Voices that get on your nerves

Are there any universally acknowledged voices that get on your nerves all the same? Here’s a chance to unload a cultural burden from your aural shoulders!

Mine (in strictly alphabetical order) are:

Maria Callas - I’ve NEVER, so far, understood a word of what she sang, and it usually was in my language. Her singing is a howl, not especially in tune, always the same whatever she sings.

Billie Holiday - That nasal, piercing, oscillating drunk lament, full of a self-complacent sexual aggressiveness is beyond my capacity to endure a song. She might be singing about her period or a nuclear war, it all sounds the same.

Dietrich Fischer-Diskau - No question about his stylistic mastery of anything he sings, and the perfect technique. His high A at the end of the Commendatore scene in the final act of Mozart’s Don Giovanni is impressive, but when I hear him singing it’s like a pin is stuck into my arm.

Frank Sinatra - When he was young and entered into duck mode. His ballads are acceptable, although he never sounds as if he remotely believes what he’s saying - just listen to Ray Charles singing Ol’ Man River to understand what the opposite can be - but his swinging numbers are terribly standardized and annoying to my ears.

Elizabeth Schwarzkopf - for exactly the same reasons why I can’t listen to Fischer-Dieskau.

A couple of mentions to artist whose voice is unlistenable but whom I sort of love anyway: Louis Armstrong and Tom Waits. The feeling they have just had a lung emphysema is too painful for me. I can’t resist a whole song without finding it difficult to breath myself. It’s like their vocal cords are made of tar.

It’s just my opinion, of course. Yours?


Kate Bush


Brian Ferry ‘aka’ brown ‘n’ furry.

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David Byrne with the exception of early talking heads. Michael Stype would be well up there too :rofl:

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Mark Knopfler and Joe Bonamassa! Lads, stick to playing the ukulele and let others do the singing.


Tom Waits is the first that springs to mind.
He writes some great songs but his voice for me is horrendous.


Nobel prize winner Bob Dylan for me. Writes great songs but shouldn’t be allowed to sing them.


There isn’t universal agreement, Max, because I don’t concur with you over either Elisabeth Schwarzkopf or Maria Callas.

I suggest that you try to hear:

  • Schwarzkopf singing Richard Strauß’s Four Last Songs (EMI), her later recording with George Sell;

*Callas singing Puccini’s ‘Tosca’, her first recording under Victor de Sabata.

I don’t think that you’ve hit the mark with DFD either, as his Hans Sachs in Wagner’s ‘Meistersinger’ under Jochum will show, or any of his five recordings (I think!) of Schubert’s ‘Winterreise’.

But we all hear things differently - thank goodness!


Schwarzkopf’s rendition of Strauss’s sublime Vier Letzte Lieder is exactly what prompted me to include her in the list.
As for the rest, I thought I had been clear in specifying that these artists’ objective qualities are not discussed; my post was about vocal celebrities who get on your nerves in spite of their qualities.

I also hope for some more elaboration instead of just ‘I like it I don’t’.



That was exactly the starting point of my post!

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Van Morrison
Lyric sheet required at all times. :-1:t2:


Indeed, and I’m sorry if I misread the ‘tone’ of your post!

Playing Van Morrison is always a joy but makes me think that there’s something wrong with my system because most of the time I just can’t make out what he’s saying :rofl:


Jennifer Rush.

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For me it’s Morrissey because his tone of self-pity grates on me. That’s a bit of a shame because I like Johnny Marr.


Not a singer, but could I please add Alan Carr?

As for ‘singers’, I’ll add Keith Jarrett. A brilliant piano player, both jazz and classical, but I do wish he’d stop squeaking along.


Tony Bennett. His recordings with Bill Evans would have been much improved if he actually sang the notes in the melody more often.

I listened to some of the recent “duets” albums; I assume autotune was used.

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I tend to agree… I was tempted to include him, but didn’t.
I have the Bennett/Evans disc. I don’t mind about altering the melody - jazz instrumentalists thrive on that - but his voice is sometimes annoying, like he’s convinced that he is the star, not that guy at the piano.
As for Duets, once you’ve heard the miracle talent of Amy Winehouse and the huge competence of Lady Gaga, everyone else sounds like an amateur.

Again, he seems water-proof to self-consciousness…


I’ve YouTubed him - yes you can.


Praising Lady Gaga but ragging on Sinatra. I’m ill off work today but this made me smile :laughing: