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Beaver Tales

The Official Student News Site of Corry Middle High School

Beaver Tales

Is ‘Van Hagar’ that bad?

Is Van Hagar that bad?

I am a pretty big Van Halen fan when it comes to the original songs and albums that had David Lee Roth for the lead vocals, and I never really got into the songs where Sammy Hagar replaced Roth because I heard so many bad things from everybody. So one of Van Hagar’s songs would come on the radio and I’d pretend to hate it, but really what I was thinking was, Wow, this isn’t too bad. Now it’s time to face the music (literally) and determine whether or not Hagar was a good replacement for the David Lee Roth. Was he really as bad as everybody claims?

In 1985 after Van Halen’s fabulous six albums, David Lee Roth decided to quit the band and pursue his solo career. David Lee Roth was said to have some beef with some of his band mates in the previous years due to some creative differences, and when he left all of a sudden he kind of left the band stranded. So naturally they searched for another lead singer and Sammy Hagar seemed like a worthy singer for the band, joining later in the same year as David Lee Roth left. This was controversial for a lot of fans, because Sammy Hagar had his own unique vibe that was dissimilar to David Lee Roth’s. Sammy Hagar had released some popular albums before he joined the band like “Three Lock Box”, “Standing Hampton”, and “VOA” which were all good, gaining him quite the following in the early 80s. Some people were excited to hear him perform with Van Halen because of his talent, but it was almost sure to be different from the original Van Halen sound, even with the other original band members.

“5150” was the first Van Halen album with Sammy Hagar on vocals. It was released in 1986 and had sold around 11 million albums, which is great. But still, the album received mixed reviews from listeners. A lot of people hated how most of the songs focused around love and other more sensitive “poppy” subjects. David Lee Roth said on Joe Rogan’s podcast that original Van Halen was singing songs like “Ain’t Talkin ’bout Love”, while Hagar Van Halen was singing songs like “Why Can’t This Be Love.” Growing up I was surrounded by a lot of people who said that Van Hagar was trash, so I kind of just jumped on the bandwagon. But I think that was an unfair thing for me to do without first listening to some of the songs. I liked a lot of Hagar’s solo work like “I Can’t Drive 55,” “There’s Only One Way to Rock” and most of all “Heavy Metal,” but I never gave Van Hagar a chance.

The first Van Hagar song I ever listened to was “Humans Being”, as it was in the soundtrack for the movie “Twister.” I really liked it, but didn’t even know it was a Van Halen song until years later. So there was that, and then I started listening to songs off the “5150” album. The first time I listened to some of them, I was kind of in denial that they were kind of catchy. I just brushed them off, and didn’t really want to like them. But as time went on, I found that songs like “Summer Nights,” “Dreams,” and “Love Walks In,” weren’t too bad! I honestly hated admitting it. It was sissy music compared to what Van Halen was before. It was nowhere near as heavy as Roth’s Van Halen with songs like “Unchained” and “Panama.” But still, I kind of liked it.

I think a lot of the sensitivity people have for Van Hagar is the fact that the tone changed so much for the band. It was taking on a softer rock vibe than what the fans were used to. Of course David Lee Roth had sung some softer songs in Van Halen like “Dance the Night Away,” but mainly the songs on the album consisted of screaming guitars and heavy powerful beats. It always kept the tone. Other bands had singers replaced like AC\DC after Bon Scott’s passing. People liked Brian Johnson’s performance because it kept the same vibe as it did when Bon Scott was still alive. The voice sounded different, but it was still honoring and doing justice to the way the band was previously in the fans’ eyes. I think that it stung a little bit for fans when Hagar came along replacing a beloved performer, and he kind of changed the vibe. That gave his music a more sour taste, without people recognizing the talent that was actually put into his music. If you actually listen to Hagar’s vocals, you’d find that the guy can actually sing. He can hit pitches that are hard to replicate. The way the music was performed was excellent, but the fact that it was under the name “Van Halen” threw people off.

I think, had this album been released sounding exactly the same, only under a different band name that people would have received as a masterpiece. The sound wasn’t all that dissimilar to other music at that time. Bands like Night Ranger, Toto, and Journey were awesome bands that all had a softer rock tone. Even some of Def Leppard’s stuff that they released could be compared to a softer rock vibe. I personally have a liking for some of Van Hagar’s songs. Not all of them fit my taste, but I’m at the point now where I can accept that he made some good songs that I love. In later albums Sammy Hagar would even make an attempt at singing heavier songs which were good! I mentioned the song “Humans Being” earlier which is a great example of that. Perhaps Van Hagar would have been better received had it started off with this kind of material.

I’m going to be going into some deeper water when I say this but, as far as whose voice holds up more – you almost got to give it to Sammy Hagar. If you compare the two of them singing in recent years, Hagar still sings his heart out in his live performances. I am aware that as you age it is really hard to replicate the voice you had thirty to forty years ago, but David Lee Roth almost mumbles his lyrics, and the tone is different in every line he sings. I have no right to say that he’s awful, as I am not a singer myself; but when we’re talking about better vocals, the point goes to Hagar. As an entertainer, I think that David Lee Roth deserves a lot of credit, as he still enters the stage with a remarkable amount of energy. Though his vocals aren’t necessarily the same as they used to be, they aren’t really expected to be. There are a lot of singers like Axel Rose from Guns ‘N Roses, and Vince Neil from Motley Crue that struggle with this. I don’t want to imply that Hagar is better than Roth or vice versa. I’ve already made it clear that I prefer Roth’s Van Halen, but if I’m talking from an honest and open minded perspective, you can see that Hagar has got some real talented vocals that have aged like fine wine. He is the better vocalist, at least as of today.

Now that I’ve said that, I would like to get back on track and say that David Lee Roth’s vocals are irreplaceable. Even if Sammy Hagar is a better vocalist today, and even if he was considered better than Roth when comparing their older works, his voice would never truly fit the original Van Halen vibe as well as David Lee Roth’s did. At the end of the day it isn’t all about who had the best vocals, it’s about who had the best fitting vocal style. That is another reason why Sammy Hagar may not have been the most loved vocalist in Van Halen, because his voice didn’t give off the same vibe. With that said, maybe Van Halen changed to a more poppy vibe because it had to; because Hagar knew he wouldn’t be able to do the same thing as David Lee Roth. But that is all just in theory.

As far as a replacement goes, I think Hagar did a good job overall. From what I have read, there was a little bit of drama between Sammy Hagar and Eddie Van Halen, but that is bound to happen in any band eventually. Say what you want, but the band was still a thing when David Lee Roth left it, so somebody had to step in and keep the movie rolling for them. I’m not going to say that Sammy Hagar was the best possible person that could have stepped in for lead vocalist, but he did well with what he had to work with, and especially with how audiences and critics treated him. I think they made some good songs at least, and that is what counts. If you consider other bands in Van Halen’s genre, do you really think any of those other singers would be a good replacement for lead vocalist? As cool as it would be to imagine Ozzy Van Halen, it wouldn’t have worked because of how iconic and different the band was. Considering that, maybe nobody could have done as well as Sammy Hagar at driving the band further. You could tell me that there are all these Van Halen cover bands that cover David Lee Roth’s vocals excellently, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about making new music and making more creative ideas for songs using the old sound. That is hard to do while maintaining an original vibe. So no, not just anyone can do it. Even those cover bands could screw up so easily.

So anyway, you’d think the drama would have slowed down over the years when it comes to Sammy Hagar vs. David Lee Roth, as it has been 39 years since it started, but if anything it has just escalated, at least between the singers. Fans might be a little less argumentative when it comes to the subject, but things are still tense, especially on social media. One thing is that Sammy Hagar has been getting a little more appreciation throughout the years. But they’re at it again after failing to reach an agreement over a tour honoring Eddie Van Halen. It’s always something with those two. They always have a chance to bury the hatchet, but they never go along with it; and when they try to it only ends up making things worse. I don’t expect the conflict to ever get resolved. Sammy Hagar seems like a pretty chill guy that would want to resolve everything, but with David Lee Roth: it’s like he has too much pride and is too stubborn to ever make up with Hagar. I’m positive the drama will continue.

To wrap this all up, I think that Sammy Hagar was a decent replacement. He often gets a bad rep, but he is a talented musician, and isn’t as bad as some people say. His music in Van Halen is different from David Lee Roth’s, but that doesn’t make it bad. Obviously David Lee Roth is another great musician who definitely holds responsibility in the band being where it is today. So I don’t know if at the end of the day it’s easier being on both of their sides, or one of their sides, but here I am watching the two of them along with their fans clash. The view is nice.

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About the Contributor
Aiden Williams
Aiden Williams, Reporter
Aiden Williams is a tenth grader who enjoys listening to music. In his free time he enjoys writing books, playing Red Dead Redemption 2, and filming YouTube videos.