Arctic Monkeys’ lead singer Alex Turner isn’t exactly well-renowned for his impeccable vocal range, but what he does have is something that all singers want—originality. The Sheffield-born musician first used his machine-gun delivery to create one of the landmark albums of the noughties with Whatever People Say I Am That’s What I’m Not but soon enough he crafted a smooth-like butter tone which as well as being blessed with a transatlantic snarl was also complemented by the Yorkshireman’s inherent drawl.
On the isolated vocals of the band’s AM song ‘Arabella’, we see it all at play. Turner is at both ends of the spectrum a scruffy rapscallion and a smooth-talking schmoozer. It’s part of the reason AM became the major commercial success album it did. While the band had been the heroes of their birthplace for some time before the record came out, in America the Monkeys were comparative nobodies. It was this album that finally put a crack in the US market.
The record marked a poignant moment in their illustrious career, a time when the four members displayed a new level of musical maturity, their sound elevated into a new genre-melding chart-topper. The effort from the Sheffield band signals the moment that they shifted from boys to men and marked a major transition in their sound.
Growing up under the spotlight of the British media, Arctic Monkeys were no longer considered ‘the boys from next door’ by 2012 and their change in direction was a true reflection of their new desire. On songs like ‘R U Mine’ and ‘Do I Wanna Know?’, the group proved that they were every bit the hairy-chested men they now professed to be. That said, it is on ‘Arabella’ that we see the duality of the characters, especially Alex Turner’s.
Released as the fifth single from the album, ‘Arabella’ is a fusion of late ‘90s hip-hop and R&B with ‘70s hard rock. It has many musical references including the likes of Black Sabbath or the stylings of Led Zeppelin all encrusted with the futurism of Dr Dre, combined with lyrical extracts like “Arabella’s got a ‘70s head, but she’s a modern lover…she’s made of outer space” it becomes one of the most vital songs on the record. “The words are a bit Brian Cox, a bit Wonders of the Universe,” Turner told NME. “They’re my favourite words on there.”
When you strip it all back to the isolated vocal you get a wholly different picture largely propelled by the lyrics. It also shows the maturation of Alex Turner’s vocal tone. No Longer happy to be the scrappy kid on the streets, now Turner decides his place is in the music history books and so kicks up the suaveness and delivers one of his most iconic vocal performances.
It deserves to be heard loud and proud and with this studio take of Turner’s acapella vocal, we can get a real sense of the track and its intent.