The 10 Worst Rock Singers of the '90s

Soundgarden0524.jpg
Photo courtesy of Press Here Publicity
Soundgarden: Not appearing on this list, ever.
In about 12 hours or so, the editor of Rocks Off expects to be a very happy man. One of our favorite bands of all time, and one that we haven't seen live in almost 17 years, is playing tonight at Bayou Music Center: Soundgarden.

Certainly Soundgarden has a lot to recommend them. Guitarist Kim Thayil can grind out riffs so abrasive and sludgy they practially make sparks shoot out of the strings, but he can also get into some pretty mystical soloing territory. The bass and drums combine to create a hulking sonic dreadnought, but let's be real here: lots of '90s bands did that.

What set Soundgarden apart was singer Chris Cornell's ungodly wail of a voice, a sexy shriek that made him the grunge era's natural heir to Robert "Big Log" Plant. Impressively, it's hardly lost a hint of its range or banshee-like force in the years between the band's previous studio album Down On the Upside (from 1996) and last year's fairly triumphant return King Animal.

Thus Cornell is our own personal choice for the greatest rock singer of the '90s. Of course there are others -- that Cobain guy, L7's Donita Sparks, the Afghan Whigs' Greg Dulli was always a personal favorite. (And R.I.P. Layne Staley.) So of course we thought about ranking our choices for that decade's best vocalists, but decided... nah. We'd much rather throw some shade on the people we didn't like all that much even when they were "popular."

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Photo by Marco Torres
Anthony Kiedis at the 2012 Austin City Limits Music Festival
10. ANTHONY KIEDIS (RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS)
I'm as big of a Red Hot Chili Peppers fan as the next guy, but let's face it: Anthony Kiedis has never been a great singer. There's a reason he rapped throughout most of the '80s, and as the Peppers tended toward ballads in their '90s heyday, he only got by on the strength of the songwriting.

He's taken singing lessons and improved over the years at carrying a tune, but there's only so much that can accomplish. He just wasn't born with a great voice. That's okay, because it works for the band, but he'll never be one of the great voices of our time. COREY DEITERMAN


9. ZACK DE LA ROCHA (RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE)
It's funny. Zack de la Rocha of Rage Against the Machine is both one of the most influential vocalists of the '90s and also one of the worst. To me, his voice has always sounded sort of whiny and petulant, like a spoiled brat complaining about the world (ironic because that could describe most of my favorite music).

Worse than that are his little vocal tics, like the "HUHs" and "UGHs" he has to throw into every song. I will give him that he conveys anger pretty well, which is what most of his devotees have picked up on, but his voice has always irked me. COREY DEITERMAN


8. GAVIN ROSSDALE (BUSH)
More like bush league... yeah, that's all I got. CHRIS GRAY

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33 comments
JohnSeabornGray
JohnSeabornGray

I would've added Scott Weiland. He morphs to mimic his idol-of-the-day and never develops a voice of his own. Compare the Vedder ripoff of "Plush" to the Kim Gordon ripoff of "Big Bang Baby." I was about to say "he could have made a ton of money as an impressionist" but he pretty much did.

blackfrancis72
blackfrancis72

Sorry. RIP Layne Staley; but he had a terrible voice. 

sbeard73
sbeard73

scott stapp and axl rose, thats it you have no taste in music, your fired.


askelsabo
askelsabo

Axl Rose? Have you been smoking crack?

Tim Corwin
Tim Corwin

or that people keep paying to listen?

Bob Tatum
Bob Tatum

Okay Señor Hipster. Give me your list of the 10 best singers of the 90s. I guarantee that they're all so underground and indie that my peeps and I l have never heard of them. Wait never mind. I'd hate to take you away from training your handlebar stache. FYI half of your list is spot on.

Shane Hopper
Shane Hopper

I'd pretty much trade any of those singers for Chris Cornell. Chris Cornell sucks. Who made this list? yeah, there's a couple of obvious one's, but seriously.

David Gonzalez
David Gonzalez

This list is based on personal preference. Try again.

Jimi Austin
Jimi Austin

Though I agree on a few, pretty piss poor list overall. Axl's was great in his prime and sounded like no one else. He may be fatty mcgoo these days, but I've seen recent clips where he still sounds good. And though Cornell sounded amazing back in the day, all he does is mumble and moan these days.

Noelle A. Perry
Noelle A. Perry

it's hard for me to see zach de la rocha on this list with the likes of fred durst and scott stapp. :(

Andrew Youngblood
Andrew Youngblood

this list isnt the best .. rage against the machine ? smashing pumpkins ? how the hell did they make this list ? come on now .

FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard topcommenter

And as if Linda Perry wasn't bad enough, nobody ever seems to realize that 4 Non-blondes "what's up" was a blatant rip-off of Bobby McFerrin's "Don't worry, Be happy."

laura.sprehe
laura.sprehe

I would also like to add the lead singer of Linkin Park to this list (I have no idea what his name is). Their music is awful to start with, but that singer's nasally, whiny, perpetually off-key voice is the putrid-icing on a shit-cake.

Nathan Smith
Nathan Smith

I love GNR and Axl's crazy ass. I don't know that I'd have put him at #1 had it been up to me, but you can't talk about the worst singers of the '90s and not bring up his countless failures to deliver as a vocalist-- assuming you can stand his caterwauling to begin with!

Justin Allen Norwood
Justin Allen Norwood

I enjoy Linda Perry...she has an odd voice(I like many unique voices when it comes to females. not the typical pop diva voice.), but made it work.

Ramblin Hamblin
Ramblin Hamblin

Gotta disagree about Axl though! He was one of the best when they first came out.

MadMac
MadMac

So much funny, so little time. OMG. I take no exception with any name on this list. At first I thought you were remiss in omitting Kid Rock but then no one would ever confuse him for a singer; even Sheryl Crow played that duet more as a marketing gimic. The biggest disapointment for me is Chris Cornell. While watching the Rock Hall on Saturday, (seriously, I would PAY to read commentary from the Rocks Off crew) I finally figured it out. When I listen to Audioslave these days, I'm listening more for Tom Morello's guitar work than Chris Cornell. But then I LOVE Geddy Lee and Corinne Bailey Rae, so what do I know?

timi.tamminen
timi.tamminen

Weiland is an amazing singer, certainly possessing his own style as well. He used to imitate a fair deal of singers once in a while, but the man always showcased a huge amount of talent and passion in his work.

lancesmithdfw
lancesmithdfw

@Bob Tatum So, a hipster is anyone who is sick of hearing and seeing the singers of mainstream corporate rock bands which have been forced down our throats and ears for years by the big record companies and affiliated radio stations? Sorry Bob, but you're way off base. People get sick and tired of hearing the same 10 songs and the same 10 bands on the radio over and over again. I'm sick of all the bands they mentioned, but I actually owned some of their albums and listened to their music. That's why most Goodwill stores are filled with copies of the same 10 CDs. Am I interested in becoming a hipster? No. I'm probably too old and it's too late for me to start making a fashion statement. Not to mention, I can't even name a hipster band. So, I'm living proof that non-hipsters and anti-hipsters such as myself are capable of disliking mainstream corporate rock pablum which is force-fed to the public.

JohnSeabornGray
JohnSeabornGray

@Robert Tatum LOL'ed at barrage of unfounded accusations of hipster-dom, and then "but half your list is spot on."

timi.tamminen
timi.tamminen

"Chris Cornell sucks"? Get out of here, Shane, you're way too drunk.

fmpiccirillo
fmpiccirillo

@FattyFatBastard I thought they were a rip off of Concrete Blonde more than anything...  I'll have to hear that song.

timi.tamminen
timi.tamminen

You don't have to like the music, but Bennington is an extremely talented vocalist. There aren't many to match him when it comes to vocal distortion and cleaner vocal rotation.

aggie.fanatic
aggie.fanatic

@laura.sprehe The fact that you couldn't even think of his name and the fact that you got the wrong music decade is just horrible. Then to insult them is something else. What do you consider good music? Because there is nothing wrong with Linkin Park.

H_e_x
H_e_x

@laura.sprehe Damnit, it's been over a decade since I've thought about that voice. Fucking hell that was such an awful band with one of the worst voices I have ever heard in my life.

Oh god, he's working with STP now.

MadMac
MadMac

Chester Bennington. Yeah, a little bit of that guy goes a long way. Who the hizzy names their kid "Chester," btw?

larsonvargas
larsonvargas

@laura.sprehe If I remember correctly, I think they started off in the very early 2000s. You're right though, "craaaaaw-ling iiiiinnn, my skiiiiinnnn" is absolutely atrocious.

lancesmithdfw
lancesmithdfw

@MadMac Yeah, good point. Kid Rock is music for people who hate music. The big hit he had was a blatant rip-off of two songs, Warren Zevon's 'Werewolves in London' and Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama." Oh, but somewhere Kid Rock must have a good song! Right? LOL

lancesmithdfw
lancesmithdfw

@JohnSeabornGray He probably made a judgment based on your avatar photo, because it looks like the poster to some trendy independent film made in Canada. Wearing a beard like that would be socially acceptable if you were Al from Home Improvement. 

lancesmithdfw
lancesmithdfw

@aggie.fanatic @laura.sprehe Linkin Park has a large fanbase of lemmings, bubble-headed housewives, mentally challenged folks and brain-dead people who listen to the top 40 alternative-pop mix radio station and think it's the only radio station in existence. Linkin Park is music for people who hate music.

blackfrancis72
blackfrancis72

Oh no, my friend.  There is everything wrong with Linkin Park. Ughhhh.

MadMac
MadMac

His keeping in special reserve in case his whiskey shilling and introducing sampling to country audiences fails to fly.

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