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Old Aug 06, 2011, 10:03 AM   #1
AeolianCadence
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Default Is Paul underrated as a vocalist?

This thread is inspired by a discussion over in Lennon Land where, not surprisingly, the consensus is that John was a far better singer than Paul. (Rolling Stone, in its ranking of the best rock vocalists ever, also put John several spots ahead of Paul.) I can't say that I agree.

Now first let me make it clear that this isn't to take anything away from John. His singing had tremendous emotional power and he always gave a sense that he was truly giving of himself -- which, of course, is what musicmaking is all about. John is rightly praised for that.

BUT was he really miles ahead of Paul as a singer? I don't think he was. If anything, to my ears at least, Paul had the edge in terms of technique (if only just).

It's true that Paul arguably took a more cerebral approach to singing (although obviously he wasn't trained as a singer) as opposed to John's visceral one. (I don't know that I'd go so far as to say there was an Apollonian/Dionysian thing going on, but there's an element of that, isn't there?) This is in line with Paul's general approach of telling stories about someone else in his songs, whereas John tended to write autobiographically. Further, I think Paul's tendency to make it sound easy, coupled with his more guarded nature, has led people to underrate him as a vocalist. I'm not sure he gets enough credit for his near-impeccable sense of shading and coloration. Take "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" as just one example. Paul brings a different vocal characterization to every track he sings on that album.

With Paul, the song was the thing -- it was always in service of the song. And you know what, that's not necessarily wrong. Paul had different strengths as a musician than John. Not better. Not worse. Different. That's what made them so brilliant as a team.

So what do you think? Is Paul underrated as a vocalist? What is it that appeals to you about Paul's singing?
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Old Aug 06, 2011, 10:42 AM   #2
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I've always asserted that Paul was a better vocalist than John. John was always held to his Twist and Shout performance as the bench mark for the great rock vocal. But Paul had Helter Skelter, which created a whole new genre. Paul was far more soulful, imo. Even Ringo commented on first hearing the Beatles and being most impressed w Paul. Paul had more range, as well. Just listen to that Maybe I'm Amazed contest that his website promoted. That song ain't no walk on the beach.

Paul is possibly underrated, but not by me.
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Old Aug 06, 2011, 11:32 AM   #3
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Also, has there been anyone better at screaming on pitch than Paul?
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Old Aug 06, 2011, 12:00 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by AeolianCadence View Post
Also, has there been anyone better at screaming on pitch than Paul?
Richard Patrick from Filter has perfected the rare art of completely anguished, yet pleasant-to-listen-to screaming.

Paul is the more technically perfect voice; John is the more emotionally connected. That's not to say that Paul doesn't put any feeling into his vocals, or that John doesn't sound as good. But Paul is able to tackle more styles, while John always sounds honest...and in both cases, that's for better or worse.
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Old Aug 06, 2011, 01:33 PM   #5
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It's too "simple" to claim that one was a better vocalist than the other. John had a great voice, and so did/does Paul.

But, in the end - when all is said and done - Paul was the most versatile vocalist (seems we've been down this road before - LOL!), and could do more than John.

IMO
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Old Aug 06, 2011, 01:33 PM   #6
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I have always thought that Paul was by far and away the most talented of the Beatles. I thought he was a far superior vocalist; a much more musically versatile artist and one who had the additional gift of writing outstanding lyrics. Paul IS the more technically ideal voice and John IS one who was emotionally connected.

FREUD 101

John exudes Id; Paul Superego.* In Freudian terms, "Superego" works in counterpoint to the Id. The Id is instant satisfaction. The Superego is the socially appropriate behavioral aspects; regulates one's sense of what is acceptable.

George was more the "Ego," which works between the Id and Superego. In Freudian terms, the Ego is a mediator trying to balance out the interests and needs of the Id and Superego. The Ego tries to placate the Id in a way that will pay off in the long run rather than provide a quick fix or pain. (Think of George telling Paul that he [George] would play if Paul wanted him to and he wouldn't if Paul didn't want him to.)

Ringo, I think, teetered on the precipice of Id and Ego. I guess he was an Igo.

Now, in truth, I disagree with the majority of Freud's teachings and think he was full of bull, but I do find the triad of Id, Ego & Superego fascinating and in this case could appy the concepts to the Beatles.

*This term is being used ONLY in the Freudian sense to discuss the Beatles in Freudian terms. It has nothing to do with one's ability or esteem or view of themselves, which is something known ONLY to that individual. It is to clarify these terms and apply them to the Beatles. This post is strictly subjective and does not reflect the thinking of any other person.
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Old Aug 06, 2011, 06:07 PM   #7
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I have always thought that Paul was by far and away the most talented of the Beatles.
I agree he was the best all-rounder, but it's hard for me to say he was far and away the best. They really did defy generalizations. I mean, it's pretty much accepted that Paul was more naturally musical, but John's compositions, especially early on, showed a surprising level of sophistication.

Quote:
The Ego tries to placate the Id in a way that will pay off in the long run rather than provide a quick fix or pain. (Think of George telling Paul that he [George] would play if Paul wanted him to and he wouldn't if Paul didn't want him to.)
I think we interpreted that scene somewhat differently.
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Old Aug 07, 2011, 10:05 AM   #8
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I think Paul is underrated by some as a singer. Not by me - I certainly rate him high!
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Old Aug 07, 2011, 10:43 AM   #9
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I don't think Paul is an underrated anything... I think he gets the appropriate amount of credit for all of his immense talents. As someone who lived through the '70s and used to read Creem and Rolling Stone and a bunch of other rock rags, I truly believe that a lot of this "Paul is underrated" thinking is just a reflection of Paul's personal resentment of the criticism he used to receive from the rock intelligentsia in the wake of the break-up. Couple that with the immense amount of genuine affection and nostalgia that was sparked by the very sad and unfortunate murder of John Lennon, and I think that made Paul feel like he wasn't getting enough credit... so he has decided to "set the record straight" and I think he has been very successful.

I've said this before, but sometimes I feel like the claim that Paul is underrated is akin to a white male claiming that he has been a victim of reverse racism. What I mean by that is that Paul was always/has always been the most popular... just because John is usually considered the preferred singer (I'm basing this on the many rankings I have seen), why do Paul fans view that as a negation of his talent?

Paul's a wonderful singer... melodious and with certain technical assets that are beyond my musical knowledge to explain (so I leave that to Aeolian Cadence and others). But imho his voice lacks flavor. I was watching the Concert for George the other day and I was thinking how Clapton's voice has retained that certain Clapton flavor, while Paul's is just kind of "nice."
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Old Aug 07, 2011, 10:45 AM   #10
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(I don't know that I'd go so far as to say there was an Apollonian/Dionysian thing going on, but there's an element of that, isn't there?)
Absolutely!! It's no coincidence that one of Paul's pseudonyms is Apollo C. Vermouth! John should have been Dr. Dionysus O'Boogie!
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Old Aug 07, 2011, 11:56 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AeolianCadence
I agree he was the best all-rounder, but it's hard for me to say he was far and away the best. They really did defy generalizations. I mean, it's pretty much accepted that Paul was more naturally musical, but John's compositions, especially early on, showed a surprising level of sophistication.
True, and nobody's trying to take away the different talents of the other members. Like Lucy, I never once underrated Paul as a singer, lyricist and overall musician - I certainly rate him EXTREMELY high!

I also think Maia 66 made some excellent points above. Paul did a quasi-disco song, "Don't Say Good Night," which showed he was spreading his musical Wings, so to speak.

Maia's good point about likening Paul to someone facing reverse discrimination is an interesting perspective and a valid one. I had not thought of it like that, but I do think it makes a lot of sense.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Maia 66
Paul's a wonderful singer... melodious and with certain technical assets that are beyond my musical knowledge to explain (so I leave that to Aeolian Cadence and others). But imho his voice lacks flavor. I was watching the Concert for George the other day and I was thinking how Clapton's voice has retained that certain Clapton flavor, while Paul's is just kind of "nice."
Paul DOES have a nice voice and I think he has retained that distinct, dulcet McCartney sound and individual flavor that has marked his voice/music all along.
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Old Aug 07, 2011, 12:04 PM   #12
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I haven't read much of this thread, I admit but... no. I shouldn't think so. Rolling Stone (I dunno if it's very credible anymore, though) placed him at number 8, I believe. Before even Freddy Mercury.
And lots of people I've seen aspire to have a voice with as much range as Paul's. so no... I don't think he underrated at all.
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Old Aug 07, 2011, 12:42 PM   #13
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Those lists are just subjective, so I don't put as much stock in them.

Paul has an INCREDIBLE vocal range and he still sounds excellent. He has that McCartney Magic, that classy, classic touch!
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Old Aug 07, 2011, 12:44 PM   #14
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Sure, they're subjective. but the fact that so many people seemed pleased at his placement...
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Old Aug 07, 2011, 01:19 PM   #15
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I don't need any list to tell me Paul McCartney is an exceptional, outstanding artist and an ordinary bloke who just HAPPENS to be incredibly, extraordinarily talented!

It's time for my "Ram" CD.
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Old Aug 07, 2011, 02:23 PM   #16
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I've said this before, but sometimes I feel like the claim that Paul is underrated is akin to a white male claiming that he has been a victim of reverse racism. What I mean by that is that Paul was always/has always been the most popular... just because John is usually considered the preferred singer (I'm basing this on the many rankings I have seen), why do Paul fans view that as a negation of his talent?
Ouch. Well, all I've got really (besides the Rolling Stone thing, which I thought had Paul well outside the top 10, though I could be misremembering) is anecdotal evidence to support my hunch that he's underrated. Among people I know IRL, Paul is pretty much considered a joke; so much so that I've been surprised upon really listening to his singing to discover how musical he is.
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Old Aug 07, 2011, 02:46 PM   #17
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Ouch. Well, all I've got really (besides the Rolling Stone thing, which I thought had Paul well outside the top 10, though I could be misremembering) is anecdotal evidence to support my hunch that he's underrated.
Yikes, I didn't mean to inflict any pain!

Rolling Stone ranked Sir Paulie #11... which is pretty good for a bastion of Lennon Adoration!

And I think those people you speak of are reacting to what I have said and what you mentioned in your opening post... that Lennon was much more emotive as a singer. And music is a very emotional art form, no? I said it in Menlove Avenue, and I'll say it here again. The whole "Paul had great range" thing, while true, does not mean that he was a great singer... Christina Aguilera has greater range than Aretha, but how is anyone gonna claim that she is a better singer?? What makes Aretha singularly amazing-- besides her considerable technical talents-- is that she sounds like she is singing from the deepest recesses of her soul... that well of emotion she dips into takes her from technically great to transcendent.
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Old Aug 07, 2011, 03:34 PM   #18
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The whole "Paul had great range" thing, while true, does not mean that he was a great singer... Christina Aguilera has greater range than Aretha, but how is anyone gonna claim that she is a better singer??
Fair enough, though I've got to say that comparison stings a little bit too! I mean, Paul at least gives the impression of actually understanding, and in many cases having lived, what he's singing about.
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Old Aug 26, 2011, 01:09 AM   #19
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John's vocal was raw, powerfull, deep,,
He just sang the way he felt..
Paul vocal is sweet :)
For me, they complete each other, that's what makes the beatles great :)
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Old Aug 26, 2011, 10:30 AM   #20
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I think Paul DOES understand fully what he sings about and has most, if not in all cases lived it. I also think he had the most pleasing voice and he certainly has the greater vocal range. He is also, I believe, the most versatile musically.
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