Sunday 6 March 2016

Just because you can doesn't mean you should....or at least not all the time.

So, I was just catching up with The Voice battle rounds from yesterday. Now I realise the clue is in the name, this is not likely to be a friendly sing song. In this ruthless knockout competition singers try to out sing each other by showing off their ranges and vocal acrobatic ability. I wish, however, it was more like Gladiators, the 90s televisual thrill fest, and that they would have to try and knock each other off a plinth with giant cotton buds while trying to riff their way through Bridge Over Troubled Water, or the like, in order to find a winner. Now that is a show I want to see.

For some of the pairs "battling", the whole experience wreaked of desperation, so much so that any enjoyment of the songs, and the singing of the songs, became impossible. I was worried someone might throw up their larynx, or a lung. The thing about The Voice, this year, is that every one of the singers that got through to the battle round was good and worthy of a place but the obvious frantic eagerness for some competitors, not all, to get through to the next round meant they tried too hard and over cooked the song. They tried too ambitious, or inappropriate, licks and riffs to the point that there was nowhere left to go and no way they were going to win (although, in one case, one girl made an almighty mess of her part in the song she sang and yet was still put through to the next round over the less desperate sounding and far more superior singer).

There is an epidemic of singers who over egg the pudding these days. Why use one note when you can fit 15 in? Don't get me wrong I am an admirer of riffing just not all the time. I want to hear the tune before the singer starts messing about with it.

This practice is not confined to the pop world, there are some classical singers who are too clever for their own good and ornament arias to within an inch of their lives, often unnecessarily. I once heard a singer ornament the A section of a Handel aria (technical word for a song in an opera for those not in the know)  the first time round so that when it came to the repeat he had to ornament his ornaments. He may not have meant to ormament the first time, it could have been a mistake, but having done that he may have thought "oh well, in for a penny....". Again, I for one loves a bit of ornamentation but not to the detriment of what the composer wrote. This also goes for pop songs.

There is a constant expectation to show everyting you can do as a singer at all times, and some singers are capable of the most exciting riffs and runs, but sometimes I just want to tell them to calm down. Let the song have a chance before you change it up so much that you don't remember what the tune should be. I find some of my students can be guilty of this when they bring a pop song to a lesson. They tend to learn songs by listening to someone else sing them and don't know what the actual tune should be. This is a bug bear of mine. Learn the song properly first and then add your own touches to it is my advice.

Unfortunately the urge to always try and out do the next person will remain strong for a lot of singers.  Competition in the music world is fierce and the need to do something different is high. However, I do feel the old adage is normally correct: less is, most definitely, more.

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