The following is a work in progress list of, in my opinion, the best vocal moments in music. Moments of stunning vocal inflection that really help to convey a strong feeling in the same way a brilliantly composed and lit shot would in a film. The idea isn’t necessarily best songs ever or best singers ever, but the best short sections of a song which display exceptional communication of ideas.
***Warning, this article contains exaggerated over-analyzing, proper art student style and may be sickening. Do not read if you don’t understand that I am not an art school style toss pot most of the time and also that is my own opinion.***
Ozzy Osbourne of Black Sabbath on the song ‘Junior’s Eyes.’ The delivery of ‘Junior cried, the day that his best friend died.’ — There is a very common opinion that Ozzy is a bad singer and can’t sing very well at all, he is just the singer of Black Sabbath, who would be famous on musical merit anyway. Sometimes I think that too. Sometimes I don’t. I’m fickle.
The times when I don’t think that are usually when I am listening to either ‘Junior’s Eyes’ or ‘You Won’t Change Me,’ two songs which catagorically prove he can be a great singer if he really goes for it.
Claudio Sanchez of Coheed And Cambria. There are just too many to note, because his whole thing is storytelling through his music and singing, and he has a very complicated story across his entire discography. Some absolute standouts include the deliveries of ‘I’ve Given You Up, Go On Find Someone New,’ ‘So Cry On Bitch, Why Aren’t You Laughing Now ?’ ‘Because The Man You Love Don’t Live Anymore.’ ‘So Until The Sun Burns Out,’ ‘No Matter How Far,’ and ‘I’ll move out the front door and take out your trash,But I’ll no longer be haunting here, I’m not coming back.’
Dio – The choruses of ‘Caught In The Middle,’ and Black Sabbath’s ‘Wishing Well,’ are beyond good.
Billy Joe Armstrong of Green Day, on the song ‘Home Coming.’ The delivery of ‘Jimmy Died Today,’ and ‘What the hell’s your name ?’ — Both perfect deliveries. I’d hate to see this song live just in case he sang them any different. Billy is not by any means one of my go to answers when asked about good singers, but he really is on fire through that whole album. Some moments on ‘Give Me Novacaine,’ and ‘Whatsername,’ really deserve inclusion here too, but I didn’t want too much from one band or album in the list.
Jamie Jasta of Hatebreed, on the song ‘Proven.’ The delivery of ‘You want to see me fail, you won’t get your chance.’ — You can swap out that for almost any single line on a Hatebreed record since they got signed. There are two schools of thought on Jasta, one WRONG opinion is that he is cheesy and pandering to whiney teen bitches. The other that he is a genuine guy, perfectly expressing positive messages of self improvement and self respect. His voice is perfectly suited to bark at you like a drill segent cum personal trainer and on the angrier moments just really gets his message out there. He just delivers period.
Anne Wilson, of Heart, on the song ‘Devil Delight.’ One of the reverb soaked deliveries of the word ‘Devil,’ towards the end is amazing. Not much more to it than that.
Howard Jones, of Killswitch Engage, on the song ‘This Is Goodbye.’ The delivery of the last ‘It’s my choice so please lay me to rest,Forgive me, let me go.’ — Its just jaw on the floor, emotional manipulation at its best. Really heart wrenching, you just feel for the big guy on this.
Marilyn Manson, on the song ‘Lamb Of God.’ The delivery of ‘Nothing’s Going To Change The World.’ Its great, he does it a number of ways throughout the world, most of which are excellent, but some just ooze emotion and this sense of finality that is really overpowering.
Cedric Bixler-Zavala of The Mars Volta, on the song ‘Halo of Nembutals.’ The delivery of ‘And something tells me to keep it together.’ I won’t go in to this one too much, but the broken up way he delivers it is so good.
Brann Dailor of Mastodon, on the song ‘Oblivion.’ The delivery of ‘I tried to burrow a hole into the ground, Breaking all the fingers and the nails from my hand.’ — Not an emotional manipulation, or burst of anger like the others on the list… but that line and delivery just perfectly capture the whole mood of the album and the band.
Kurt Cobain of Nirvana, on the song ‘You Know You’re Right.’ The delivery of the final ‘Things have never been so swell, I have never failed to feel.’ — What a scream. I usually under-rate Kurt thanks to overexposure, but that final scream is very impressive.
Phil Anselmo of Pantera, on the song ‘Suicide Note Prt 2.’ The delivery of ‘Why would you help anyone who doesn’t want it, doesn’t need it, doesn’t want your shit advice.’ — The strength of feeling in that line, especially how hard he just spits ‘Shit Advice,’ is fantastic. You just get such a full glimpse into the mindset, its just powerful.
Ed Vedder of Pearl Jam, on the song ‘Indifference.’ The delivery of ‘I will hold the candle till it burns up my arm.’ — This just floors me every time, he just puts so much into that line you really get the full feeling behind it.
David Gilmour of Pink Floyd, on the song ‘Coming Back To Life.’ The delivery of ‘While you were hanging yourself on someone else’s words, Dying to believe in what you heard I was staring straight into the shining sun.’ — Normally, I think of Dave much more of as a guitarist than as a singer, but if any of his vocals ever rivaled the evocative and emotional power of his best guitar solos, then surely this is it.
Bruce Dickenson of Iron Maiden, on the song Paschendale. The delivery of ‘The bodies of ours and our foes, the sea of death it overflows, in no-man’s land God only knows, into jaws of death we go…’ even if the lyrics weren’t appropriate this vocal would be one of the best ever. The woe and fear is in there, the heroism, all the mixed and conflicting feelings so perfectly distilled in one piece of singing.
Roger Waters of Pink Floyd, on the song ‘When The Tigers Broke Free.’ The delivery of ‘And no one survived from the Royal Fusiliers Company C.’ — Again, I don’t often rate the Pink Floyd guys as world class singers like I do as musicians. This whole song is just a devastating emotional experience however, in the right circumstances and can literally bring tears to my eyes if the full power gets out.
Corey Taylor of Slipknot, on the song ‘Snuff.’ The delivery of ‘So Break Yourself Against My Stones And Spit Your Pity In My Soul,You Never Needed Any Help You Sold Me Out To Save Yourself,’ — Just… just wonderful. It is such a great vocal, delivered so well.
Rob Dukes of Exodus, on ‘Nanking.’ The delivery of ‘Dogs Feast On The Rotting Meat,’ — is one of the most horrible and evocative vocalizations I’ve ever heard. The subject matter, a real life rape-massacre and that sentence pertaining to the actual victims… makes it even more powerful.
Rob Dukes of Exodus, on ‘Children Of A Worthless God.’ — The delivery of ‘Follow Us Blindly Or Die Like A Dog,’ is so very nasty and perfect. Dukes is perfectly giving life to right wing American views on Islamic terrorists in a way I should find distasteful, but the sheer brutal honesty of negative feeling in that line is incredible.
Randy Blythe of Lamb of God, on ‘Contractor.’ The Delivery of ‘Fuck The Mujahideen,’ — For the same reasons as the last entry. Amazing performance.
Randy Blythe of Lamb of God, guest starring on Shadows Falls ‘King Of Nothing.’ The Delivery of ‘Quit Your Fucking Praying,’ is so very compelling. I think the song is actually about alcoholism, isn’t it ? But Randy spitting out that lyric so very harshly is just amazing.
James Hetfield of Metallica, on ‘The Outlaw Torn.’ The Delivery of the line ‘I’m Outlaw Torn,’ at the end of the song is so big. Especially on S&M Live. As a vocal performance it is just unparalleled. Which is funny because I never think of Hetfield as a great singer when i think about great singers, he’s just THE singer in Metallica when I think about it. When listening to Outlaw Torn, those ending lines are so good I realize he’s absolutely amazing. Seriously, if you haven’t heard it recently enough to instantly call it to mind, check it out.
Geddy Lee of Rush, on the song ‘Cygnus X-1 Book 2: Hemispheres.’ The delivery of the entire section ‘I have memory and awareness,but I have no shape or form. As a disembodied spirit I am dead and yet unborn.,I have passed into Olympus, As was told in tales of old To the city of Immortals, Marble white and purest gold…’ —
Maynard James Keenan of Tool on Wings Prt 2. The Delivery of the lines ‘You are the light, the way, that they will only read about
Set as I am in my ways and my arrogance Burden of proof tossed upon the believers. You were my witness, my eyes, my evidence,
Judith Marie, unconditional one.’ —
Nothing, anywhere, ever, is better.
So there you have it, a list of my so far heard moments of greatest vocal cinematography. There are bits by Fish, Trent Reznor, Peter Gabriel and loads by Ian Anderson that I haven’t got around to including, but this is a pretty thorough list as it is.
I suggest you go and listen to the tracks, (maybe not my amorphous entire Coheed’ and Hatebreed cannon entries, but everything else!) and find out for yourself. Go on, indulge me.