Songs for the Deaf marks the last appearances on a Queens of the Stone Age record of former members Brendon McNichol (lap steel) and Gene Trautmann (drums). The album also included the first musical contribution to a Queens of the Stone Age album by multi-instrumentalists Natasha Shneider and Alain Johannes (who co-wrote the track "Hangin' Tree" with Homme). Jeordie White (of Marilyn Manson fame) reportedly auditioned for the band in 2002, but lost out to Troy Van Leeuwen, who joined the band as a touring member in support of Songs for the Deaf'. White did appear on the album, however, making a brief cameo appearance as a radio DJ. Shneider, Johannes and Van Leeuwen would subsequently become full time Queens of the Stone Age members and contribute to the follow-up album Lullabies to Paralyze (2005).
Another change in personnel came with the arrival of producer Eric Valentine, who had previously worked on a pair of Dwarves albums with Oliveri. Valentine was actually a requirement by Interscope and didn't do his job according to Homme, who commented that "[Valentine] just recorded it actually, it says production, he was only there to record the beginning of it.
I've been thinking of this album since the first album, not necessarily the radio thing, but to me that isn't the full concept, the full concept is the diversity of it all, I think we're supposed to be pushing buttons over the three records. I've always looked at our first three records as a set: the first one was to distance ourselves from Kyuss, the second album fanned out the music into different areas and this one takes that out even a little further, I think.
We're still doin' the same thing we always did, which is play music that we wanna hear but we can't buy it in the stores so we have to make it. We're not trying to cater to anybody—I wouldn't know how to do that because I've never sold records, you know what I mean? 'Let's write a single!' I don't know what that is—I've never had one.
Between them, Homme and Oliveri had different opinions on the usage of fake radio excerpts between tracks on the album, the former believing it gave the album "fluidity". According to Oliveri, they are a jibe at, "how a lot of stations play the same thing over and over. We don't get played on the radio, so I figure we should talk shit about them.
Several songs that appeared on the album (in re-worked form) were previously recorded and released on the Desert Sessions, a side project of Josh Homme with various guest collaborators. "You Think I Ain't Worth a Dollar, But I Feel Like a Millionaire" was the opening track of Volumes 5 & 6, with vocals originally performed by Mario Lalli instead of Oliveri and "Hangin' Tree" first appeared on Volumes 7 & 8. Also, both "A Song for the Deaf" and "Go with the Flow" were previously performed as early as 2001 with the former having quite different lyrics and vocals completely by Mark Lanegan.
Songs for the Deaf was the band's breakout album. Upon its release in August 2002, Songs for the Deaf peaked at number seventeen on the Billboard 200 album chart. The album granted Queens of the Stone Age international recognition.
The album would be released worldwide in late August, 2002. The album would peak at the top twenty on most of the charts it appeared on. Songs for the Deaf would continue the trend of higher charting albums after its release. Songs for the Deaf reached the top ten in the Norway, United Kingdom, Belgia and Australia, it was a moderate top twenty success in United States, Finland, Italy, and Sweden and the album reached the top thirty in Ireland, France and Denmark.
Like its predecessor, Songs for the Deaf received very positive reviews, aggregated as a total score of 89 out of 100 ("universal acclaim") on Metacritic, making the album the third highest rated on the site from 2002. Entertainment Weekly called it "The year's best hard-rock album", giving it an A. Splendid said, "The bottom line is that QOTSA turns in another genre-demolishing, hard-as-titanium album in Songs for the Deaf. This is not your father's metal. It's better." Mojo listed the album as the year's third best, while Playlouder and Spin placed it at fourth. NME placed the album as the sixth best, with the three singles each making the magazine's Tracks of the Year list over the course of 2002/2003. Kerrang! rated the album at number 1 on its "Best albums of 2002" list.
The album met with great success earning band's first gold certification in the U.S. on January 27, 2003 shifting over 500,000 copies (as of June 2007 the total amount of sold copies is estimated at 986,000 according to Nielsen Soundscan),, platinum certification in UK on September 20, 2002 with sales exceeding 100,000 of units sold. and platinum status in Canada.
|Dagsavisen||Norway||The 21 Best Albums of the 21st Century||2005||16|
|VPRO||Netherlands||299 Nominations of the Best Album of All Time||2006||*|
|HARP||United States||50 Most Essential Albums since 2001||2006||48|
|Amazon.com||United States||The Best of the Decade in Music... So Far||2006||*|
* denotes an unordered list
The intro to track #4, "A Song for the Dead", is an homage to Black Flag; the drums in that segment are lifted directly from the Black Flag song "Slip It In. The band's subsequent studio album, Lullabies to Paralyze, got its name from a line in "Mosquito Song".
A second version of "Gonna Leave You" dubbed "Te Voy a Dejar" was recorded with Nick Oliveri singing in Spanish, and is available as a B-side on the UK version of the "No One Knows" CD single. A hidden track can be found on this CD by rewinding the first track. Starting at 0:00 on track one, rewind the track roughly 1:30 and listen. A voice says: "Huh? What?" and a pattern of bass kicks in. This is widely known as "The Real Song for the Deaf". This track, as well as being omitted from some pressings of the album (see track listing), is difficult to listen to on all but conventional CD players—most software CD players do not allow rewinding of this nature, and most MP3 "ripping" software will not include the data. Initial pressings of the album came with a bonus DVD, which featured behind the scenes footage of the group recording album, live performances (many of which were taken from the Troubador live show), and interview footage. A limited tour edition of the album was released on June 2, 2007, with a second disc of five songs recorded live at the Ancienne Belgique in Brussels.