Vocal Duos in Music

Recently we went to see The Manhattan Transfer in concert. Not a band I had known, but we took the opportunity to go see some live music! It was a great concert, and they definitely still have their skills.

Early on in the concert, they introduced harmony, and how it works, demonstrating as they added one each to the combination. It made me think about harmony, and groups with multiple singers, and how maybe that was something that there used to be a lot more of – but for a while there wasn’t as much. And I feel like it’s coming back.

I really like bands that have multiple people singing, and am really enjoying some of the groups doing more of this. Not like the boy bands or girl bands, where maybe they each do some singing, just to highlight each of them and show them as a personality – to try to spin off solo careers. No, no. The bands where the point is that there’s more than one singer. And the best, in my opinion, is when a man and a woman are both singing, back and forth.

The Raconteurs

I think the band where I really picked up on this and noticed it, and noticed that I really liked it, was with The Raconteurs. This band was made up of a number of artists pulling together to make a band that only lasted two albums. Most notable were the two lead singers, Jack White – formerly of the White Stripes – and Brendan Benson. These two, before and since, have done quite a bit of music, and I like their solo work. But this was my introduction to both of them.

If you missed the Raconteurs, I still recommend their music for sure. There’s some back-and-forth, the songs are different from one another, and they kind of explore all kinds of sounds from rock, country, and blues. 

I also checked out Jack White’s next band, The Dead Weather, which mainly had a female lead singer but had a few great songs with she and Jack White both singing. They were all right, really raw – which seems intentional.

Of Monsters and Men

I think the best example of this out there right now is Of Monsters and Men, and most especially in their hit single, Little Talks. This song is so blisteringly sad, when you listen to it: the man is singing to his dying, and then dead, love. Not actually a lot of songs that tackle a topic like that, and even less where you get to hear both voices in a situation like that.

The music video, on the other hand, is either unbelievably abstract, or really just completely unrelated as I think it is. It’s a great listen, but an odd one to watch.

Other Examples

I can think of a few other examples. For instance, The Decemberists. They don’t feature their female singer nearly as much as I would like, but especially in their album The Hazards of Love, they give her a lot of room to breathe. Or, well, sing. Lots of back-and-forth, lots of variety.

Another is The Civil Wars. I don’t have any of their albums, but my wife does, and I like hearing them whenever she plays them. This is reminding me I really need to get those from her for my devices…

But partially, I love this sort of music, and see it resurging now – but there must be more out there! Any examples you would recommend? And do you like bands like this – or dislike it, favoring a lead singer you can follow? Let me know in the comments below!

You can find more of David’s work at Comparative Geeks, which he writes with his wife, Holly.

19 thoughts on “Vocal Duos in Music

  1. I’m surprised to see no mention of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros 🙂 The New Pornographers? I love them. There’s also She & Him. Nickel Creek does a nice job sharing leads between the guy playing mandolin and the woman playing fiddle, but they’re bluegrass :P.

    Not quite a duo so much as prominent female backups, but do you know of Noah and the Whale? They’re a British band that isn’t so well known over here. On their first album, Laura Marling was dating the lead singer and sang backups, and it was this happy go lucky album with lots of people singing all perky-like. Then the two broke up, so she left the band and started a pretty successful solo career as a folk singer. As a result, the second album has no Laura Marling singing backups and it’s ridiculously depressing and sad. I think it’s largely regarded is their best, too.

    Liked by 2 people

    • They’re so good! And they remind me of Ace of Base – in that it sounds like English is not their native tongue and they may not completely know everything they’re singing… which could explain the music video… 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Reblogged this on DBCII and commented:

    Thought I would catch up on sharing my contributed posts. Here’s my second Music post over on Sourcerer! This one’s about music groups that have two singers, and especially ones with a male and female voice!


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