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. As for the dubbing debate, the movie should come before the actor’s pride….within reason.

  2. In Bollywood movies the singing is done by professional singers and actors just do the lip-syncing and dancing. And it’s fine, everyone knows this and some playback singers even enjoy popularity in their own right.

  3. Am I the only one who thought the acting and singing voice for Young Simba sounded EXACTLY the same??

  4. In the end you need to prioritize 2 things.
    1:Quality
    2:Enjoyability

    if dubbing makes the movie better and more enjoyable, You should do it.

    Hell, look at the nightmare before Christmas (my favorite movie of all time); Jack skellington had 2 voice actors, 1 for speaking (Chris Sarandon) and 1 for singing (Danny Elfman), This made the singing and speaking great, 2 people collaborating to make the movie as amazing as possible, rather than 1 egotistical shmuck singing AND talking because he doesn’t want to share credit.

  5. Good editorial and some good examples.

    I’m glad to see you not beating up on the Rock, because I think he’s a better actor than people give him credit for, when given good material and direction he can be very entertaining.

    That Phantom of the Opera clip contrast was painful though, wow…

  6. The video starts and stops constantly to ‘load’, this provider needs work.

  7. It helps that “You’re Welcome” is a party song, so even if he sounds like a guy letting loose at karaoke night, it sounds natural. Note that all the serious songs got real singers.

    As you touched on, there’s a tension between star power and ability — there are plenty of women who’ve sung and danced as Belle in the Broadway version of BatB. (The role was originated by Susan Egan, currently playing Steven Universe’s mom.) But they don’t have the “name”. So dub if you have to… please!

    (And did anyone else notice they did “dub” the dancing? The editing to cover the dance doubles was pretty obvious. If they do a fancy dance step, you can’t see their faces.)

    I watched the premiere of the “Tangled” TV series right after seeing BatB, and wow, what a difference. Hearing Mandy Moore belt out “Wind in My Hair” was a amazing. Sorry, Emma.

  8. Rock Bottom! Rock Bottom! Rock Bottom!

    The Rock: The Rock can sing if you smell what the rock is cookin!

  9. I’m surprised this is even a question. The was painstakingly obvious and yet Doug managed to stretch it to 11 minutes.

    Some of these analysis questions have merit but others don’t feel like things worthy of discussion. What’s two weeks from now going to be? Should CG be used when practical effects are just as safe and cheap to perform?

  10. (I haven’t watched yet) There can be situations where you care more about the emotion than the quality, and you can always fix up pitch problems and stuff for that.

    But if the thing is a full out musical, where the music quality is part of the point, then YES. Dub them, and dub them with singers who can voice act somewhat.

    Still have the originals sing, so the singer can get the emotional context and everything, and so they look like they’re singing when you watch them. But dubbing is a good thing.

    It’s ridiculous that Disney always had singers and performers in their animated stuff, but now they won’t in their remakes.

  11. No, Hepburn’s performance tends to sound better. The only real problem are long held notes, but you can mix and match if you do it right.

    Her character voice just sounds better in general, and it’s just tuning and too much pressure (which they could fix after the fact) that makes it sound bad.

  12. I’ve read some singing manuals, and they usually categorize 2 distinct “styles” of singing: emotional and technical. (i.e. Mark Baxter’s The Rock-N-Roll Singer’s Survival Manual)
    Granted, most people fall somewhere between these lines, and a good technical singer can insert emotion with skill, but depending on your genre and stuff, you can be successful without being a master singer so long as your voice and emotion is felt in the guts of the audience.
    Even this review had some good examples for emotional singing, Anne Hathaway and the Rock. Russel Crow just really should’ve been dubbed over, it’s painful to listen to in all the wrong ways. And some technical singers do sound way too cold to my personal preference.

  13. If animation is brought into the conversation then I will say that FiM has some of its actors sing, if they’re singers, and has some characters with their own “singing VA” if their spoken actor can’t sing, and I think that’s fine. Heck, there’s even an actor who sings for one of her characters but wished to outsource the singing for another. In the realm of live action that practice might be a little trickier if the actor can’t lip synch, but maybe it would make a movie better if we don’t have to hear a non-singer try to sing.

  14. Growing up with German-dubbed versions of Disney movies I’ve always been used to hearing different people singing the songs than doing the talking – however, while I mostly watch the original versions of movies nowadays, I don’t really watch that many with a lot of singing in them, so I was genuinely surprised about how awful some of the examples in this video were and why on earth they would not dub over them. But maybe the actors themselves believe they can do it and insist on doing it themselves or something… I can only imagine what it must feel like for a professional singer to hear something like this in a musical adaptation for example.

  15. I watched The Prince of Egypt with my sister the other week. We were laughing at Val Kilmer’s singing, although it might’ve been a voice double. Either way it was pretty funny. I say if it makes for unintentional comedy then let these non singers sing.

  16. The whole time I was watching this video, I just kept thinking of “Singin’ in the Rain” – a huge part of that movie’s plot is tied up in the issues that came up in Hollywood in the 1920’s as silent film studios started transitioning to talking pictures. What do we do when we have an established film star who doesn’t have the right kind of voice for talking pictures? Do we dub them? Can we get away with that? Not hugely relevant to the questions Doug is asking here… but a friggin great movie nonetheless.

  17. To those who’d say it takes away from seeing the actor’s performance I’d say . . . We’re not supposed to be seeing an actor, we’re supposed to be seeing a fictional character, which pretty much is the same conclusion as you said. We’re supposed to be seeing the world the movie-makers create, not the talent show of its individual parts.

  18. Blaze The Movie Fan

    Very interesting video.

  19. I don’t think Dwayne Johnson was that bad, but yeah, Emma Watson’s singing voice was pretty mediocre compared to the other singers in the movie.

  20. Personally, this will always be Dwayne’s greatest musical performance.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5SidWPrO5-w

  21. Action movies have stunt doubles, Lord of the Rings had actual little people and a really tall guy as “scale doubles”, a juggler was hired to pretend to be David Bowie’s hands in Labrinth, etc.

    If you hire people who can sing *and* act, great! But other than that, you can either train a singer to act, train an actor to sing, or just hire 2 people.

    I will even go as far as to sugest that just casting them is a skill in and of itself. You need a singer who sounds enough like the actor that it isn’t too obvious.

    James Earl Jones and the Beegees; no.
    Mickey Rourke & Tom Waits; yes.
    Scarlette Johansen & Rehanna; eh

  22. What no rock singing what a wonderful world from journey 2?

  23. I don’t have an ear for music to tell a bad singer from a good one, or rather an average singer from a great one.

  24. The Mysterious M

    Unpopular Opinion, I actually think Russell Crowe is a very good singer. Before you condemn me, let me make my point. He’s a good singer, but he was all wrong for Les Miserables. Most of the cast, in some way, came from a theater background or were classically trained (Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, etc). Crowe… was not. He is in a rock band. He’s a rock singer. So, yes, he’s a good singer. BUT his musical style and training were completely wrong for this kind of musical (there’s clips on youtube of an Australian production he did of The Rocky Horror Show– when you’re talking about the stage show, remove “Picture” from the title, and his voice works much better there)

  25. I’m perfectly aware of the fact that this will likely get lost in the comment mire, but just as well: here are a couple interesting facts from a country where dubbing isn’t just commonplace but a necessity.

    Obviously all “dubbing takes away from an actor’s performance” concerns must fly out the window when you’re adapting a film for release in a non-English-speaking country, and you just get in the mindset of servicing the story the best you can while hewing as close as possible to the original acting. In some cases that does end up taking something away, in others it ends up adding: Keanu Reeves (around the Matrix years, so don’t get your manties in a bunch, John Wick fans) is a markedly better actor in Italian than he is in his native language, because he’s bolstered by a voice actor who can actually emote. On the other hand, Schwarzenegger’s performances are similarly improved and augmented by dubbing but all the iconic and unintentionally comedic qualities of his accent are lost in translation, so to each their own.

    Now, coming to the cases at hand: Les Misรฉrables was released in Italy in its original English, with subtitles. La La Land got a different, but still common treatment: dubbed-over dialogues, subtitled songs. Conversely, both Moana and this Beauty and the Beast remake, being more kid-oriented, were dubbed the whole way through, with adapted song lyrics. I tend to disfavour this latter approach because, generally speaking, Italian is a longer-winded language than English (words are made of more syllables, on the average, and so translating from English to Italian usually yields longer sentences) resulting in quite a lot less content being able to be jammed into the same syllable count, but nonetheless. In the former case, Maui got a good (but remarkably different from Dwayne Johnson’s inflections) voice actor who handled both dialogues and singing; in the latter, they resorted to what they often do in animated musicals: Emma Watson’s Belle (and similarly the Beast, as well as a couple supporting characters) got two voices, one for her acting and one for her singing, the latter being a professional singer.

    Does that always work? Yes and no. In this specific case, as in many others, the transition was handled well: the two voices were similar enough that the switches between the two weren’t too noticeable or outright jarring. A particular case comes to mind, however. In Disney’s animated Aladdin, the titular character had the same two-voice act going on, and it worked very well; then in Quest for Camelot, something strange happened: the voice actor who had been the speaking voice for Aladdin dubbed the character of Garrett, yet this time around they allowed him to do his own singing as well. And he did so very well, but strangely enough, his singing voice was so different from his speaking one that the change was way more noticeable than when there actually were two alternating actors.

    That goes to show that there are many different cases on the table, if nothing else.

  26. I was surprised that I didnt like beauty and the beast more… it wasn’t that great… also I actually like the rock’s voice LOL

  27. Kinda off topic, but just watched that animated movie Sing and Taaron Edgerton has got a really good voice.

  28. Also don’t forget the very important genre differences between jazz, and more popular standards than classical musical theater or especially operas.

  29. Damn you’re a friggin know-it-all Doug and I thought I was, once again because of pedantic online media critics guys like you, thanks, I mean it both sarcastically and gratefully because while I love being a wise guy it can get pretty lonely here in New York City since no-one’s a smart-ass or smart-aleck (I prefer the later term cause I’m sensitive to the general public’s perception of me, plus I’m not a professional, certified, college professor of various humanities or arts, just an unsung average know-it-all who can sing and is learning and desires to sing operatically. I’m just going to paraphrase quote what Kyle Kallgren Oancitizen said about Russell Crowe’s Inspector Javert in your Les Mis review back in 2013 when you were with Pawdugan Paul Schuler, by the way do you if he’s still has some job these days, if not with you, then where else? I know he has a toddler son to take care of but his Elisa Hansen still works here as he Maven of the Eventide: Vampire Reviews. “He is not a bad singer, he is just singing in a different style, Crowe is singing in a folk and rock voice, a subdued and natural style, while classical musical theater is grand and stylized, and that’s why it’s easy to spot a faker.”

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