Should Bad Singers be Dubbed?

So many good actors have bad voices, is it time we just say their singing pipes should be tuned?

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About Doug Walker

Creator of 5 Second Movies, Nostalgia Critic, Bum Reviews and more.

87 comments

  1. If they’re not a good singer – YES, FOR GOD’S SAKE DUB THEM! Not only does that spare our ears there’s lots of good singers out there who won’t get roles because they’re “not photogenic.” *coughmecoug* Dubbing gives them work they deserve more than the actors.

    • The Mysterious M

      Also, why hide it? Dubbing has been done for years in films. Mostly animated, but even some live action films have had actors dubbed:
      *Steve Perry was Pierce Brosnan’s singing voice in Quest for Camelot
      *More recently, Christopher Jackson dubbed the singing voice for Temuera Morrison’s character in Moana.
      *Andrea Robinson was the singing voice for Wendy Makkena in Sister Act
      *Lisa Kirk dubbed (and helped) Rosalind Russell’s singing voice in Gypsy
      *Both Christopher Plummer and Peggy Wood were dubbed in The Sound of Music
      *Probably most famously, Marni Nixon was the singing voice of Deborah Kerr in The King and I

  2. Just had a thought: In the old days of Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic operas, there was often a comic baritone used in certain roles. While everybody else in the cast was well-trained operatic singers, the comic baritone was basically a comedic actor who could carry a tune somewhat. Their comedic timing and delivery helped make the song memorable. I’m sure we’ve all hummed “I am the Very Model of a Modern Major General” once or twice, and can remember “I’ve Got a Little List” and “I am the Monarch of the Sea”.

    • Guywhothinksstuff

      That’s actually quite a good parallel, particularly to something like, say, Aladdin – the role of the Genie needed a performer, but the others all needed singers. Not meaning to denigrate any of the cast, of course – they were splendid.

    • Ha, I only remember ‘I am the Monarch of the Sea’ because of Indi’s Egyptian friend from Raiders. As for Modern Major General, I owe that introduction to Ross Scott. And boy was it a big one, singing and dancing while gunning down spec ops forces in a water canal skirmish in Half-Life. XD

  3. It depends on the context. The Rock’s song in Moana, for example, works because it’s a comedic song and the style.

    For Watson… yeah, it needed a bit of sprucing up.

    As for LaLa Land… honestly, I think the fact that neither was a particularly strong singer worked in the movie’s favor.

    • That’s the thing, Maui’s song in Moana is perfectly fine. Not an amazing singer but certainly good enough for the film. It fits the film perfectly in terms of tone. So completely agree, depends on context.

  4. If you got the pipes yeah don’t dub but if you can’t carry a tune dub it

  5. Andreu Martínez

    Actually I’m pretty surprised cause I saw the Castilian (spanish from spain) Dub of beauty and the beast and all actors have two people dubbing them (except for lumiere), one for dialogues, one for songs. And people here went out of the cinema loving the film. Then i logged to see reviews form people and all English speaking countries were freaking out with a film that was pretty good in my opinion. Then I realized… the dub made the film much better. I usually like to see films again with the original voice but… now I’m really doubting if I want to.

    • Dubbing songs is quite interesting, since you often have to change the lyrics quite much (at least Finnish, since it’s so different from English) and because of that different parts of the movie may resonate with the audience.

      I watched some youtube-videos with several comparisons, from different countries, with the same Disney-classics. Can’t remember the name, but some songs/singers, with vocals I don’t understand, managed to resonate with me better than the ones I knew.

      “Let it go” from Frozen didn’t get THAT good of a version in Finland, I think…

      • He’s mainly talking about dubbing bad English singers by using other English singers. A lot of songs simply don’t work once they’re translated into other languages. It’s unsurprising though, when a song is written in a language the writer never thinks ‘how would this work in Spanish or Dutch?’ I doubt Guantanamera would work in English.

  6. On one hand, dubbing will make the product’s quality better, but on the other hand, it comes off as disingenuous to the person who actually sang the song, as people might think that the person on screen did the job.

  7. While obviously not too much of the central focus of this video, I’m kinda surprised Kevin Spacey’s role as Bobby Darin in Beyond The Sea didn’t get any mention in this video.

    While an average movie at best, I think a lot of people were flat out stunned Spacey had the pipes and talent to actually sing pretty damn well.

  8. Does this even warrant it’s own episode? Sure, bad singers SHOULD be be dubbed, but this doesn’t need it’s own episode!

    EDIT: I just watched the episode after posting… I need to ask questions before shooting. :/

  9. Because actors are in front audience and they are faces that audience knows demands more from them than from any one else involved with movie. This also means that actors tend to get blame when movie is bad even when it’s not they fault at all.

  10. Watching a character randomly breaking into song is awkward and takes me out of the moment anyway. I don’t understand musicals.

  11. I think people need to be more forgiving of dubs; but for a completely different reason.

    American movies are huge in China, while even the best Chinese, Japanese, Korean, French, and Indian movies are hard to even find here. I could be wrong but my best guess is that we don’t have a middle ground between the snobs who demand subs and the lazy people who won’t read a movie.

    I’d like to see a dub for “Belle et la bete (2014)”, “Shin Godzilla”, “Ring vs Grudge”, “Train to Busan”, “Kenshin (Trilogy)”, etc…

    • And Tomie! All the Tomie movies should get a dub. Even the cheesier “Tomie Unlimited.”

    • I’m not sure we’re talking about the same thing here. This discussion is mostly about dubbing someone’s singing.

      As for translation dubs, I’m all for them. I can’t stand when people act all snobby over translations “not quite capturing the true essence of the original language.” So what? There are a lot of great translations of foreign works that brilliantly capture them, and even a few that surpass the originals. I’m a huge fan of Stein’s Gate myself, and while there is one scene that absolutely must be seen in Japanese (“Hey Mister! I AM MAD SCIENTIST IT’S SO KUUUULU! sonuvabitch!”), the English even in that scene is still hilarious, and the rest of the dialog works brilliantly. I don’t need to understand every single nuanced reference to Japanese culture to appreciate the work. But I do need to be able to enjoy it, and the English dub enabled me to do just that.

    • Subtitling movies is fine. Not snobbish in the slightest. It’s perhaps more perplexing that the only alternative would then be ‘learn the language’ or ‘remake in English’. There is no middle ground because…there isn’t one. If you don’t understand the native language the alternatives are subtitles or remake it.

  12. Sure, Doug. Keep pissing off your viewers with your hatred of movies that people actually like or love. That’ll not bring down your viewership lower than Trump’s approval rating. But seriously, keep the hatred to a minimum.

    • So you’re saying he should be dishonest about his opinions?

    • Omnipotentmonkeych

      1. Butthurt.
      2. You’re watching the Nostalgia CRITIC, and telling him it’s not his place to be CRITICAL? how exactly does that infantile logic work?
      3. You’ve probably laughed and agreed as he’s ripped other well-liked movies in the past, The practice doesn’t need to change just because you personally like this one…. that’s called a double standard buddy.

    • So, what, are Trump comparisons the new “Godwin”?

    • Where did he even say he hated any of these movies?

    • What I find curious is that he deliberately courts it sometimes. He knows the Beauty and the Beast film is loved, but he hates it, so it has to be wheeled out and bashed extensively. If the singing in it is ‘bad’ then people who think so simply haven’t heard enough bad singers.

      Most of it is deliberate, though. It’s his style.

  13. This reminds me of The Last Unicorn. Jeff’s character was meant to be shy and awkward and flawed so it made sense that his (not too bad actually) voice was used for the singing, but oh my gosh Mia should not have been allowed anywhere near the booth. Bless her she is not a singer and it’s so good that for the soundtrack album they got a professional in.

  14. Guywhothinksstuff

    No.

    Bad singers should be recast.

    (Generalisation, sure, much as there is nuance to the notion of dubbing – sometimes a ‘bad’ voice is fine for the role. But there isn’t actually a shortage of performers who could have managed Belle or Javert on screen – go see any West End or Broadway show to see there are those out there who are so much more than capable of either. Russell Crowe and Emma Watson have no place as leads in musicals.)

  15. I am kind of weirded out by this. It seems silly, but it does make sense sometimes. “Beauty And The Beast” isn’t really that loved. It only has a rating of 70% on RottenTomatoes. That’s good, but not great. Oh yeah, the money it made.

  16. I haven’t seen the remade Beauty and the Beast yet. I think actors are having to sing more now because so many people hate things that are “fake”. It’s kinda like how people seem to hate photoshopping now. I don’t think dubbing is bad (same with photoshopping) but that’s my opinion. Plus, I actually liked Russell Crowe. LOL

  17. i think that this idea that lots of actors now have to be singers comes from the fact that lots of singers have now started to bleed into the world of acting (even if they may not be good at either). Consider the Disney child star phenomenon. You basically weren’t allowed to be part of a Disney Channel show if you didn’t have some sort of musical ability to bring. Now time has gone on, and people have grown up almost expecting this. It’s also from how popular musicals in television have become. Glee (while not being that great of a show) was unbelievably popular in its earlier seasons. Lots of comedy TV shows have musical episodes. What does this have to do with dubbing? Simple, the TV actors would have to use their real voices. So not only are the singers showing they can try acting, but the TV stars are showing they can sing. At this point the movie industry executives would almost feel like they have to make their people sing earnestly just to show that they could do it to. Is this right? No, actors should be expected to act, and not have to do more. If they can, ok great for them, but that’s not what the higher ups here. They look to be the number one medium, the same way that Youtube is looking to make itself more like Netflix, and Television with Youtube TV, and how Netflix wanted to legitimize itself by campaigning for an emmy. It’s people trying to prove that they can do everything, even if we don’t want everything.

  18. Huh, the Rock always sounded fine to me…but like you said, it was probably the charm of the character and animation.
    I actually did enjoy the BatB remake, minor nitpicks and all, and you didn’t and I respect that; but, we can definitely meet in the middle with one thing: EMMA WATSON IS NOT A GOOD BELLE. I tried, I tried really hard not to compare her to the original, because I know that no one could be as endearing as she was, but the second Watson started singing… And was just the cherry on top of the reasons I didn’t like her here.

    • Yeah, I was surprised when I found out how many people considered The Rock a bad singer in the film because I thought he sounded awesome. Guess it helps that the song was written specifically for him.

      • Heh, yeah, the first thing my husband said was “Hey, the Rock’s a pretty good singer” when we watched this, and we both had the song stuck in our head the rest of the day.

  19. It depends: if the work in question depends on their musical ability, then no, absolutely not! You should cast people who can sing if that’s what you want them to do, instead of just getting someone who happens to be prettier. This is the phenomenon I like to call “The Milli Vanilli Effect”: in essence, you’re giving undue credit to someone who really isn’t capable of even deserving it.

    On the other hand, if the role in question doesn’t depend on their singing ability, then by all means. If you need a great character actor to pull off a part, but one scene calls for a song, then go for it.

    But if the role is in a musical, and the person can’t hack it, then just don’t cast them. Instead, cast the person you were planning to dub them with and let them get the credit.

    • I’m going to say it, because it needs to be said: Emma Watson may not be as great an actress as people have been led to believe. Frankly, I would think that if an actor or actress can’t at least make their bad singing seem believable, it can only be because their acting isn’t up to par, either.

    • That is true: when an actor tries to do his own stunt and it goes wrong, the actor gets hurt. But when an actor tries to sing and it goes wrong, We All Hurt.

  20. Love your emperor impression

  21. You know, it is pretty odd that they do that when it comes to full on musicals they give the chance for the stars to sing (even though they can’t) but in a musical adventure flick it can happen on a dime. What’s the difference between a Musical and a Musical Adventure? Simple, the amount of singing. Musicals like Phantom, Le Mis, etc have to gamble that their stars can actually sing, if not it becomes a running gag and can hurt the movie in the long run. In a musical adventure like most Disney movies the singing is a break between the acting. So because we have a good acting job and a good story (most of the time *cough*QuestforCamelot*cough*) it’s hard to notice that they can’t sing if you’re already invested in the story before hand. That’s why Dwayne Johnson could get away with not being able to sing and Russel Crowe couldn’t. Course, that’s just my theory.

  22. Funny you brought up The Rock singing in Moana. I just watched that movie yesterday and I was actually thinking, “Hey, didn’t know Rock was such a singer.” Because yeah, that enthusiasm sold totally sold the song for me. I was humming it the whole today too 😀

  23. Kingofthedragons27

    Some thoughts:
    -Dwayne Johnson’s singing is actually fairly solid? Tone and breath could use a bit of work, but as far as I’m concerned, his pitch was absolutely fine.
    -If Audrey Hepburn’s voice lived up to Doug’s standards of “good”, I’m not sure how at least half of the other actors mentioned in this video don’t.
    -I even think Russell Crowe wasn’t bad in parts of Les Miserables. When he’s singing in his comfort zone, he can be pretty tuneful, but Javert is a baritone role, and Crowe is a straight-up bass, and not cut out for musical theatre.
    -Lee Marvin’s voice was perfect for his song in “Paint Your Wagon”. End of story.
    -Gerard Butler’s clip in this video…ohhhhhh goddddd.

    • I know… Gerard Butler. I saw a live Phantom performed in LA who wasn’t the tenor of Michael Crawford from the original recording, but he had power and tone and emotion all together and people loved him all the same. Sadly, only one performance for him and I’ve lost the pamphlet from 23 years ago, so I don’t know his name…but glad he got the work.

  24. So why can I not watch any of these NC videos for the first 2 or 3 days after they come out?

  25. I think it’s better to compare it to stunt work rather than special effects. We know that it’s usually not the actor taking big falls or doing fights, it’s all about replacing them with someone that’s a believable fill-in, then doing your best to hide the trick.

  26. Not a single nod to 1996’s Woody Allen’s “Everyone says I love you”?
    Perhaps the worst music I’ve seen in movies all my life…
    In contrast, 2016’s Sing Street is just awesome and I really have no idea how much of that is sang and how much is dubbed…

  27. Angryatthecritic666

    I object to his opinion on emma watson and the rock, they have nice voices. You are stupid critic and I’m gonna kick your ass

  28. Belle singing was alright, I mean I am not a huge expert in singing or anything so that not saying much, but come on Gaston singing was way more awful. Granted he barely sang, but it was still terrible.

  29. I was never much of a B&tB fan, so when I saw the remake, my reaction was the same as before: it’s not my bag, but it was still good.

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