This is about lyrical ad libs, not the practice of Melisma so very hated here on the SDMB (and rightfully so).
I’ll lead with an example that some people will actually be familiar with, then I’ll go into the obscure example that really set me off and inspired this Thread.
In the song “New York, New York” Frank Sinatra sings
an ad-lib that was hated by the actual lyricist of the song, Fred Ebb, whose lyrics as written were:
As much displeasure as it may have caused the songwriter, I don’t actually think Sinatra’s ad-lib is too terribly bad- he certainly could have done worse.
The example that inspired this Thread, the example that makes me want to hunt down the singer and plead “Why? WHY???” could possibly be at the top of the list of worse ad-libs ever.
At my job there’s a customized satellite service that pumps in a music mix that I listen to over and over, every day. Included in this mix is a version of “Route 66” performed by Betty Roché (the display just says her name, I don’t know if this was when she was with Duke Ellington or not).
I would love to link to a recording of the song, but it doesn’t seem to be on YouTube and my Google-fu is weak trying to find it anywhere else.
She’s got some bizarre lyrical ad libs thrown in here: an inexplicable medley into “The Ballad of Frankie and Johnny”, and a spot where she breaks out singing “horSES, horSES, horSES!”. This bizarre stuff doesn’t bother me too much, but there are a few spots where she gets ridiculous.
The second time she sings the line
she changes it to
um . . .
Betty, just because San Francisco is in California doesn’t mean it is synonymous with California. If someone needs directions from Chicago to San Francisco and you direct them by way of Route 66, they’re going to come back to you really pissed off. Route 66 won’t take them anywhere near San Francisco!
Then during the outro she sings a few lines that I’m sure she must have thought were really clever (but they weren’t):
First of all, these are bad lyrics. Just plain bad.
But on a deeper level they completely tarnish the majesty of the narrative!!!
This song is about Route 66. It’s about how Route 66 is the single greatest American cross-country drive that God ever gave man on this Earth!
Yes, I know that as a literary device a part can be used as to represent the whole. In fact, I think that there is an extremely strong case to be made that the entire narrative of the song “Route 66” is meant to praise,pars pro toto, the U.S. Highway System. Even taking that interpretation, to casually throw in a few other highway routes during the outro (with hackneyed juvenile rhymes) completely undermines the device.
Add to that, U.S. Highway 65 is hardly song-worthy, and U.S. Highway 61, if you’re going to mention it at all, should have an entire album devoted to it. Of course, no real thought was put into choosing 61 and 65- it’s just that they rhyme with “fun” and “alive”. What’s the matter? No, “Feel like you’re in Heaven on Route 67”? I suppose we should thank her for stopping when she did.
If anyone can offer an example of worse ad-libbing than Betty Roché’s “Route 66”, I will be impressed- and, appreciative of the warning, I will avoid listening to anything that could be so bad as to be worse than this.