In my last blog, I talked about why Xtina might have been a little bitchy this season on The Voice, and why. No reason? Good reasons? Hmmm…let’s go.
Let’s start at where it all went to crap. THIS episode, which seemed to be the first show where real edge started to surface between the coaches about the vocalists and their performances.
In my opinion, as a vocalist and a voice coach – Christina wasn’t trying to be a jerk in this episode. She was being truly honest. And, as a technician, she was spot on. To examine why, let’s look at what the words “one-dimensional” actually mean in the voice world. Because it’s not as simple as it may appear to people who don’t live in it with us.
The study of voice is actually a pretty complicated discipline. Why? Because your instrument is your body. And there are so many aspects of physical technique that create and affect the instrument, from what’s in the air to whether you slept enough. The basics about voice training start with the mechanics of how our voices work: breath control, muscle support, relaxation, placement (where we “shoot” the sound in our mouths), larynx position, tongue position, annunciation (how we say words), posture, and a few hundred other little details that determine how the sound actually comes out of our bodies. For complete study of all of that, I’m going to point you towards Live2Play’s own Lisa Popeil – master voice instructor and owner of Voiceworks studios, who has exhaustively covered all of these topics not only in her blog here on L2P, but on her Youtube channel. Check her out.
Beyond these “basics,” advanced voice study takes us even further into phrasing (where we breathe and how we sing each phrase), inflection and accentuation (how we give words and phrases certain emphasis), note lengths (how long we hold notes and whether or not we employ vibrato while we hold them), affectations (vocal tricks we might use for emotional impact), use of range (ability to comfortably use your whole range), use of riffs and runs (ability to sing flexible fast lines of notes for embellishment), use of dynamics (loudness and softness for maximum effect), singing strongly and evenly across our vocal “break” (the spot where your chest voice changes to head voice), and improvisation (ability to artistically change or create something of your own musically while still singing the melody).
Past that, there is that little mystery thing we might call “vocal character” – the thing that makes you sound like you, the thing that’s magical. That can be determined by a lot of things, from lung capacity to vocal cord length to contact at early age with advanced music study to genetics – all of which are things you don’t get to decide but are physically just given at birth. Yeah. Complicated.
From a professional vocalist’s point of view, one dimensional singing comes from having mastery of the basics, but employing almost none of the more advanced techniques just mentioned. It can also mean you just haven’t found your magic yet. Which is another soon to come blog.
It’s fairly easy to become a one dimensional singer. I should know. For most of my early life, I was one myself. The path is pretty simple: you don’t practice JUST singing. Or singing AT ALL. Or you only sing while playing, or you only sing while playing and being a songwriter. The latter (playing singer/songwriter) having been the majority of my early years as a singer and my real work in voice only having come after years of working side by side daily with one of those obsessive singers who knew advanced technique so well that I couldn’t help but absorb some of what she knew. I’ve also been fortunate that at some point I decided to drop songwriting, which opened up a whole lot of time to really get serious about studying voice.
So – let’s get real – it’s a CHOICE about where your STUDY time goes.
It’s pretty easy to see why the more complex things might not come together for someone in the singer/songwriter/player category: your attention is split. And split two ways is bad enough, but split three is even worse. The reality is that real MASTERY of something comes with clear and undivided attention to it. Those of us who sing while doing other things typically suffer for it. Sure – we may also write great songs or play an instrument well. But the reality is we have had to give up attention from singing to do those things. So after the fact, you can’t complain that you don’t get the props you should for being a truly “great” singer. The people who obsess about every detail in singing get to claim that prize.
In Tony Lucca’s case – I think Christina was being very honest about what she heard. The only singer/player/songwriter of the bunch to get as far as he did, Christina’s complaint that he had celebrity support and little else may have been entirely warranted. I agree with her that there were better singers competing at the time – Jamar for one. And this particular performance was definitely one dimensional. Sure, there were some dynamics here and there, but that’s not great singing. If you want better examples, the other 3 finalists, Juliet Simms, Chris Mann, and the eventual winner, Jermaine Paul all exhibited the kind of advanced technique – particularly late in the show – that would qualify you as a standout in this race, as did Katrina Parker and Jamar throughout.
So…was Xtina just bein’ bitchy? Or does she really know her sh*t? Being the only truly technical singer of the judges and having charted long before any of the guys, you’d think maybe her opinion would matter at least A LITTLE more…but when women get really picky about technique, we like to call them bitchy. After all, even in 2012 – we’re not really supposed to know much about music, right?
But then again – that’s why we’re here today. Talking about gender, Xtina, and why in a field dominated by female TECHNICIANS, the final decision of who wins a competition that is supposed to be about singing technique was judged by three non-technical male singers and only one female.
Till next time, peeps. Don’t miss Part 4 – where we’ll go long on how the show’s format changed the outcome and maybe even talk a little about that magic thing. VOICE ONWARD!
Originally posted 2012-06-04 20:40:34.