Singers of the world: little less 'soul' please

For every online search done this week for the Super Bowl, probably at least half of them have pointed to articles, blogs, commentary and photos regarding Christina Aguilera's mess-up of the National Anthem. It's kind of a sad commentary that when you try to find a game wrap-up, all you find is links to funniest commercials and a bad solo rendition of a song. But even so, here's our take on it.

The bad part of her attempt at singing this, and unfortunately, many other songs, was not the fact that she forgot the words, but the mangling of the tune itself. Aguilera, like many artists of today, is heavily into adding what's called "curly q's" – this is the practice of adding 20 notes for every syllable in the song. Some call it melisma, which is the bending of syllables to add "soul."

This style dominates the pop charts today, and Aguilera isn't alone. Mariah Carey is a big-time offender as well. But despite the fact that Aguilera owns arguably the best set of pipes in the music industry currently, she just doesn't seem to know when to stop the tonsil twisting.

There is a time and a place for melisma – just check out some Aretha Franklin or Ray Charles. But when it's done in a gratuitous fashion, it hollows out the song and drains it of meaning. In other words, we get lost in the shuffle and forget what the songwriter was trying to say.

So to Miz Aguilera (and all others like her), we humbly suggest that you learn the song before you try to sing it. Not the words…but the song. Learn what the songwriter was trying to say. Delve into what emotion is behind it. Learn the melody. Find some passion in it – your own passion, not borrowed. And then sing it from your heart. When you do, the words will be there. 

And you won't need any additional syllables. 

Published Wednesday, February 9, 2011 12:28 PM by bulldog
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