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Should a band's new lead singer imitate or innovate?

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My personal opinion is PUT YOUR MARK on it. If people want to hear Van Halen they can go see Van Halen. Unless you are in a Tribute band. When Willy Nelson sings an Elvis Presley song he puts a Willy on it.

When Sammy sang for Van Halen he did not try to imitate David. Be the personality don't copy someone elses.

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The only exception would be if you are already a established band that has made classic hits with their previous singer. When it comes to classic songs, you need to give the audience what they expect.

I tend to lean in the direction of the above quote. I think it depends on the direction the band wants to go and it then becomes a group decision. Look at bands like Journey or Foreigner. They went for sounding the same as the previous singer (or at least tried). Queen went with Paul Rogers for awhile and that actually worked but in the end, they are now with a Freddy soundalike. And Paul sand Queen songs nor his style songs.

Other bands don't have such a singer heavy or distinguishable sound and can switch up while still remaining the same overall. Van Halen comes to mind.

I don't think Aerosmith could go with anyone not sounding like Steven Tyler. Come to think of it I don't even think the Stones could change their direction either. Mick Jagger is too much the Stones sound.

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When I say put your mark on it I don't mean change the feel of the song or musical theme behind it. I mean if your singing a Guns and Roses song and you sound like Bob Seger not Axle Rose just go for it and sing like you sing.

If you connect to the song let it come out with your personality. The song "Dancing in the street" was #1 at least 3 different times by 3 different groups. The over all sound was different each time but the feeling was the same.

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Other bands don't have such a singer heavy or distinguishable sound and can switch up while still remaining the same overall. Van Halen comes to mind.

To me, that is blasphemy. :P

I am old school. Sammy Hagar is a fine singer with an incredible range and has been a success in everything from Montrose, to a solo career to singing with Van Halen to singing in Chickenfoot.

Gary Cherone is a great singer and all the hard rock songs of Extreme got overshadowed by one really good unplugged ballad.

But it is only Van Halen with David Lee Roth's voice. Just like in the movie "Airheads." When the cop posing as an A & R guy says that Van Halen with Hagar was the best -- "Wrong Answer!"

The whole idea of plug-n-play interchangable singers was Eddie's idea.

I know there are finer singers than David Lee Roth. But it's not all about range and technique.

In an established band, learn the song that the audience wants to hear. But don't try to sound like the original singer unless you already do, like Tim Owens or Arnel Pineda. Otherwise, make it a new sound, like Hagar did with Van Halen.

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I too am a Roth/Van Halen guy. My only point was they were able to get away with it. Many people prefer Sammy while there is also a very strong David Lee Roth army. But they were successful. I think other bands may have too much of a singer identifiable sound.

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I think that perhaps the best example of a band that has had huge success under two different lead singers is AC/DC. The way Brian Johnson replaced Bon Scott is really a combination of both. Johnson certainly innovated and created his own sound. But it still sounds like AC/DC and he can still do good renditions of Highway to Hell, TNT, Dirty Deeds, etc.

Obviously with AC/DC they were much younger when Bon Scott died than with Journey when Steve Perry left. Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain are well past their prime and I imagine probably not as interested in innovating as they once were. Maybe during the Steve Augeri era they had some ambitions to make another hit, but I think at this point they're satisfied mostly playing the tunes that we all know and love. And Arnel Pineda does that very well.

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Should a band's new lead singer imitate or innovate?

If the band is hiring, it will be their decision.

Now, the wisest decision for any band, is that the new guy did new material doing his thing, and old material using IDEAS of the original, as a cover song is normally done. Mimicing will just be horrible.

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It's a bit of a Catch-22.

Any successful band that loses a beloved singer whose voice brought them success and defined their sound, would naturally want to choose a replacement whose voice is reminiscent of the original singer.

They'll have critics who will bash them for having an "imitator'', yet if they stray from the sound of the original, they run the risk of losing a majority of their fanbase. Not an enviable position to be in.

I feel bad for Queensryche now. I don't know what they're going to do without Geoff Tate. I just don't see it going over well. From what I read, the other members put up with a lot of crap from him over the years to keep things together, but things finally reached a boiling point.

As for Van Halen, not that there was anything "wrong" per se with the Hagar era, but the Roth era is where the magic was. Once the Hagar era began, it seemed they lost their raw funk groove and attitude.

Here we are thirty-something years since its release, yet anytime I hear the intro to "And The Cradle Will Rock", I get pumped up with anticipation to belt out the chorus along with the song. Just a bad ass anthem all around. I know not of a single Hagar era song that does the same for me.

Foreigner - for the longest time, I wanted no part of a Foreigner without Lou Gramm. I flat out refused to listen. However, I caught a concert from 2010 on HDNet with Kelly Hansen on vocals, and was blown away.

Journey - I'm the biggest Steve Perry fanatic on planet Earth, but now that Journey will likely never have him again, I'd rather see Journey with a suitable replacement than no Journey at all. As invaluable as Steve's voice is to me, the songs carry themselves. Their collection of hits is vast.

AC/DC - Yes, Bon and Brian do sound different, yet alike for some odd reason. Different tone, yet a certain grit that just seems to click with the band's style. AC/DC's transition after losing Bon is the kind of transition any successful band that loses a singer hopes for, yet so few attain.

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A lot of these new singers can't win. They get slammed for sounding like the original. They get slammed for not sounding like the original.

I think that the new singer has to be faithful to the "original" versions, but can put their own stamp on it, especially after they've been in the band a while. Kind of like the argument between the studio version of the track and live version of the track. Live the version of the song will be different than the original and that's okay.

Arnel, while sounding a lot like Perry actually sounds very different than Perry if you really listen to him. At first, he sounds like Steve. But if you REALLY listen, he's a very different kind of singer. This guy, to me, is the best new singer out there.

Also saw Styx the other night. The guy they have singing Dennis DeYoung's stuff really is not the singer Dennis is... but he's still a good singer, musician, and personality for the band. He makes NO attempts to imitate Dennis DeYoung's voice and messes with the original phrasing quite a bit, as does Pineda. He didn't years ago when he got in, but he does now. And you know what? It was still great. That band has great singers.

Arnel and Lawrence Gowan (the Styx) guy have taken a LOT of crap from some of the original fans of the original singers. Kelly Hansen, on the other hand, seems to get a free pass on this. He sounds SO much like Lou Gramm and is a good showman. He's also 'white' which Pineda isn't and that seems to be a lot of the reason some don't like him, which is really too bad. All three of these guys are great singers.

Sammy Hagar made VH a completely different band than they were originally. That wasn't so much of a replacement as a new direction. Both versions have their merit. But the whole "Party" vibe that DLR used to bring was such a good image for that band.

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Doobie Brothers come to my mind. I loved China Grove and the others songs of that era. With Michael McDonald doing the lead vocals it just wasn't the Doobie Brothers any more. I like Michael don't get me wrong.

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Doobie Brothers come to my mind. I loved China Grove and the others songs of that era. With Michael McDonald doing the lead vocals it just wasn't the Doobie Brothers any more. I like Michael don't get me wrong.

GREAT example. Michael was an addition to the band, not a replacement, right? (I don't know the history of the DBs). I pretty much quite listening to him once Michael joined up. Their music just completely changed.

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A band has little control over its membership and change is often necessary. Under what circumstances should a lead singer's replacement copy the former lead's phrasing and tone? And when should a lead inject much of their own style and put their own thumbprint on the band?

If a singer can't be themselves, why even bother joining a band?

Would you really want to live your life pretending to be someone else?

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sometimes in the session world a producer/writer will be looking for a particular sound. They may not even know what it is but providing them with various options is a great way to go forward. You can't say 'sorry that's my style and the only style i do'

purely in a band scenario (covers bands are the only experience i've had) I would say it's best to do it your way. Perhaps listen to the previous singer to get an idea of how they sounded but personally I wouldn't mimic them

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You can sing the song in a different style. That will make subtle changes to your sound giving the band or producer a chance to hear different aspects of your voice. But if they are looking for a particular sound don't force it. Even if you get the job either you or the others may be disappointed in the long run.

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Producers do look for particular sounds. I've heard 3 different singers that sound just like Adele. The only reason that I knew they were not Adele was there was something missing. Either not enough drive in the song or lack of emotion or just some quality I could not put my finger on. When they anounced the artist my suspicion was confirmed.

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renee, you really can post some great topics.

any singer that has to replace a legend is in a tough spot. the more unique the voice, the harder the hurdle.

i really think you have to play both sides of the fence. i don't believe you have to sound exactly like the singer, but i do believe you have to able to capture the nuances of the song, to give the audience back their "hooks."

"hooks"....are those ultra familiar phrases, or perhaps high notes, etc. that the audience needs to hear.

that's one thing i have say about kelly hansen...he doesn't sing the songs in the same key, (the key is very audience forgivable) but he really matches lou gramm's phrasing very well (less audience forgivable).....he's great at giving the audience back their "hooks."

but yet as time goes on, you have to slowly reveal your true voice to the public.

if i were called on to replace a singer, i'd still want to record a cd with my own voice(s)

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I think that many people disliked Sammy Hagar because he had very un-cool hair. Same with Gary Cherone. Clothes matter, too. And Adam Lambert doesn't really wear cool clothes, which seemed to piss off many Queen fans when he played with them. In all seriousness, make sure your hair and clothes are somewhat cool, you frontmen/women out there ;)

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You can't win. If the band replaces the old singer with a similar singer, they get blasted because the new one can't compare. If they get a different-sounding singer, then they are blasted for changing their style of even selling out.

When symphonic power metal Nightwish kicked out Tarja (a very operatic head-voice based singing style) and brought in Annette (a more "commercial" "mix" singer) many fans felt betrayed that the band had sold out.

Are fans always right?

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