In Name Only: My Favorite Artists Lacking in Vocal Abilities
The Business of Music
Disclaimer: This hub is an opinion hub that I'm sure will be subject to debate. But please know this is only what I think, not actual fact. Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy!
We all know that as much as music is lovely and inspiring, it's also quite irritating and commonplace at times. None more so than when we hear the sounds of an artist who for lack of a better term, can't carry a tune. But for a variety of reasons they have managed to survive and have a long and interesting career despite the fact they'll never be known for their actual vocals.
So without further ado, I'd like to present my favorite singers who aren't exactly known for well, singing.
The Monotone Girl
There are very few lovers of 80s pop culture who as much as they would deny it, love at least one Madonna song, album, or incarnation. But the real question is why? She's a great dancer but her voice, well, it leaves a lot to be desired. But come on, it's Madonna. We all know and love her but I'm sure she knows she can't belt it out.
To my way of thinking, Madonna is the epitome of a savvy businesswoman. She knew her strengths and weaknesses as well as how to promote and downplay them. Don't believe me? Let's examine the evidence.
Madonna is a pop culture icon namely for how she's managed to combine sexuality, women's rights, and blonde ambition into the perfect package. Her emergence on the scene was initially met with little fanfare but she quickly knew how to put herself out there. And with the help of MTV she exploded by using the medium to her advantage and becoming a high-concept visual artist.
Though many of her detractors thought she wouldn't last that long, she has had the last laugh. Madonna may have an AARP membership but she's still savvy in terms of trendsetting and insight into the very fickle and changing world of pop culture.
Another thing she does well is craft pop songs that are nearly impossible to get out of your head. The best part is that you don't even have to worry about how you sound when you sing which means that you can hum "Material Girl" in the office, "Express Yourself" at the gym, and get "Into the Groove" at karaoke without worrying.
I personally love Madonna because she's proved everyone who's ever doubted her wrong in some way (well except maybe the acting part). And the fact that she continues to inspire an entire generation of somewhat lovable non-singing pop tarts. Thanks Madge!
New Jacked Twanging
If you've ever heard a Keith Sweat song you know what I mean about his (lack of) singing style. Again, he's mastered the art of making a woman want him while sounding completely unattractive. If you ask me, that's the epitome of weird science. But we still love him and his songs and the way they make us sound like we have a sinus infection in June. Oh, Keith!
Keith Sweat was actually born Keith Crier (yeah, the irony!) and was a simple school teacher before becoming Keith Sweat. With the help of music impresario and hit maker, Teddy Riley they helped engineer the style of New Jack Swing.
For those of you who don't know, New Jack Swing is a style of music that arose in the late 1980s that fuses R&B vocals and hooks together with Hip-Hop beats. In other words, it's a very clever and unique way to remind us you can't sing.
Keith Sweat helped craft hits like, "Let's Chill" and "Just Got Paid" for artists like Guy and Johnny Kemp. He also had his own string of hits including, "I Want Her" and (my personal favorite) "Make It Last Forever" featuring Jacci McGhee.
But it's not so much his voice women are entranced by, it's his tone. Nicknamed "the begging man," Keith Sweat is famous for pleading his case on stage and on record. And not just by dropping down like a desperate housewife but he uses props like flowers and his six-pack.
Keith Sweat is someone who I've heard as long as I can remember and while he's not my favorite, it's always fun when I have a cold and try to sound like him.
Godfather of Rap-Talkin'
Now please mind you, I mean no offense to the dearly departed. But I have to be honest, I never listened to James Brown for the tone of his voice. His beats? Insatiable. His stage persona? Most definitely. His voice? Reminds me too much of an angry grandfather in Wal-Mart. Not to say that it wasn't appreciated but I just like James Brown for everything about his vocals.
When James Brown emerged, there were many soul singers who emerged but eventually didn't capture the same kind of following as James Brown. He took R&B and Soul Music to a new level by not only focusing on choreography and good musicianship in his band but also by doing what hadn't been done before.
The first thing that comes to mind for me when I listen to James Brown is slamming beats. I know I promised I wouldn't use slamming in a written context but here I am. However, that's the best word to describe them. Loud horns, excellent rhythm sections and his voice guiding us along the way.
My memories of James Brown go back to my childhood when my mom would play his music while we would clean the house. Not that she didn't play other artists, but it was his beats that motivated me the most when I felt like collapsing alongside a dust bunny. As I grew older, I respected how James Brown was outspoken about civil rights as well as artistry and development in music.
His style and swagger influenced some of the greatest performers ever such as Prince, Michael Jackson and Usher. For that, I will never deny his impact. It just goes to show you that your voice goes far beyond what comes out of your mouth.
Oops, She Synched It Again!
For most 90s kids such as myself, there are some questions we knew the answers to immediately. And the questions were either or. Pepsi or Coke? Pepsi. *NSYNC or BSB? *NSYNC, son! Britney or Christina? Britney.
Now please understand that I enjoy the occasional cherry coke, BSB ballad and Xtina vocal rift but there's no denying the impact of the former subjects. Most namely, Britney. I remember watching "Baby One More Time" and thinking, "Finally! Happy music." I was 10, but my instincts prevailed.
Britney Spears has long been criticized for picking up where Madonna left off and while that's true in some instances, for the most part she's her own creation. Whereas Madonna's accent flips from Detroit runaway to NYC lover to British Manor Lady, our dear Britney was pure southern belle. And she said y'all.
My finest memories of Britney have to be her trifecta of awesome MTV VMA performances. She took all the attention away from the synched up microphone to her outfits, her dance moves, and her penchant for knowing what to do when. It was awesome and just like that I was hooked.
Another thing she did well was always fan controversy with sweetness. She famously answered her questions with sir and ma'am at the end or said, "I'm growing up, I can't be 16 forever." And we'd all sigh and sing "I'm a Slave 4 U."
Even when she went through her dark period in the years between K-Fed and her breakdown, we all rooted for her. She was a victim of the media as well as her own lack of insight but she emerged all the better.
And while we all are glad for her second chance, it may not have came without the first impression she made on us all those years ago.
Howls Like Jagger
Pop culture recently has been on a Mick Jagger binge. Is it because he hit 70 not that long ago? Probably not. Is it because we might think he'll collapse on stage singing "Satisfaction?" Yeah, that's more like it.
I will admit if you asked me Beatles or Stones, I'll go with the Liverpool lads but there's something indelible about Mick Jagger's presence on stage. He's not the best at it but his energy does something to all of us that makes us want more for one reason or another.
Mick Jagger is a moving mystery and a titan of Rock music but beyond that he makes us smile. I recently saw the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 25th Anniversary Concert and one of my favorite performances was him alongside Fergie and U2. The song was okay but what really hit me was how he managed to draw us in with his allure.
And while I think Maroon 5 may have given us one of the most annoyingly catchy songs of late, they have a point. Ask any woman of age and she'll tell you. A guy who moves in such a way that you have no choice but to watch will always get our attention. His body in rhythm with the track, his eyes sending a message of interest, and his lyrics all send a message that has managed to draw people in for five decades now.
Does that mean he's earned it? More or less yes. Anyone who has remained an icon this long obviously knows what they're doing. And while he isn't a saint or a pure vocalist, he's decidedly an icon for not being afraid to do what many said couldn't.
Let Me Know Your Favorite!
Who's Your Favorite Non-Singing Singer?See results without voting
Thanks for reading and I look forward to your comments and insights. Please feel free to suggest future hubs as well as I always look forward to feedback from fellow Hubbers.
More by this Author
The consequences of being sexy in the public eye. Namely, why it's hard for people to see behind a sexy magazine cover, music video, or movie appearance.
The good, bad, and the umm from various artists who've tried to fly solo.
A biography of the most iconic and influential boy band of the late 20th century, New Edition.