A History of Bad Singing: The Heroes and Heroines of Outsider Music

Coming up this fall, my radio program, The Ongoing History of New Music, will spend an episode talking about the world of outsider music. If you’ve seen Meryl Streep portray Florence Foster Jenkins, you’ve already stepped into this world.

Slate would like you to go beyond Florence to introduce you into more outsider musicians, people who make music because they feel they have to and they don’t care what anyone thinks.

A pleasant-looking young man begins to grind his hips to a basic R&B backbeat, as a buxom girl gazes out along a bridge and wrinkles her nose at the camera. The young man starts to sing, “It’s somethin’ about you, girl … ”—and instantly one realizes something is horribly, delightfully wrong. His voice sounds like a sozzled toddler on a bungee cord. When a “harmony” comes in, it’s just another, lower, equally wobbly vocal line that tangles around the first. The dancing becomes more and more lost-looking. The PG-13 lyrics are lisped and gulped into sonic oatmeal.

This is San Antonio’s Daniel Mcloyd, aka IceJJFish, and the video is “On the Floor.” It was posted in February 2014. Today it is verging on 50 million views.

It only gets more fascinating from here. Keep reading.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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