The 10 Worst Rock Singers of the '90s
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.
Photo courtesy of Press Here Publicity Soundgarden: Not appearing on this list, ever.
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."
10. ANTHONY KIEDIS (RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS)
Photo by Marco Torres Anthony Kiedis at the 2012 Austin City Limits Music Festival
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