The Thing About Mick / by Erin Wade

I love music.

My taste could charitably be described as eclectic. It could less charitably be described as odd. I enjoy styles ranging from classical to heavy metal, and many things in-between. I love some of the artists that Everyone Can Agree On - love me some Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd - but other Big Artists leave me cold. I think the Beatles are, frankly, only just fine (and given far more credit than they deserve) and I could be perfectly happy never hearing another song by Prince again in my life. Meanwhile, I own everything I've ever been able to find by both Jethro Tull and Queensr├┐che, and I'll defend my right to listen to The Long Winters and Neko Case till the end of time.

And then there's The Rolling Stones.

While my musical tastes are certainly varied, I lean in the direction of hard and harder rock a large portion of the time. I really enjoy music steeped in blues, and songwriting that stays away from the traditional cliche'd love song. I should be a natural for The Stones.

But - you know - blah.

Here's the thing, though: I love Stones songs when done by other artists.

For example, Charlotte Martin does an exceptional version of Wild Horses:

And I could listen to Vanessa Carlton doing Paint it Black over and over again (and have):

So what's the problem?

As part of my resurged interest in Jethro Tull I set up an Ian Anderson station on Pandora a couple of weeks ago. As it rotated through the options The Stones came up three times: Paint it Black, Sympathy for the Devil, and, well, another I can't recall. As I listened to - and then skipped through - these songs I realized what it is:

I can't stand Mick Jagger's voice.

It's not (just) that he doesn't have a great voice. While it's great when it happens, rock music is full of vocalists with questionable talent. Impersonating Bob Dylan's nasal twang has been de rigeuer for comedians for decades, and Neil Young's screech is certainly something outside the realm of pleasurable. But those artists make up in passion what they lose in technical skill. I defy anyone to listen to Rockin' in the Free World and not come away knowing Neil believes deeply everything he's singing about.

But Mick? Dude just sounds... Creepy.

I'm not referring to the leathery-faced, pruned up Mick Jagger of recent years. It has nothing to do with his physical appearance at all(1) and, y'know, the guy is over 70 years old and has certainly lived a life choosing to do things with his body that certainly aren't known to slow the aging process.

It's really just the way he sings.

When I hear Charlotte Martin sing Wild Horses I hear a woman in pain. When Mick Jagger sings it, I hear a stalker who is upset about the restraining order he's just been handed. When he sings Paint it Black I hear a serial killer trying, hoping, that this time he'll be able to resist the urge...

Let's get this out of the way: Mick Jagger doesn't need me. He has a knighthood, an incredible career, and seven children. My opinion about him probably isn't going to have much of an impact on his popularity one way or the other. And I will certainly admit that he is undeniably an integral part of the songwriting team that produced these songs that I very much enjoy other people performing.

Now if he would just refrain from actually singing them...

1 - I have to admit, though, that his status as a sex symbol - at any point in his timeline - has always been mystifying to me.