Thursday, November 11, 2010

Genius is pain - the whiners

Now that I've gotten the introductory post out of the way, I can get to my thesis.

Good music is painful. There is certainly pleasant, soothing music that is produced, but music doesn't really grab you unless there is an element of pain in it. While the pain is sometimes lyrical (for example, all of the tragic teenage death songs), the pain that is inflicted on the listener is often musical.

And that pain may be inflicted by the singer's voice. There are a number of examples of singers with voices that are not soothing, but attention-grabbing. In this post, however, I'm going to talk about the whiners.

One of the first whiners that came to mind was Tom Petty. While Petty sometimes sings in a fairly low register, he's often up in treble-land, and he can get pretty whiny up there. He first came to national attention with "Refugee," but Petty's whiniest performance is probably his duet with Stevie Nicks.

But Petty isn't the best whiner out there. He certainly has competition from Canada's contribution to supergroup-dom and grunge hero worship. I speak, of course, of Neil Young - a man who can whine with the best of them when in electrical mode, but who surpasses all when he's in an acoustic mood, as he was during Farm Aid.

Of course, the painfulness of this song, with its delivery and its references to Elvis Presley and the Sex Pistols, was made even more painful several years after this concert, when Kurt Cobain quoted it in his suicide note. (I briefly referenced this noted in a prior post about Steve Taylor, Jim Morrison, and Cobain.)

But Petty and Young, excellent whiners though they be, are exceeded in whining by a man named Billy. I could choose from a number of examples, but in this case I've gone for the song "Eye" by Smashing Pumpkins and lead singer Billy Corgan.

And now that I've presented Billy's whining ways, I can tell you of my dream duet - one that will surpass Petty and Nicks. If only Billy Corgan and Gwen Stefani would sing a duet, the world would truly be a magical place. (Yeah, I know that Moby and Stefani performed together, but it's not the same.)
blog comments powered by Disqus