Nightwish might be one of the most dramatic bands in the metal scene (technically “symphonic metal”), and I’m not referring to their music – I’m talking about their long-term lead singer saga which has seen more ridiculous, unnecessarily manufactured drama than an episode of Monday Night Raw.
Here’s the short version: Tarja Turunen was their original lead vocalist and all was mostly well from day one until she was dismissed by the rest of the band in mid-2005 for allegedly developing a bad attitude. I say “allegedly” only because I don’t want to dive into the specifics, not because I necessarily agree or disagree with either party – I have no dog in this fight.
Tarja’s replacement Anette Olzon was hired in 2007 and was immediately hated by a large and vocal number of Nightwish’s fans for not being Tarja. The rest appreciated that her different style might actually allow Nightwish to grow, since they wouldn’t always have to write around an operatic singing style. No middle ground was allowed – you were either in the Tarja camp or the Anette camp. Anette is a good singer, but she doesn’t have Tarja’s classical training so there was no way she could perform the same way. She persevered through fan-dumb hatred, learning and adapting earlier Nightwish songs to her own singing style.
Two studio albums were released with Anette – Dark Passion Play in 2007 and Imaginaerum in 2011. Dark Passion Play was a good album that suffered a little in the vocal department – because many of the songs had been written before they hired Anette, they had no idea what their new vocalist would sound like so they had to play it safe when writing the vocals, and the album suffered for it. Still, there were stand-outs like “Bye Bye Beautiful” and “The Poet and the Pendulum“. Imaginaerum was the album that finally showed that Anette deserved to be in Nightwish – the songs were perfectly written for her and the years of touring they did together had meshed the entire band cohesively with their “new” singer. Even many of the Anette haters admitted that she had decent singing chops.
In October 2012 Nightwish announced that they were “parting ways” with Anette. A few days earlier, Anette had fallen ill and was unable to perform. The rest of the band decided to go ahead with the concert with Elize Ryd from Amaranthe and Alissa White-Gluz from The Agonist (and now with Arch Enemy) filling in, without telling Anette.
Many people, even Anette haters, felt this was a pretty dickish move on the part of the guys and it garnered her a lot of sympathy, but it didn’t matter. The whole thing devolved into another “she said, they said,” Anette was out and the rest of the tour was finished with Floor Jansen from ReVamp (and formerly After Forever) taking over the singing duties.
One year later, in October 2013, Nightwish announced that Floor was joining the band permanently. This seemed to somewhat mollify both the Tarja and Anette camps to a degree – Floor is a classically-trained soprano, like Tarja, and is also a rock’n’roll singer, like Anette. My one personal criticism with Tarja’s singing is that she never seems to be able to get a down-and-dirty rock’n’roll groove on like Joan Jett or Ann Wilson – while symphonic metal with soaring operatic vocals is fun and all, sometimes ya gotta get dirty, and if you can’t get dirty, you’re not rock’n’roll.
But even then, Floor hasn’t been immune to criticism, whether or not it’s deserved. For instance, some fans in Brazil (which seems to be home to Nightwish’s most rabid and idiotic fans) got very upset with her when she asked them to stop constantly invading her personal fucking space without permission. Brazil is also where they very nearly drove Anette over the edge early in her tenure by constantly chanting “We want Tarja” during Nightwish concerts instead of, y’know, shutting the fuck up and enjoying the music. Shining examples of over-privileged fans, these Brazilians.
So anyways, there’s the short history of Nightwish’s lead singers – perhaps now you’ll understand why so many people crack jokes about them when talking about replacement lead singers. Their lead singer situation has actually managed to generate more drama than Van Halen’s. The funniest part is that by all accounts, Tarja, Anette, and Floor all get on just fine with each other, even occasionally sharing stages when not performing with Nightwish. Tarja has especially been vocal about it, making it clear that she doesn’t approve of or condone the hatred Anette and Floor suffer for “taking her place.”
Nightwish are currently in the studio working on their next album, the first with Floor as lead singer. The video below is their most recent, and last one with Anette, “Storytime” from Imaginaerum. Enjoy!