Driving in the car with my kids this morning a Miley Cyrus song came on the radio. I started to change the channel and I was verbally attacked. “STOP!” they cried, “We LIKE that song!” I turned to my daughter, age 17, surely a voice of reason. “Seriously?” I asked her. I mean, I get #1son and #2son liking it. It’s pop music and they’re 5 and 6. “Yeah,” she said to me with a look that said she was more than ready to defend her position.
I don’t get it. And quite frankly, I’ve never gotten it. Even way back in the day of Fleetwood Mac. I loved Fleetwood Mac. But Stevie Nicks? Her voice sounds like a cigar smoking chipmunk to me. (Uh-oh. I just lost a few readers I fear. 😦 Thanks for stopping by!) When I hear her version of Silent Night on the album “A Very Special Christmas” it’s like nails on a chalkboard to me. How dare she massacre such a sacred song?
But then, I liked Rush. And Geddy Lee’s vocal quality isn’t exactly pure. Or Janis Joplin. Or Kim Carnes. Or Bon Scott of AC/DC. Even Susanna Hoffs of The Bangles had a touch of that chipmunk quality. But I could listen to her without cringing. What was it about Stevie Nicks that bothered me so? And what was the secret to her mass appeal?
And then along came Britney Spears. My daughter was in early grade school when Britney first hit the pop charts. I predicted her a teeny bopper flash in the pan. Whoops! I did it again. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Another nasal voiced chipmunk dressed (or not dressed as the case may be) up as a credible pop singer. I just don’t get it.
I began formulating this post in my mind in the car. When I sat down to the computer to type I saw this article on msn.com. Evidently the Aussie’s are in an uproar because Britney Spears dared to lip sync her concert. I’m sorry. But ever since you could lip sync and get away with it pop stars have been doing it. Now the article I’m referring to actually brings up the Milli Vanilli debacle – but I’m not talking about lip syncing to someone else’s voice. I’m talking about lip syncing to your best recording or the one of your voice that been washed, scrubbed and tweaked in every way digitally possible to bring forth a version that is palpable to the ear. To some.
Music through the decades is a very interesting subject to me. I could spin 100 posts on the subject. But what interests me today is the highly marketable yet audibly marginal voices you hear on the radio. On American Idol last season (yes, I watch, unashamed) there are episodes when highly established pop singers perform. They sing live – as the contestants do. If you follow the program I’m remembering when Lady Ga Ga appeared. (I still giggle every time I hear that ridiculous stage name) She was horrible. Every AI finalist left at that point in the show had a better voice than she did. What is her appeal?
I’m not saying you need a PhD like Brian May of Queen or be an esteemed alum of the Juilliard School. Let’s try this. Let’s celebrate singers that can actually sing. Let’s honor people who have honed their craft and not simply covered themselves in glitter and called themselves a star. I could do that. We all could. When I turn on the radio I want to hear good music. Not the manufactured tones of a souped up studio mimed by a made up kewpie doll.