For pop music obsessives, the Internet is an infinite series of bottomless rabbit holes. One of our greatest recent distractions has been isolated vocal tracks: archived recordings of only the vocals from a song, or clips that have been digitally manipulated to remove the instrumental portions (sometimes it’s difficult to tell which of the two you’re hearing). While they’re prone to encouraging an undue amount of reverence — vocals-only tracks are often cited as definitive “proof” of a musician’s talent or lack thereof — they certainly add a new dimension to our appreciation of classic singles. At their best, they highlight the unadorned talent of a singer whose voice we’re used to hearing backed by a full band; at their weirdest, well… just click through to reacquaint yourself with David Lee Roth.
Nirvana — “Smells Like Teen Spirit”
What gets us here is how distinctive Kurt Cobain’s voice sounds — urgent but also multifaceted and vulnerable, with a ferocious edge that’s more splinter than sandpaper and the occasional perfectly timed quaver. It has become a cliché that Cobain wasn’t a “good” singer, but he certainly knew what to do with the voice he was given.