Toxic Celebrity Vocals
There are other musicians who have something to say about singing with meaning. Folk singer Dave Webber is passionate about the modern pursuit of “Toxic Celebrity Vocals”. In agreement with Dónal Maguire, he claims that too many artists seek celebrity status above the establishment of musical meaning and believe that endless melismas (like the yodelling of Mariah Carey) and vocal embellishments are the way to achieve it. We all know that contestants on X-Factor (another of Simon Cowell’s creations) make their way through the competition by imitating the latest chart-topping, vocal acrobat style – only to find they are dropped by their record company 8 months later. Knowing your song, knowing your lyrics,
knowing their meaning and thinking about how to perform each song are all key to a meaningful musical performance – a performance that transcends any reliance on pyrotechnics. And while they may not reach the same heights of fame (or infamy), the shelf life of a folk singer is considerably longer than that of your average pop star. I believe that it is carefully considered musical subtlety and sparing use of musical features that truly connects music with an audience. Musicians: shun trying to please people and remember that less is more. “For Sale: Baby Shoes, Never Worn.” The entirety of a six-word novel, attributed to Ernest Hemmingway.
Clive Stocker lectures on music performance in Bath, UK, and is the author of How to become a Confident Musical Performer. He is currently obsessed with expanding musical performers’ comfort zones and has no plans to enter X-Factor at this stage. You can read his blog here.
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(Bromyard during the Folk Festival 2012) Flickr • brianac37