Isolated Vocal Tracks
In today’s music industry, it’s almost impossible to hear clean vocals without interference from background instruments and edited effects. New hit songs rely on everything but the vocals; when stripped down, these “songs” reveal that they are full of emptiness. The vocals are the heart of a song. They move the song forward, convey the message the artist is trying to get across, and are the words that register in our mind and provoke a response. In many of the songs that circulate on the radio today, the vocal tracks are severely lacking; that’s why they only have a shelf life of a couple of weeks. These songs just have a catchy beat and hook and lack any actual talent or depth.
While many songs on the radio today feature very weak vocals paired with strong background instruments and editing, even one of my favorite songs, “Reptilia” by The Strokes, sounds like a garbled mess without the rest of the band.
As you can see, with the rest of the band this song sounds amazing, but alone it sounds like trash. While some musicians can pull off the raspy voice, Julian Casablancas obviously cannot. In the final version with the entire band, the rest of the band masks the true vocal track and covers his voice. By having a prevalent lead guitar, thumping bass rift, and a driving beat, the song is built around the supporting instruments rather than the singer himself. While some of the raspiness bleeds through into the final cut it compliments the ambiance created by the other instruments; however, in the isolated vocal track it sounds like Casablancas is gargling razor blades while simultaneously recovering from a kick below the belt. This song is a prime example of how the other instruments in the ensemble can mask the lack of vocals by the lead singer and at the end of the day and make a successful song.
Even though The Strokes masked bad vocals, there are other iconic songs where the background instruments hide amazing vocals. Yes, I am a huge Nirvana fan, but surprisingly the vocal track from their most famous song “Smells Like Teen Spirit” features almost pristine vocals. Everyone remembers this song because of its heavy distortion, iconic guitar rift, and catchy drum intro. With wailing vocals accompanied by heavy reverb, this song is a perfect representation of grunge from the 90s. Reasons why people enjoy this song include that iconic riff and the very shouty chorus, but upon listening to the isolated vocal track of this song, surprisingly the vocals are very clean.
Yes, it may sound crazy but the most grunge punk song ever created actually has one of the best vocal tracks out there. A song like “Reptilia” succeeds in the music world because the background instruments pick up the slack left behind by the singer. In terms of “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, the background instruments actually hide the clean and clear vocals.
By listening to vocal tracks, music listeners are able to get a more in-depth look at the music we love, or even hate. When the song is being performed by the entirety of the band it is very hard for the listener to separate every instrument being played, especially the voice. Moving forward, I urge you to listen to the isolated vocal tracks of your favorite songs because sometimes you may be surprised by what the vocals really sound like.
Image via Wikimedia.