Is there a crime in having a good singer?
Who do we blame here? Too many shoegazing alternative acts or the Internet? Used to be, after watching the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, when you formed a band you needed not only a lead guitarist, a rhythm player and bassist, a drummer too, but a LEAD SINGER!
No one sat down and said…let’s find someone with a really thin voice, who’ll make most people wince, let’s find someone who doesn’t sing well.
Oh, this is the point where you go on about Bob Dylan. Well, he was the best songwriter of all time, with tons to say, and he had a way of expressing himself… Let’s just say he’s the EXCEPTION!
Hell, let’s start with bands that have such a good vocalist that their records cannot be denied. Remember the band Ace? Probably not, but I’m sure you know their one big hit, "How Long". A great song, a great production, but what makes it indelible, what makes it a classic, what makes it still get spun today is PAUL CARRACK’S VOCAL! So damn good that when he joined Squeeze, they had their one big hit, "Tempted". Then there’s Paul Rodgers… Listen to Free, Bad Company…wow!
But somewhere along the line, the writer felt he could sing his own songs, fuck the lead singer who wanted all the attention and all the chicks. I love "Broken Arrow", but Robbie Robertson’s songs are best sung by another. No biggie. Do we really expect everybody to be a triple threat? Great player, writer and singer? NO! But if we do want people to pay attention, it’s best if they can SING!
Oh, we’ve got the reverse, the "Idol" syndrome, where ALL the contestants can do is sing. But let’s talk about the legendary acts, great singing was a key element! Not only the Beatles, how about Elton… Go back and listen to those records again.
So I’m driving down Ocean Park Boulevard listening to SiriusXM’s Loft and I hear this great intro, subtle yet a groove, my toe is starting to tap, and then…this guy sings so damn thinly that I’m disappointed. I’m thinking I can turn people on to this great track, I’m listening hoping it’s going to sustain, and then it disappoints.
Listen for yourself. The name of the band is the Silver Seas, the name of the track is "What’s The Drawback", number two in the player: the Silver Seas
Just imagine if the band got someone else to sing, just how good this track would be. Shit, Geddy Lee doesn’t even write the lyrics, but Rush is smart enough to know he should sing them.
Let’s stop blaming the audience. They’re really damn smart. They’re not paying attention to you, to so many acts, because they know they’re just not good enough. You’ve got to excel. The Beatles were great writers, phenomenal singers and certainly good enough players, the public responded. If we want people to respond, we’ve got to deliver excellence.
But now, when every Mac comes with recording software, when you can buy loops online and post your ultimate result minutes after finishing it, the bar has been lowered to such a point that what we’ve got is dreck.
Decry the labels of old, but at least they were smart enough not to try and sell crap, they knew you had to be great. And now you’ve got to be even better! Because there are so many other things for people to do with their time.
Just because you’ve got a voice, that doesn’t mean you should sing. Just because you can play the guitar, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t hire a gunslinger. The Eagles were big, but they became legendary when Joe Walsh joined the band. How much did David Gilmour add to Pink Floyd?
Bottom line, I can’t tell everybody how great you are if you’re not. You can’t play in the NBA if you’re 5’3" and although Spud Webb made it, your odds of making it in music suck if you’re fronted by a lame vocalist. Do your homework, be the best you can be before you expect people to pay attention.