Thursday, June 4, 2009

Singing

So many things I don't understand...Can anyone explain Janis Joplin to me? I heard her singing on the radio yesterday, so I was inspired to listen to several more of her songs on YouTube. There were moments when she displayed a beautiful singing voice -- but mostly all I heard was screeching. It is common in rock music for singers to express more angst than beauty in their voice, but most of them either can't sing or don't have a nice voice to begin with. I like "The Who," for instance, and Roger Daltrey couldn't sing in a church choir, but he can sing loudly and gruffly with the best of them. Mick Jagger has one of the worst "singing" voices I have ever heard. I'm not excluding country singers, either: Waylon Jennings is terrible, and neither Hank Williams, Jr. nor Tim McGraw would win any prizes. And there are plenty of good singers in rock music: although I've never understood the adulation of the Beatles, at least I appreciate their singing. Freddy Mercury had a very nice voice as well.

Then there are those in the middle, who either can sing well or have a nice voice, but not both. Kim Carnes ("Bette Davis Eyes") sings very nicely, but her voice is like fingernails on chalkboard. Johnny Cash, by contrast, is not much of a singer, but he has a great voice. I like deep voices on male singers, such as Randy Travis and Josh Turner. But one of the deepest voices ever is also the most appalling: Louis Armstrong. He's a great trumpeter, but, my heavens, his voice is awful.

The remaining group -- those who have nice voices and can sing well -- is surprisingly small. I suppose Frank Sinatra would have to rank toward the top, even though I despise him (for his mob connections). Carrie Underwood is another natural; it's a wonder that she hadn't been discovered sooner.

Nobody's perfect, and musicians have other qualities besides their voices. My favourite, Joe Jackson, admittedly has little singing ability. I appreciate him for his composing and playing, and he gets enough out of his voice to make it tolerable. But I still don't understand why anyone would want to listen to Janis Joplin.

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