals which were etc. ad infin..

    But I come here today not to bury the vocals of Billy Bragg, but to denigrate those of Chris Smither. Does anybody else out there find Smither’s deadpan-folkie vocals as irritatingly SMUG (in a passive-aggressive way) as I do? Weird thing is that I barely knew who Smither was until a few months ago, when several of his songs turned up on the ambient-music iPod playlist programmed by another employee at the place where I work now. I had to do a bit of You Tube research to figure out who owned this unrepentant-hootenanny snore, until I zeroed in on Mr. Smither. I don’t care if Bonnie Raitt thinks he’s a genius, she doesn’t have to listen to that relentless iPod every working day like your reporter does. No love today, sez me.

  2. Haven’t heard (for that matter, heard of) Smither, Richard (tho’ Monty Burns is a big fan, apparently), but your counter-query here (and re-reading Rob’s piece) brings up a related question that’s been on my mind for a while: when and why did white male rock vocalists in general start sucking so bad? I don’t know off the top of my head who I consider the most recent great white male vocalist, but I’d be surprised if it’s anyone from the current decade (and I’m even stuck when I go back to the ’90s to be honest). That’s one very big reason I almost listen exclusively to hip-hop and r&b (and increasingly country) when it comes to modern pop — I’d love to embrace some exciting guitar-based music again, but across the board the vocalists are just so grey and so so dull and so dishwater-ey, it seems. Am I missing something?

  3. Peter Gabriel’s scratchy and soulful tenor is still pretty potent. Listen to the gospely middle part of “Don’t Give Up” for instance.

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