The Top Ten YARLERS of All Time
Some say Vedder invented it, some say Staley did, and I’ve even heard folks claim that Al Green was the first. The post-grunge / alt-metal singers of the late ’90s / early ’00s perfected it. It is an unmistakable force in modern heavy music. It is the YARL.
Even if you’ve never heard the term “yarl” before you probably know exactly what I mean based on the aforementioned bands. Go ahead and say it out loud: YAAAAAARRRRLLLL.
Yarling, of course, is about more than just having a low voice and singing rock music with it; it’s an artform unto itself, a true craft. Many have tried to yarl, but most have failed. Whether you love the yarl or despise it, it is a true skill.
These are the top ten masters of yarling.
10. Brad Roberts (Crash Test Dummies)
Roberts is a borderline yarler, sure; mostly his voice is just really fucking low. But I submit that 1993 mega-hit “Mmm mmm mmm mmm” wouldn’t have had any legs in a musical climate that wasn’t already receptive to yarling. And with lines like “Once there was this gaaaarrrrrlllll who…” it’s hard not to classify Roberts as a student in Yarling 101.
9. Jonathan Davis (Korn)
Korn’s 1999 hit “Make Me Bad” demonstrates Jonathan Davis’s surprising and most unlikely vocal versatility with an expertly yarled chorus. Davis isn’t generally thought of as much of a yarler, but once you’re looking for it you’ll start seeing it everywhere: check the chorus of Korn mainstay “Falling Away From Me” and pretty much all of latter day clunker “Coming Undone.”
8. Core-era Scott Weiland (Stone Temple Pilots)
In Scott Weiland’s defense I don’t think he was ever a true yarler despite his baritone vocal range — by the time STP’s second album Purple came out in 1994 he had all but abandoned the craft. But whether because of record company pressure, producer input or just feeling like he had to blend in with the times, he delivered a respectable if flawed yarling performance on Core. “Wicked Garden” embodies it perfectly:
7. Travis Meeks (Days of the New)
Travis Meeks provided the bridge between the early ’90s yarlers that would popularize the craft and the late ’90s copycats that would perfect it. Days of the New might be the single most identifiable link between those eras of bands and one of the biggest reasons radio rock stagnated for so damn long (it still hasn’t really changed to this day). Meeks put together Days of the New as a teenager, underscoring a theme of the list: some of the best yarlers of all time were the youngest ones!
6. Jason Wade (Lifehouse)
This song was HUGE on rock radio all over America in 2001. Besides being a yarler of the highest order, lead yarler Jason Wade had the distinction of looking like he was 12 years old; the dissonance created by this diametrically opposed combination made his world-class yarling skills all that much more impressive. Also: those threaded eyebrows!!!
5. Alex Band (The Calling)
It was really a toss-up as to whether Alex Band or Jason Wade would rank higher in the battle of twelve-year-old-looking lead yarlers for shitty adult contemporary bands that were popular in 2001, but in the end I had to go with Alex Band for possessing the rare skill of being able to maintain his yarl even in higher registers.
4. Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam)
Regardless of who invented it, Vedder brought the yarl into the mainstream: sure, Staley was doing it earlier, but when Ten exploded in 1992 the yarl had officially arrived, once and for all. Unlike many of the vocalist on this list Vedder’s natural voice isn’t super-low, which makes his uncanny ability to yarl all that much more incredible.
3. Layne Staley (Alice in Chains)
Staley was the OG yarler. He made the style completely his own and ran with it, and he had Jerry Cantrell’s higher harmonies to balance things out and keep AIC’s vocals from being too bottom-heavy. If not for all the copycats that followed and turned yarling into a joke, Staley surely would’ve been more widely recognized for his unique vocal talent.
2. Scott Stapp (Creed)
I had to suffer through listening to this song to write this post. I suffer for you, people. I gotta hand it to the guy, though: Scott Stapp knew exactly what he was doing when he unleashed his powerful yarls into the world in the year 2000, and Middle America ate it up!
1. Hugo Ferreira (Tantric)
Guitarist Todd Whitener always had a giant boner for Alice in Chains and modeled his bands after them, so when Travis Meeks went nuts and Days of the New disbanded he found another guy with an even more pronounced yarl to complement his own Jerry Cantrell-like harmonies: African-born, Portuguese-American Hugo Ferreira. Never has a more righteous yarl graced the surface of this good, green earth: Ferreira totally gets it and he yarls with everything he’s got all of the time. Whenever he opens his mouth and unleashes a gigantic yaaaaarrrrlllll I can see right into his heart and soul, the center of his very being. You could replace every word in any Tantric song with the word “yarl” — kinda like those whackos who record versions of Christmas songs with choruses of cats meowing — and these songs would still be just as good and carry just as much meaning! After a decade of yarling in the mainstream Hugo Ferreira came along and perfected the artform; he has never been topped since.
Ferreira’s yarl in the live setting is absolutely OOC:
In conclusion, who could forget this Mad TV gem?