Thursday, November 20, 2008

Ronnie James Dio (or, why I think shrieky voiced lead singers are awesome)

On the way into work this morning, I was cranking Black Sabbath's "The Dio Years."

Okay, okay, I know what you're thinking -- Dio? Seriously? But yeah -- honestly, there's something about the Dio era of that band that I really like. My buddy Dave Beckner swears by it, and I have to say he has a point. There's more actual pop songs on "Heaven and Hell" than there is on the entire first ten years of Ozzy's administration. And yeah -- there's a part of me, the part that was raised on Halen and Leppard, the fucking Beavis and Butthead that still lives inside my head, that thinks songs about dragons and wizards and kings and scantily-clad barbarian women are just COOL, huh huh huh. Y'know? Its the kind of stupid crap that you draw pictures of on your high-school notebook, and also it rocks, and you can bang your head to it, and at 7 AM stuck in traffic on the way into Venice for another day where my comps that I worked for days on will get killed or at least changed beyond recognition, it seemed a little transcendent. That's not to say that Ozzy isn't, well, Ozzy, and there's no question that, like, "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" is a BETTER record fundamentally than "Heaven and Hell," but let's just not totally write off the Dio tenure, shall we?

Also, SHRIEKY VOICED LEAD SINGER.

There was some point in the late 90s/early 00s where every american metal singer in the world decided that shrieky voices were, like, for PUSSIES, and started singing like that asshole from Pearl Jam. 'Cause, y'know, its easier to find people to sing like that, because Bob down the street has a pretty good voice and he has a bitchin Camaro we can take to gigs so Julie from high school will finally fuck me, and he's not gonna get all fucking EGO about this shit, 'cause this is MY BAND, and let's not forget it. Any idiot can sing like the guy from Pearl Jam. I'd give you a sound clip to prove it -- I'M an idiot, and I can sing like that. It's low. You don't have to have any chops. You dont' have to have a range. All you have to have is a lotta testosterone and the ability to write shitty lyrics about how crappy stuff is.And what does that get you? Well, Nickelback is what. And that is, by no means, a good thing. I'll take Poison ANY FUCKING DAY over Nickelback. ANY FUCKING DAY.

Because okay, that's the thing, right? Shrieky voiced lead singers write about chicks and dragons and wizards and more chicks and going to California and how Love Hurts and shit like that (I know he didn't write that, but let me riff, here), and all the low-voiced assholes can do is write about how much shit sucks. What's up with that? Is there something about the ability to sing high that makes you HAPPIER ABOUT LIFE? At any rate -- I will posit that metal written by shrieky guys always always trumps metal written by the low guys.

And that brings me to Justin Hawkins. You may remember a band called The Darkness from a few years back. They had a hit called "I Believe In A Thing Called Love" which featured the ULTIMATE shrieky-voiced lead singer, a stringy British dude with a wicked sense of humor called Justin Hawkins, who whooped and shrieked like nobody's business. He was almost Freddie Mercury-like in sheer range, and he was AWESOME.

Then at some point he went into rehab, and then quit the Darkness. And so what do they do? They replace him with a LOW-VOICED GUY, who immediately gets all serious and singing about life sucking and stuff and then the band BLOWS. You see? You see?

Well, the good news is that Justin Hawkins is back, with a COMPLETELY AWESOME BAND called Hot Leg (yes, just the one of them!) and he's just as shrieky and amazing and hilariously over-the-top as he was before. So low guy that joined what's left of the Darkness? You may go to hades, my friend, because here comes Hot Leg. Enjoy.

I've Met Jesus

14 comments:

Prince Gomolvilas said...

The first thing I thought was, "Dio? Seriously?"

You know me so well.

Apparently, not as well as I know you.

Jon Hunt said...

Did you also notice that I said "Every american metal singer in the world?" That INCLUDES the ones in Brazil AND the Congo!

HA -- shrieky voices, Prince, shrieky voices.

David said...

Hey, since I get a namedrop here and all, I just wanna pimp out Dio's best and finest record he ever sang on: Rainbow Rising. Or if you really want to sound bad-ass, Rainbow Fucking Rising. Yeah, the one with the fist coming out the cavern holding a rainbow. Tuff dude shit, right there.

MissTrixi said...

Justin Hawkins is TOTALLY the Freddy Mercury of a newer generation! Those kinds of voices are rare and need to come back more.

We are in an era where voices are electronically tweaked and enhanced in the studio like never before. To me, the sound is full of preservatives...like a Twinkie. They even do it to people with really powerful voices...they did it to Cher! Yes, the electronic sound has it's beauty, and has allowed for an expansion of our musical capabilities, but I think it's making us forget about the organically grown talent. All of the singers that can shrill it out for real are treated as an oddity and end up in gimick bands. Whereas, the safe yet more average voices get shelled out to the masses.
The studio can tweak with their voices if needed, but they have the 'right look' that will appeal to a broader audience. Again..it's about mass appeal - the middle of the road is safer, you won't run the risk of brushing against the local and unique (aka 'weird') flora.

Fuck the masses - bring me back the Freddie's of this world.

xo
Trixi

Jon Hunt said...

I concur on the Rainbow record, and with Trixi's comments about how nobody can sing anymore. Nobody can! It's an epidemic. And even people who can -- they FIX THEIR VOCALS. Like -- why? Why bother? I'd rather hear a sloppy passionate take than something kluged together from twenty shitty takes.

belsum said...

Hot Leg? Noted.

Chris and I went to the Darkness show and it was fuckin' RULE.

ashley said...

I used to get made fun of for listening to the Darkness, but ya know, it always made me feel so good to play air guitar and dance around to it. Plus, the video to "I believe in a thing called love" was just as awesome as the song, it was like a rock video made for a leonard nimoy cameo. It made all my wildest space dreams come true!

LAP said...

The Darkness was that wonderful mix of silly and rockin', which is a delight. The Freddie factor was also delish.

On the topic of guys who can actually sing, and Freddie- there's this pop singer named Mika who channels Freddie, although purely poppy.

Trix brings up the portion of the Disney Channel generation of pop I have issues with, it's really all look and hook- and sometimes that's enough, but sometimes it really isn't. I have always been a fan of a less perfect take with more true emotion over flawlessness anyway.

Jon Hunt said...

Oh, I *love* Mika, at least some of him -- "Grace Kelly" was my song of the year last year, but there's lots of his debut record that's cack, sadly. But man, that kid can SING. Like REALLY WELL. Like lots like Freddie. He even namechecks him in "Grace Kelly," doesn't he?

LAP said...

He does namecheck right as you're full on recognizing that's who he's sounding like. But you're right, I haven't heard anything from him as good "Grace Kelly" is.

Anonymous said...

did you ever hear the Darkness's christmas single? someone played it for me last year and its the best christmas-time song ever. like, not just gimmicky funny stuff, but actually joyous and emotional and brilliant. thanks for showing us Hot Leg, i had no idea what happened to The Darkness. thank god Justin's back. - kells

Anonymous said...

Dio's the real deal. His first two solo albums are the dog's danglers.

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