Singer, Sing Me a Song, Pre-AutoTune

Today, on my way home from work, I compiled a list of several rock & roll standards where i noticed that in the absence of AutoTune, the singer was horribly out off pitch and nobody seemed to care. Don’t get me wrong. I love all these bands (yes, I even like Cher) but wow. Just… wow. Some of these are a bit painful.

I remember reading awhile back, I think it was Rolling Stone critic Dave Marsh, talking about the effects American Idol has made on the American music scene. the gist of his interview was that singers are no longer allowed to just sing… They have to sing in tune, with perfection. Anything else has become not really worthy of a listen.

Well, here are a number of songs that, despite the “ouch” factor of intonation, are still worth a listen.

The Doors–Riders on the Storm

C’mon, Lizard King! You could sing better than that! Okay, maybe you couldn’t. Good thing we still like the song. My brain is squirming like a toad.

Sonny and Cher–I Got You Babe.

Is it ironic that the woman who popularized AutoTune as an art (as well as an industry standard) would make this list? (remember Cher singing Believe?) No, not really. And her husband is the most nasal voice in rock, until he was superceded by Tom Petty). “And when I’m sad a clown. And if I get scared, you’re always around…” Ouch. Hair-pullingly bad.

Hootie & the Blowfish – Only Wanna Be With You.

This is a perpetual problem with Mister Hootie (listen to Time for more out of tune awesomeness) but this song may not have a single accurate note throughout. Ouch. That’s how you make 16 certified platinum albums.

Tommy James and the Shondells–Crimson and Clover

That and the ear-befuddling forte/piano vibrato make for a bit of torture. Good song. Famous execution. But it’s hard listening to it for more than, say, the amount of time it takes to play 1/2 of it on the radio.

Queen–Somebody to Love

I love Queen; in fact, I love this song. But the last run, my god, hold it together, Freddie! I cringe. CRINGE I say!

Led Zeppelin–Fool in the Rain

The Whole. Song. Seriously, Robert Plant. One of the most iconic voices in Rock, and you do this? Another example of a great song where… God did you hit a single note on pitch?

And, while we’re at it, maybe it’s the latin/reggae thing that befuddled the Mighty Gods of Rock, what’s with D’yer Mak’er, from 7 years earlier? Another great track that was hurt by a lackadaisical (yet iconic) vocal delivery.

Please understand I’m not trashing these performances (well, maybe Robert Plant, just a little). I enjoy these pieces. I even do a little car-dancing when I hear them come on the radio on my drive to work.

I’m just pointing out how much our standards have changed. Or have they?

Did Ella Fitzgerald ever miss a note? Or maybe I just don’t want her to.

Honorable mention: here’s a few that I will link, and you can listen to at your leisure.

Tom Petty. Free Fallin’

Mungo Jerry. In the Summertime

Jefferson Airplane. White Rabbit


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