Sign the Petition: Don’t Let Kevin Hearn Sing

By signing this petition (leaving a comment on this post), you affirm that:

popup_02_32While Kevin Hearn is an unparalleled musical talent, providing the Barenaked Ladies with fantastic songs, amazing piano arrangements, and all out rockin’ albums, he should not replace recently departed Steve Page as 2nd lead singer, because he sings like Kermit the Frog. If anything, Jim Creegan is more suited to sing with Ed.

Let your voice be heard and make a difference in the future of the greatest Canadian import since dry soda! Sign the petition today!

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Message to BNL: Never is Enough

2591_140659470726_12589090726_6292787_3387540_nNow, I understand it’s tough to re-build on the fly. Steve Page leaving the Barenaked Ladies is nothing short of catastrophic. In times of crisis, the decisions you make are critical…and I’m concerned about one that BNL may have already made.

Their latest email featured a link to download their recent concert in Orlando–which I must say is a nice touch. (I think every group or company going through a crisis should give stuff away–especially the banking industry.) It didn’t take long to realize who was replacing Steve as 2nd lead vocal: Kevin Hearn.

 Now. I love Kevin. I think he’s a virtuouso at the piano, and an amazing guitarist…but, he’s no singer.

Apparently BNL is set to hit the studio in a month. If anyone at that studio is reading this, I have one humble request:

Please don’t let Kevin Hearn sing.

I’ve blogged on this before. Kevin’s voice is ok, but it’s boring and bland. It even borders on being flat. Don’t believe me? Listen to the Orlando concert.

If Kevin replaces Steve as the 2nd lead vocal, it’s the end of BNL  as we know it.  If anything, let Ed sing everything and redefine who you are–that is, ditch the belting-out vocal songs and go total Indie, but don’t let the guy who’s voice is dry and often off-key sing.  Heck, even let Jim Creegan sing–at least he can stay on key.

If Kevin is really going to replace Steve,  I have one thing to say: To quote one of their hits from not too long ago–“Never is Enough”.

BNL: ME or MEN?

I’ve been a Barenaked Ladies fan for quite some time, and I’ve been to several of their concerts, and even have met them. They’re right up there with They Might Be Giants for me…
…but their latest albums have me confused. The mainstream album is Barenaked Ladies are Me, and features some great clips, the best of which is Bank Job (Fantastic song, one of their best I think). It also has some real snoozers…
Then, a few weeks ago, I found another BNL release: BNL are MEN. Similar cover art, but over 20 new songs. When I was at the BNL are ME concert launch 2 years ago here in Virginia, they hoped that starting in VA would bring them the kind of luck they had with Stunt (when they also launched the tour in VA). Unfortunately, it didn’t go as well for them this time, but considering that they have 2 BNL are ME CDs, I thought I’d compile a list of songs they could have put together on the same disc and produced a real winner:
(key: Me=BNL are ME, MEN=BNL are MEN)
1. Easy (ME): Enigmatically, this was the official single, and it’s not even the 3rd best song on the album. You could go with “Adrift” here too, and get the same effect.
2. Bank Job (ME): See above. Intelligent song…one of their best.
3. Sound of your Voice (ME): Gotta love a song when Steve can belt it out.
4. Wind it up (ME): The rock classic ditty
5. Maybe You’re Right (ME): Great melodies
6. Bull in a China Shop (ME): the radio-playable ditty necessary for every album
7. Angry People (Men): A classic sardonic song from the guys. Smart. Funny.
8. Running out of Ink (MEN): This would be the dark horse favorite of real BNL fans…it’s almost a memoire (like Gordon’s Box Set). Classic. Funny. Great song, simply great. Could’ve been the single.
9. Fun and Games (MEN): I love the lyrics on this one. Talk about going outside mainstream…and gotta hand it to them: 11 straight phrases ending with a word with the “..ected” as an ending.
10. Maybe Not (MEN): Another great song with great lyrical sarcasm, like “Pretty soon you’ll be needing me……….to leave”
11. Why Say Anything Nice (MEN)
12. Another Spin: Cool song, but oddly enough, sung by Kevin.

And while I’m on that… I have to say that I think Kevin “The New Guy” is an AMAZING piano player. He’s added depth to the band that they never knew before him…And considering he overcame cancer a number of years ago, I have to say, the guy is amazing. But why let him sing? When you already have not one, but TWO signature voices, why overdo it and add another? They’ve slowly been adding Kevin to the singing over the last few albums, starting with Maroon (which was a fairly forgettable album). On BNL are ME, he sings at least once, and on MEN, he sings twice. I see a pattern. The problem is, his singing style doesn’t match the energy of traditional BNL songs. I don’t get it, really I don’t.

13. Half a heart (MEN): Another song that’s better than 75% of the songs on ME.

And with that, I think you’d have a winning album.

What’s In a Voice?

I’ve been thinking about this one for quite some time…music, especially Indie music, is about more than just the music. It’s about the words. It’s about the singer. The genius of Indie is that each band has a distinct personality, that evades the normal “Write about the same thing” nonsense you hear on mainstream radio. For me, good music is about a nice combination of instrumentation AND voice work…In fact, I’ll take a good voice with so-so instrumentation over the opposite. If a song has a boring/horrible singer, I just can’t put up with it, no matter how good the music is. So, here’s my list of my favorite recognizable singing voices, in Letterman-esque descending style:

10. Claude, Anything Box: Raw. Emotional. I love how in one second his voice sounds innocent, the next, wild, untamed, and enraged.

9. Matthew Bellamy, Muse: Does anyone else in music express more emotion when singing? I defy you to find one.

8. Tori Amos: One of my all-time favorite voices. Haunting, simply haunting.

7a. Ryan Miller, Guster: His voice is simple and smooth…and easy to sing-along with, or maybe it’s his songs…

7b. Ben Gibbard, Death Cab For Cutie: Real is the best word I can come up with for Ben’s voice. It’s just plain real. Like you know him. Like he’s talking to you, rather than singing.

6. Harry Connick Jr. : Ok, deservedly, Harry Connick Jr. deserves to be on the top of this list, hands down. But first of all, he’s not Indie, and second of all…well I can’t think of a 2nd of all.

5. Johnny Boyd, Indigo Swing: (see comments for Connick Jr., Harry). Even more so, tragically, Johnny no longer sings for Indigo Swing. Which is odd…how can a band lose a guy commonly referred to as “The Voice”?

4. Rivers Cuomo, Weezer. Don’t know what it is, but I can’t get over the raw clarity and emotion of Rivers’ voice. My favorite example is on a live session their new song Miss Sweeney.

3. Steven Page/Ed Roberts, Barenaked Ladies: Rarely does a band have one good lead singer, let alone two. Ed is the charismatic voice, the accessible voice in a “You could be my best friend” sort of way. Steve is the powerhouse. If you’ve ever been to a BNL concert, you’d know what I’m talking out. He can simply BELT out some powerful melodies.

2. Danny Elfman, Oingo Boingo. Yes, I know the Elf Man left singing on the radio for singing…and orchestrating…on the big screen, but his voice is still one of the very best AND most unique in all of music.

1. John Linell, They Might Be Giants: I love John’s voice. It’s raw. It’s even nasally. But it’s unique, and I can’t help but listen everytime I hear it. I love pointing out John Linell’s voice in obscure instances…like the Dunk’n Doughnuts new commercials, and even on PBS Kids in between shows.

Kiddie Indie?

They Might Be Giants are the undisputed pioneers of moving from Indie to Kiddie rock, as they’ve done so seemlessly, and many of their kiddie songs attract the parents as much as they do the kids.

But, the latest band to make a foray into the kiddie music scene has me wondering. Barenaked Ladies are releasing a kiddie CD that apparently has a Western flare to it. The obvious question is: Is this going to be a pattern in Indie? But deeper questions raise issues in my mind about the direction BNL is going in. I am admittedly a huge fan of BNL, and have even met them personally. But I have to wonder why they’re doing this.

First, the band’s name is a bit difficult for me to connect with the kiddie space. Kids don’t get adult sarcasm. How many parents really want to get into a conversation with their kids that starts with, “Mommy, why are they called barenaked ladies?” I usually just call them BNL in front of my kids. But still, there are issues there.

Second, TMBG moved into the Kid scene because their music is easy to translate into that space. The style is still TMBG, the silliness and zaniness is characteristic of TMBG. This album by BNL is apparently supposed to have a Western theme.  Our friends from the Great White North touting a Western theme? Did I miss something?

Maybe I’m too pessimistic here, and I’m sure album will be awesome. Most stuff by BNL IS. I’m just a little disenchanted with the idea of BNL moving into the Kiddie Space. How many other bands will tire of the adult indie scene and try out kid music?