Well, 2008 has been ludicrous in many ways, but none moreso than when The London Times named Leonard Cohen Canada's greatest singer.
The accolade was inspired by the fact that Cohen's song Hallelujah became the UK's Christmas Number One hit this year, thanks to Simon Cowell's insistence that finalists sing the song as part of the last competition on X Factor, the British equivalent of American Idol.
Nice for Cohen. God knows, he deserves the cash, he writes like a dream and is totally sexy. But face it, the guy drones, he does not sing. Witness this:
Citing Cohen as a voice to reckon with serves only to remind me how many major male lead lungs can't sing their way out of paper bag but are hailed as musical heroes. Take Mick Jagger, for example. He's charismatic and a live performer like no one else, but his voice is way more attitude than instrument. If he weren't singing those rockin' tunes he can't write without Keith Richards, we wouldn't tolerate such middling vocals.
Let's move on to Bono - swell fellow, decent politics, but the voice is unbearable, sharp most of the time and always reedy. And don't get me started on Neil Young's warble. You say plaintive? I say painful. It's worse than Cohen's rasp.
Here's my question - how many women would get away with singing as badly as these guys do? I say that a woman couldn't get a record deal, let alone be among the world's most popular performers if she were to deploy the female equivalent of these guys' voices.
I can think of only one woman who's scored such a major success with such a middling vocal instrument and that's the prolific genius pop composer Carole King. But she was smart. She gave up the tunes to real singers - Natural Woman to Aretha Franklin, and all those cool tunes she composed in the Brill Building to the black women's groups like the Shirelles - before she foisted the poorly sung but excellently written Tapestry album onto an audience eager to eat up authentic emotion, even from someone with a thin voice.
Want to hear a Neil Young song sung properly? Listen to Kd Lang cover his After The Goldrush and Helpless. Both appear on Hymns Of The 49th Parallel. Coincidentally, so does Cohen's Hallelujah.
Lang's Canadian, isn't she? So what was The Times thinking?