Here are a few times that artists took a song and absolutely ate it alive.
We all remember what emotional state we were in when we heard Hayley Williams belt her heart out on "All I Wanted."
The track's grinding guitars embellish an already forceful plea for companionship, but when the band cuts out, all that can be heard is Williams's crackling pipes: "I'll beg you nice from my knees / I could follow you to the beginning and just to relive the start."
Asking for someone's companionship is already a futile act; as intoxicating as young love is, it feels pathetic to have to ask for such a basic human necessity, to be stuck in codependency. As Williams's soaring vocals seep into a scream at the track's bridge, that layered frustration is palpable just from the sound of her voice.
Such sentiment has given life to lamenting emo teens on more than one occasion, as Williams seemingly captured teenhood's ethos. She isn't the first artist to revive our inner juvenile, and there were plenty of hard-hitting vocals from the rockin' 2000s that still resuscitate us to this day. Here are a few times that artists took a song and absolutely ate it alive.
"Breath" by Breaking Benjamin
Ben Burnley and the boys had already established their unique brand of soaring choruses and cutthroat metal guitars on 2004's We Are Not Alone. The grinding crunch on songs like "Break My Fall" and "Firefly" contrasted with sweeping and uplifting melodies fit for pop radio.
But on 2006's Phobia, the post-grunge icons had mastered their craft. Each song on the project sounded crisp and radio-ready thanks to the work of producer David Bendeth, who previously worked with commercial rock acts like Paramore and A Day to Remember, but Phobia's deep cuts like "Topless" and "You Fight Me" were still greased up enough to maintain its classification as a grunge record.
Regardless, "Breath" was a perfect balancing act. It centered entirely around Burnley's malleable voice but still had enough grime to cater to metal-heads. The track's slow-burn build-ups are held together by sprinkles of electric guitar and a steady baseline, but Burnley's voice always remains in the driver's seat.
The song ominously builds in the first verse, and it's unclear what to expect, but when Burnley quickly explodes the band's rigid guitars elevate his anguish: "I'm going all the way, get away, please." As he takes a breath, the instruments cease, and Burnley momentarily slinks back to a mere whisper. An acoustic guitar is all we can hear as Burnely lightly coos along for a few moments of reprieve.
The song then detonates like a bomb. "Breath's" brief moment of quiet is what gives the track such a cathartic release and shows the emotional power of Burnley's shape-shifting melodies.
"Fly from the Inside" by Shinedown
Shinedown's Brent Smith remains one of rock's most gifted vocalists, and he's made countless songs with his band that have sucked the life out of us ("Beyond The Sun," "I Own You," "45," "Breaking Inside," to name a few), but "Fly From the Inside," off the band's 2003 debut Leave a Whisper, introduced listeners to Smith's power.
The verses sound like they could be plucked from any of the early-aughts post-grunge catalog, but Smith belts the song's chorus with a sense of urgency, as if he really had "found a way to steal the sun from the sky." By the time Smith hits the track's high-pitched peak, it's clear that Shinedown isn't any other post-grunge band and that they have a gift for translating powerful emotions of self-actualization into song. Their knack for power ballads would go on to define their still thriving career two decades later.
"Through the Iris" by 10 Years
10 Years often gets a bad rep among post-grunge affiliates as being that one early-aughts grunge act that never quite reached the heights of their contemporaries. Still, it's worth noting that they've remained a steady rock group and have continued to churn out compelling grunge records in recent years, despite waning in public favor.
Either way, on "Wasteland," the world was introduced to the charismatic Jesse Hasek, whose ear for melody was driven by his moving and angelic voice. When placed alongside the band's thick metal backdrop, Hasek conveyed a vast range of emotions amongst a relatively one-sided genre.
He yearns for environmental accountability on "Wasteland" in a way that shows both desperation and frustration. "I will not hide you through this, I want you to help," he cries out, pleading for compassion as he simultaneously grabs our throats.
On "Through the Iris," he sounds just as distraught, but then snaps into a soaring chorus,and sounds almost as if he's about to cry: "False perceptions that brought forth these questions of truth, love, and hope." The sentiment of questioning religion is powerful enough, but Hasek's haunting vocal performance adds another layer to a complex question he doesn't have an answer to. "Just please hold on," he cries out.
"This Is How I Disappear" by My Chemical Romance
While The Black Parade would go on to define a generation, "This Is How I Disappear" remains a deep cut from the project that Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge-affiliates gravitated to almost immediately. For the most part, the band had embellished their Goth sound with pop melodies and grandiose theatrics, but "This Is How I Disappear" seemed like an ode to the garage-like metal they left behind. The song offered a reckless and chaotic lead-in, with Gerard Way's voice sounding particularly seething and the manic, unforgiving guitars choking the near life out of listeners.
It can sometimes be hard to hear when the verse ends, and the chorus begins because of how corrosive it all sounds; but, when the song dissolves into madness at the bridge, Gerard Way's vocals break down into agonized screams as his band thrashes around him. As absolute chaos ensues, the band reels it all in, and fantastic drum work by Bob Bryar welcomes the final chorus. "This Is How I Disappear" is an all-consuming experience.
Love/Hate Heartbreak by Halestorm
Halestorm's Lizzy Hale breathes fire. As one of Metal's greatest singers, her versatility as a vocalist was shown in full form on 2009's "Love/Hate Heartbreak." Her scratchy grumbles in the song's verse give way to an anthemic and sweeping chorus. Hale can change her register on a dime and goes to extraordinary heights on "Love/Hate Heartbreak" to convey the angst of love in a way a guy never could. While a rock vocalist at heart, her ear for pop melodies was uncanny, and her fusion of the two has forever defined her career.
"I've Got All This Ringing In My Ears And None On My Fingers" by Fall Out Boy
While Infinity on High churned out multiple life-altering emo hits, the album's closer is theatrical and vibrant, with organs, horns, and a whole orchestra elevating Patrick Stump's soulful vocal delivery. As his nasal crooning gives way to a soothing falsetto, Stump uses the song to turn emo themes into theatrical opera.
As the song climaxes with a rush of instruments, Stump starts unexpectedly scat singing before it all dissolves into a quiet piano. The track's quirky jaunt, which ends with an audience cheering and a Midnight Marauders-esque robot voiceover, is almost too much to handle, but Fall Out Boy somehow streamlines the experience and makes it all mesmerizing.
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