Friday, October 1, 2010
Let’s say hypothetically that I was in a situation in which I could not change the radio station and had to listen to the mismatched, non sequitur play list typical of Billboards's Top 100 stations -- for instance, if I was driving on the east side of Dallas on 35E during rush hour and too scared that I would be sandwiched between a tool shed-sized truck and a concrete median to reach for the radio knob. Yes, I am turning into a skittish, old lady driver. Anyway, two songs by Detroit natives contrasted back-to-back made me notice that quite a few singers sing like they are on the verge of hyperventilating. (The only reason I notice this at all is because that was a pet peeve of my college choir director and she constantly reminded us that our audience did not want to be able to count per breath our oxygen intake; it was that and: "chin up, hips forward, mouth open to release the notes." Apropos of nothing, that choir teacher was awesome. She teaches with the belief that music is a gift that everyone should explore, and being around her was the first time I consciously realized how powerful a Lady is: she really makes people want to be better, and not only better musicians, just better.) So first, Mike Posner’s “Cooler Than Me” is a particularly horrible example of gasping-singing. Every time I hear the song, which I actually don’t hate, he sounds like he’s seconds away from passing out after being held under water. Even singers who have lovely voices start to sound ridiculous when they add that huffy breathiness. Then right after that song, while navigating a particularly exciting turn where two lanes merge into one with about 25 feet of warning, a Marshall Mathers song came up (seriously, what is with Detroit and music? Is the Detroit River radioactive and instead of turning victims into the Hulk or Spiderman, they turn into commercially successful musicians? That’s cool, but Detroit could probably also use a crime fighting super-hero in addition to an impressive musical reputation. Not the Hulk though, it already looks like he rampaged through the downtown area). I don’t think Eminem was ever formally trained, but, whoa. My choir director would have been impressed with his breath distribution if nothing else about his music. Boy doesn’t inhale for, like, ever, and if you’ve never tried it, that is difficult! I myself have puny asthma lungs, and I learned to avoid the annoying audibly breathing thing, but am hopeless with that kind of iron lung flourish. It sounds amazing though. I wish there was some way of brainwashing other musicians into giving up the Marilyn Monroe's "Happy Birthday, Mr. President", chain-smoker running up stairs gasping thing.