five octave

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I got bored and decided to highlight ten of my favorite weird/eccentric singers in modern music. Maybe they aren’t the greatest singers of all time, but they’re all unique and unmistakable. Each of them have singing voices that make you go “WTF is this?!” upon first listen, but then you slowly grow to appreciate them as you listen to more material.

  1. Yma Sumac - The godmother of all eccentric voices. This Peruvian soprano both confused and bewildered 1950s audiences with her five octave vocal range, animal imitations, and “exotica” style of music, which mainly consisted of mambos and Latin American folk tunes. Most of the other people on this liste have traces of her influence in their vocal deliveries. Check out: Tumpa and Chuncho.
  2. Screamin’ Jay Hawkins - Once an aspiring opera singer, this R&B star single-handedly created the “shock rock” genre that performers like Alice Cooper and Marilyn Manson later adopted. Emerging from coffins, evoking voodoo rituals, and scream-bellowing his way through songs about everything from soul possession to constipation? Yep, he did it. Oh yeah, and he’s rumored to have fathered over 75 children. Check out: I Put a Spell on You and Constipation Blues.
  3. Tiny Tim - While often regarded as a novelty act, this falsetto nostalgist was actually quiet sincere with his performances. His ukulele renditions of squeaky clean 1930s pop tunes led to stardom in the 1960s, although his fame quickly faded. He would later find posthumous recognition through the use of his music in cartoons like Spongebob Squarepants. Check out: Living in the Sunlight and this bizarre cover of Earth Angel.
  4. Kate Bush - The queen of baroque prog-pop (if that’s even a genre) known for singing self-penned (and self-performed and produced) tunes with a breathy, child-like timbre that’s hard to describe. Her live performances and music videos were equally as hard to describe, but nonetheless captivating. While she was a mega-star in the UK and much of Europe, her peculiar style never caught on in the US. Check out: Wuthering Heights and Sat in your Lap.
  5. Klaus Nomi - Occasionally there are singers whose voices are so strange that words fail to describe them, and this German avant-garde performer is one of them. Part soprano, part alien, and part walking pop art, his style was unmistakable, if also a bit too weird for even other weirdos to process. Still, there is a beauty about his style that shines through, especially in live performances. Check out: The Cold Song and The Nomi Song.
  6. Diamanda Galas - Her nickname in the ‘80s was “The wife of the devil”, and it’s not hard to understand why. She too started her career as an opera singer and took a turn into weird and frightening territory beginning with 1982′s nightmarish LP The Litanies of Satan. With a shrieking 5 ½ octave vocal range and infamous live performances that could scare the bejesus out of anybody, there has never been anybody quite like her before or since. Check out: Double Barrel Prayer and her cover of I Put a Spell on You.
  7. Bjork - This Icelandic maverick started her career as part of numerous alt rock bands before embarking on a highly successful solo career. While her self-produced, eclectic music was always a bit off-kilter, she has only continued to get stranger over the years, but her clear, arresting howl has stayed the same. Her influence is insurmountable, ranging from Thom Yorke to FKA Twigs and beyond. Check out: Human Behavior and Crystalline.
  8. Mike Patton - Best known for his work with Faith No More, he could only best be described as a vocal freak of nature. Possessing a monstrous six octave vocal range (the widest of any singer in modern music), he has mastered death metal, Italian pop tunes, experimental jazz, Native American chants and literally everything in-between. His style has no limits, nor do his songs from various projects, which often jump through multiple genres in the span of three minutes. Check out: Smaller and Smaller (with Faith No More) and My Ass is on Fire (with Mr. Bungle).
  9. Tanya Tagaq - Another performer of “exotic” music by Western standards, this Inuk throat singer takes music traditional to her culture and puts a plethora of innovative spins on it. Alternating between hums, buzzes, coos, and clean vocals, she is primarily a storyteller, using her voice as an instrument to paint striking mental images. Recently she won the 2014 Polaris Prize for music and caused controversy by paying homage to thousands of murdered indigenous women as part of her performance at the ceremony. Check out: Improv Performance and Uja.
  10. Julie Christmas - What would Cinderella become if Prince Charming jilted her? One listen to this Julliard-trained maniac’s voice, and you’ll get the hint. Known for her work with Made out of Babies and Battle of Mice, Christmas can go from sweet to psychotic at the snap of a finger, her vocal delivery terrifying yet intriguing to even the most hardened of metal critics. Her recent solo work is further proof of her vocal acrobatics - a fallen Disney princess, indeed. Check Out: Cooker (with Made out of Babies) and Bones in the Water (with Battle of Mice).

Yma Sumac is being honored by Google today.

Born Zoila Augusta Emperatriz Chávarri del Castillo in the mountains of Peru, Yma Sumac, or the “Peruvian songbird,” came into the world on this day in 1922. As a young girl, Yma would sing to rocks on her mountainside home, pretending they were her audience. As a teenager, Yma’s audience became very real when she was invited to sing on an Argentine radio station. After that moment, her astonishing five-octave vocal range captivated audiences in South America and beyond.

Yma arrived in the United States in 1946 and was signed by Capitol Records shortly after. During her 1950s prime, she sung at Carnegie Hall, the Hollywood Bowl, and Royal Albert Hall - to name a few.

Here’s to Yma, whose captivating voice will always be remembered.

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Guns N Roses- “Welcome to the Jungle” (live at the 1988 MTV VMAs)

Axl’s opening primal scream is like better than your fave’s entire career tho.

He has a six octave vocal range ya know (for comparison’s sake, Mariah Carey has a five octave range.)

I also love my boyf Izzy in his red pants. The breakdown in the middle of this song is also really interesting….the rhythm section (Duff/Steven) were actually really influenced by r&b and Prince…I think it really gave their music more depth than other shit at that time.

Also, I am tempted to make Axl screeching “You know where you are??? You’re in the jungle baby, you gonna diiiiiiiiieeeeee” my voicemail greeting.