4 Lead Singers That Sound Shockingly Bad Without the Band


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.

Julian Casablancas from the Strokes Singing "Reptilia"

4 Lead Singers That Sound Shockingly Bad Without the Band
Christopher Polk/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

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.

Steve Harwell from Smash Mouth Singing "Days Like These"

4 Lead Singers That Sound Shockingly Bad Without the Band
Evan Agostini/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

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.

Matthew Peyton/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

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.

4 Lead Singers That Sound Shockingly Bad Without the Band

"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.

Sily oel hiand Han Don't kill us all, you're the Piano Man! Please spare our lives, tonight. SHOP NOW

Everyone from the B-52s Singing "Rock Lobster"

4 Lead Singers That Sound Shockingly Bad Without the Band
Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty

In its original state, "Rock Lobster" by the B-52s seems to be a 1960s B-horror movie and 1960s beach party movie mashed together and remolded into music. Tweak it a little by removing the kitschy surf rock-inspired instrumental and you get what sounds an awful lot like a demonically possessed See 'N Say toy.

88 S Sy

"The cow says: 'bloooooooood.'"

The vocal track is pretty much what you'd expect it to be for most of the song. But for the final minute of the track, the band decided to forgo their antipsychotics so they could realistically portray what it would be like if there were such a thing as a haunted insane asylum for fish.

First off, B-52s, I'm not sure those animals make any sounds at all. They live in the water. They go "bloop" and make me go "Mmm" when I eat them and "Grrr" when I poop them. Secondly, without music, "Rock Lobster" goes from an odd but fun pop tune to the reason lithium was invented. It's fucking bonkers. It becomes the kind of thing a children's band would sing if they dropped acid before performing at a birthday party at the aquarium. Thankfully, it's only really with this one B-52s song. The vocal track for "Love Shack" -- which is probably their biggest hit (I guess. I don't know. I know nothing about the B-52s. No one does) -- might actually be better than the original.

That's a party filled with people too cool for Pandora. They're having a ball. I want to be at that party. I want to clap when the B-52s spontaneously sing at gatherings and flee from them when they proclaim that squids make the same sound as a butthole during a seizure.

David Lee Roth from Van Halen Singing "Running With the Devil"

4 Lead Singers That Sound Shockingly Bad Without the Band
Kevin Winter/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Finally, we have the gold standard of laughably bad isolated vocal tracks: David Lee Roth singing "Running With the Devil." David Lee Roth makes so many crazy-as-shit sounds that I never really paid attention to in the full song that it's hard to know where to start. So let's do it chronologically, starting with seconds one through five of this isolated vocal track:

When I was a kid, I played the X-Men arcade game a lot. My favorite character to play as was Colossus, a mutant who could turn his skin into metal and, only in the game, release some kind of energy blast as a power move. I'm 100 percent certain David Lee Roth's "Oooh yes!" at the beginning of that video was the basis for Colossus' scream when he does his power move. I made this video to prove it:

Point proven.

After that, things go smoothly for a bit ... until David Lee Roth breaks open the crazy with what might be the greatest mashed jumble of words ever committed to tape, which is bookended by two patented David Lee Roth howls.

There are a lot of things I don't understand about the world. Chief among them is: Why aren't we all wearing T-shirts with "GoddamnitbabyyouknowIain'tlyin'toyaI'monlygon'tellyouonetimeAhhhyaaaa!" on them? Why isn't "GoddamnitbabyyouknowIain'tlyin'toyaI'monlygon'tellyouonetimeAhhhyaaaa!" a phrase so ubiquitous in modern speech that we had to boil it down to G.D.I.B.Y.K.I.A.L.T.Y.I.O.G.T.Y. O.T.A.Y. so we can quickly text it when someone doesn't believe what you're saying? Why isn't it the default sound on all alarm clocks? And why the fuck haven't I used this as my outgoing voice mail message followed by me saying "... to leave a message" in a monotone voice? All of those questions are mysteries to me. Same goes for what David Lee Roth was thinking when he incorporates some kind of kazoo thing into his performance about 30 seconds later.

You can hear the kazoo thing at the 2:04 mark of the original song, but when it's not being greatly overshadowed by the iconic guitar riff in the chorus, it's like a goddamn circus has broken out in the recording booth. This makes me rethink every Van Halen song I've ever heard. What other silly instruments has David Lee Roth sneaked into songs? Is there a moonshine jug blowing on "Jump"? Is there a didgeridoo on "Hot for Teacher"?

All of these tracks are terrible, but thankfully, no one was stupid enough to combine a couple of them into one turbo-awful track.


Luis Prada sounds better when backed by "Yakety Sax." Follow him on Twitter and Tumblr.

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