Have you ever listened to a song and thought, "I bet if someone stripped away all the music, this singer would sound like a cheese grater scraping against another cheese grater, but the second cheese grater is sentient and screaming"? And then, because you hate yourself, wondered if there was a way to hear the singer's studio-recorded voice all by itself? Well, you can, you masochistic weirdo!
There are tons of incredible vocal tracks available on the Internet. Listen in awe as Elvis sings "In the Ghetto." Feel like you're sitting next to David Bowie and Freddie Mercury as they sing "Under Pressure." Get floored by the cacophonous vocals on "Bohemian Rhapsody." Listen to Outkast be amazing on the vocal track for "Bombs Over Baghdad." Listen to the grungy harmonies on "No Excuses" by Alice in Chains, or listen to the incredible harmonies on "God Only Knows" by the Beach Boys (and while you're at it, listen to the barbershop quartet version from BioShock Infinite).
There's tons of amazing tracks out there, and I can't turn any of them into jokes. So, here are some famous singers sounding like shit when you lay bare their vocals.
#4. Julian Casablancas from the Strokes Singing "Reptilia"
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If you've ever wondered what the guy from the Strokes would sound like if he were performing while something in his body was rupturing, well, here's the isolated vocal track from "Reptilia":
If that's Julian Casablancas without the "man shouting while trapped in a treasure chest" effect they put on his voice in the original song, even he wouldn't have received a passing score singing his own song in Rock Band. He'd be stuck on his own song forever, then he'd get pissed and return the whole rig to GameStop for eight bucks.
MTV Games/Electronic Arts
"Or you can put it toward a pre-order for whatever shit game we're shoving down your throat."
In the unmixed track, he wavers between being the third runner-up in a Dean Martin sound-alike competition held in a small village in India where no one has heard of Dean Martin and being in the midst of a post-breakup whiskey-fueled mental breakdown. In the fully produced version on the album, all of this is cleverly masked by the state-of-the-art Pringles can he sings through. The producers took some fairly ear-grating vocals, then added some distortion effects to make them sound worse, thus tricking us into thinking the purposefully bad vocals were a stylistic choice. They raised the bar by lowering it. Clever.
#3. Steve Harwell from Smash Mouth Singing "Days Like These"
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For a short time in the early 2000s, we politely listened to Smash Mouth's few hit singles, but then as a species we decided we'd had enough new Smash Mouth songs for one millennium, so we stopped. There are probably a bunch of fully released Smash Mouth songs you've never heard, but there's one you've never heard because the band never released it, and it didn't become public until it was leaked onto YouTube. It was called "Days Like These," and in it, lead singer Steve Harwell (yes, his name really is Steve and not Bodacious Riptide or '67 Chevy Sunburn, as he should be named) recorded the vocal track and, well, that's pretty much as far as they got, I guess.
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Pictured: Mr. Board Wax Bowling Shirt, lead singer of Smash Mouth.
The song is all about being a regular dude who likes his friends and the sun and whatever else was in Mr. Riptide's eye line as he soaked in a Jacuzzi filled with Corona. If spiky hair with frosted tips could sing, it would sound like this:
With music, Smash Mouth songs sound like a Kidz Bop cover of a Smash Mouth song. Without the music, it's just a cartoon dog with a backward baseball cap yelling at you about contentment. This track is made even more wonderfully bad by the fact that this is the only version that exists. There's no track with the vocals and instrumental together that it can be compared to. All we have is what appears to be the result of someone secretly recording the idly sung tune of a SoCal surfer bro as he shat in a public toilet along Venice Beach.
"C'mon, Riptide! Deliver like a winner!"
It's almost awkward; it feels private. This was probably a thing Bodacious sang out loud in his car with the windows rolled up after a particularly chill afternoon where all of his success suddenly hit him. "Holy shit," he probably thought. "I've had number one singles and I'm financially secure for life. Life is good. Hey, now that no one's around, let me sing a song about it."
Songs sung in private should never see the light of day. It's like looking through your childhood notebooks and seeing a picture essay about how you wanted to be a dinosaur when you grew up. Cute, but that shit's getting tucked under a mattress for eternity.