Monday, June 30, 2008

You're No Mariah Houston!

I'm a big fan of karaoke. I love doing it...and I'm happy to report that I have never been booed off the stage. Generally speaking, however, getting a bunch of drunk people to sing their favorite tunes into a microphone can be a scary experience.

There seems to be two philosophies among those that cannot carry a tune: those that know they suck and those that think they are the second coming of Clay Aiken.
So, are there people out there that are just naturally tone deaf? Even with proper training, can they learn to sing on key? Researchers at the University of Finance and Management in Warsaw and University of Montreal decided to get to the bottom of this. They asked more than 150 people to sing a very familiar song - like "Happy Birthday." Then they had another group sing a note after hearing it from an instrument.
What they found was pretty astonishing.

More than 90% could sing in tune. The identified two types of bad singers: those that are completely tone deaf. They sing terribly and can't discern the correct note they hear from an instrument. The other group can easily tell if a note is off key, but can't sing properly - they are tone mute.
Regardless of singing ability, there are tons of "artists" that have made it big in the music industry despite having terrible singing voices. Here are my personal top five:
5) J-Lo. She's gorgeous, she could dance, and her perfume was probably OK. But when she had to sing live with her hubby, Marc Anthony, it became obvious that she really cannot sing.

4) Tom Petty. How does a guy who sings like he's got a mouthful of everlasting gobstoppers sell so many albums? The dude has an awful voice. Why oh why did he sing at the last Superbowl?

3) Britney Spears. She's a trainwreck, and before K-Fed, she was so cute. Ever hear what she sounds live? It'll make your ears bleed.

2) Chris Martin of Coldplay. Many of you will disagree because they have a hot single on the Billboard Charts right now. But be objective and listen to his voice. He often sings in falsetto - and it's not very good. At other times, it sounds like his moaning in his sleep. What do you expect from a guy that thinks Amy Winehouse is the best singer in the world?

1) Bob Dylan. I've had sounds come out of my butt that sounded better than this guy's voice. I know he wrote powerful lyrics - I will not disagree. But he sounds like one of those hair clippers at the barbershop. Listening to his voice reminds me of the sound some kid in my 5th grade gym class made after his nuts got rocked from a line drive. He might be the voice of his generation, but his generation spent most of their days in an incoherent stupor.


KC said...

Tone mute? I never actually knew what my problem was, but I think that may be it. I ran a karaoke show for years, but I'm not a good singer. I have an extremely limited range, but at least I know that so I don't punish the crowd by trying to sing Mariah Carey or something similar. Still, I love karaoke. I think I need to do it again soon. :-)

Mr. Friendly said...

Clay Aiken?

Excuse me for saying so Phoenix but your inner teenage girl is showing.

Best of the worst voices ever...
Tom Carvel. I think he sang Happy Birthday in a commercial once. That counts right?

The Phoenix said...

KC: Yeah - you need to get back on stage!

mr. friendly - Personally, I'm so NOT a Clay Aiken fan, but my mother is. I was being a little facetious.

Tom Carvel - the Ice Cream dude???

In my opinion - one of the most underrated voices today, and one of the best, is Tom Chaplin - lead singer of Keane.

BrianAlt said...

I only did karaoke once. My wife and I were on a cruise and we did Paradise by the Dashboard Lights. Which meant I had to sing about 80% more than she did. I know just about all the words to the song. For the last part I came out from behind the video screen and screamed out the words. That song is all about screaming anyway.

As for singing voices, they're overrated. As your list proves, performing isn't ONLY about having a great voice.

David Amulet said...

Tom Petty is not great, but he doesn't belong in this category. When he sings lightly on songs like "Breakdown" or "You Don't Know How It Feels," his voice actually works for me.

I'd replace him with Lemmy of Motorhead, who is hard to listen to for more than two or three songs in a row.

I'm with Mr. Friendly. CLAY AIKEN?!?

kim said...

He's a Claymate, let him be! :)

You left Tom Waits off your list - he and Dylan are songwriters who shouldn't sing.

the weirdgirl said...

Thank you for calling out Chris Martin! Coldplay is seriously overrated. I mean, they're OK... just not god's gift or anything.

And I have to say I don't think Tom Petty should be on this list either. Or if he is to be fair you also have to include Michael Stipe of R.E.M. and Gordon Gano of Violent Femmes. Except I really like those guys, too.

Mr. Friendly said...

As Patton Oswalt says:
"Tom Carvel sounds like Tom Waits gargling hot asphalt."

He is the ice cream guy. Inventor of Cookie Puss and many others.

If I could find a sound clip, I'd point you there. Next to Crazy Eddie, his commercials were my favorites from ol' Channel 11 WPIX in NYC.

delmer said...

I've been listening to a lot of Tom Petty. And while I love his stuff, his voice has always made me wonder how he made it.

It's gotta be his looks.

Sherri said...

I'm definitely tone mute. Egads! I sing like crazy when I'm alone in my car, but, in public, you won't even catch me singing happy birthday with a crowd of people. :D

Sassy Blondie said...

I love it! Karaoke is so much fun! Only I'm usually a few drinks in before I'll really belt something out. I can carry a tune most of the time.

Kudos to your list! I completely agree...the fact that Britney Spears ever got a recording contract is a mystery. I guess any of us could be a star today with all the mixing and electronics they filter the voice through....

angel, jr. said...

I am tone mute. I know that I'm not good--and because of years of piano lessons, can tell that I'm out of tune.

Phats said...

Dude my friends and I karaoke all the time, you should come with us sometime it'd be a blast.

I always thought that Brit sounds the same now as she did when she was on the MMC, shouldn't her voice have matured?!

Phats said...

You should do a podcast karaoke style! haha

Jamie Dawn said...

Britney's voice is and always has been weak.
Bob Dylan?? Hitonious.
There aren't many voices that hold up well without all the special reverb effects and enhancements.
It's rare to hear a band or solo artist live that sounds as good as their album.

Dr.John said...

Thanks for the list of people who can't sing. I heard a group like that the other night. I came in late on one of those reality shows and the group singing were judst horrible. I said to my wife " they will never make it" She said " Dear that's the guest professional group".

ozymandiaz said...

Hell, I should have been a profesional singer. People who have heard me sing, though, seem to be of a differant mind.
in my youth I sat next to the PK in choir and he was tone stone deaf, and he had VOLUME. ya know how it is when you sing in choir, right? someone next to ya hits a bad key and it throws you off, right? try sitting next to every key being off...
and you missed about a thousand "artists". I aways thought Rock n Roll was invented for people who can't carry a tune in a bucket.

The Egg said...

Oh you don't wanna hear me sing! I'd never survive karaoke:) Nice to see you blogging again.

Jim said...

The "University of Finance and Management" <-- research into singing? I is so confused.

Elise said...

you may think i'm crazy but i want to know (A) who is mariah houston? because i just met a woman called mariah houston and she was famous, but i don't know who she is... there was a lot of photografers so she can't be anybody :P

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