The In-betweeners: My Favorite Artists Who Make Singing Look Easy
Almost, But Not Quite
On the heels of my other hub about singers who don't really sing, I was in a conversation with one of my loyal readers and we started discussing other artists. And one of the main points of interest were awesome artists who are not the best singers but because of their combined skills and talents, are not maligned as the folks in my other hub.
I am going to preface my argument by saying that I enjoy the work of all of these artists but when it comes to a down and out singing contest, they probably couldn't win. I couldn't either but then again my livelihood doesn't depend on me singing for my supper.
So enjoy the fantastic voyage of my favorite in-betweeners in music.
Katy's Pop Fireworks
I think Katy Perry is one of the great pop artists to emerge in the last few years. She does not take herself seriously, has a quirky image, and is only out to make fun, entertaining pop ditties. That being said, she has made the science of being an okay singer into an art.
Her first single, "I Kissed a Girl" is admittedly one of my least favorite songs in history. I have never understood why some artists only adapt a persona or an identity of real people just for hits. Granted, it was a real experience for her, but I just didn't understand what it was supposed to do other than be an introduction for her into the pop world.
From there, it was looking up as "Hot N Cold" quickly burnt up the charts talking about what most women know to be true, male moodswings. I enjoyed the honesty in the lyrics as well as her general sense of humor that was prominently on display through the video.
What was obvious though, was that even though Katy was cute and sweet, her voice wasn't the thing setting her apart. Her persona, which relies heavily on vintage clothing made of food and an almost cartoon like charm- draws you in and somehow through her songs she manages to convey real emotion.
Now please don't get me wrong, just because I think Katy Perry doesn't have the most mind-blowing voice doesn't mean she's not a great artist. I just think she plays to her strengths and smartly uses what she knows works for her career.
Prince's Purple Reign
I will admit that Prince is probably one of my favorite short famous people ever (sorry, Napoleon) and I will also admit that Purple Rain Soundtrack is one of the best grooves of the 1980s but I will not say Prince is a great vocalist.
Why? It's easy. His voice may be what we call "unique" or "cool" but it's far from being as layered as Stevie Wonder's or Smokey Robinson's and that's okay. Because Prince wouldn't be Prince if he was not himself.
My earliest memories of listening to Prince would definitely be as a kid while I helped clean my house. And I never failed to start jamming to "Let's Go Crazy" so hard that I forgot to sweep the porch but after awhile I realized something, Prince is not a master vocal technician.
What he is a master of is complete and utter musical genius. How many artists could possibly play most of their own instruments, produce themselves, and dictate all of their arrangements? Not to mention he has helped nurture and produce several artists through the years.
And really, if Prince was an awesome singer, I would not want to listen because it's hard not to envy someone that talented.
Taylor's Lyrical Teardrops
As many people know, the past few years we have been willfully living in Taylor Swift's world. What is it about this girl? Well, for starters she's a refreshing departure from most people in pop and country music. She's not the most classically sounding country artist and she's also not the most three minute hook-friendly pop starlet. She somehow managed to fit herself in the middle.
And I have to give her credit. She's always been good at writing her own stories and expressing them in gut wrenching fashion without a gut wrenching voice. But like Prince and many others, she has mastered the art of being a good musician opting to play the guitar on tour.
The first time I heard Taylor was one random day hearing "Teardrops on My Guitar." I don't remember where I was but that song got stuck in my head and didn't leave for the longest time. And then I was totally taken in by "You Belong with Me." Not that I've had those experiences but for some reason it seemed like she read the diaries of millions of teenage girls.
Taylor continues to do well by somehow mixing pop sensibility with country simplicity. How does she do it? Well, that's a multi-million dollar secret I'm sure we'd all like to know but I think it has something to do with her appeal.
She's not onstage breathing fire or wearing a little more than her grandmother's tablecloth but she's also open about her personal life. I'm sure we can all assume that at least one of her many famous exes inspired some of those hits along with that poor guy Drew from high school. Either way she's laughing all the way to the bank.
Justin Rocks Our Heartstrings
I'm not taking a trip down memory lane, but I remember when Justin Timberlake sang and not just on SNL during the open monologue, I mean actually sing instead of doing all this other stuff. And by other stuff I mean acting. I saw Friends with Benefits but come on, I would rather be listening to his new album. ( I don't mean to be harsh Justin, it's just the truth- give us fans what we want or at least a variety special.) I digress but really I miss Justin Timberlake, the musician.
I'm not going out on a limb by saying Justin was not the best singer in *NSYNC. He's even said that JC was the soul of the group and while I love hearing JC sing, he's no Justin. (Sorry, just stating the facts.) Justin not only was the youngest but had the most ridiculous head of curly hair since Art Garfunkel and still made us girls howl. That's special.
And when he went solo, we weren't surprised. By the end of *NSYNC's run it was more like Justin and the other four singing back up. He cut the cuteness and the hair and turned up the swag. No, I'm not talking about all those ridiculous Trousersnake rumors, I'm talking about the jams.
I remember when "Like I Love You" coming out and actually being optimistic and then he dropped "Cry Me A River" and I'm sure that's what alot of *NSYNC fans did. He managed to make up for a lack of powerful vocals by playing up his musicality and emphasizing his falsetto. It definitely worked.
And by the time "SexyBack" came on the scene, he was off and running. And we ran with him. Now if we can only get that new album out of him instead of yet another movie, we'll be in business. Now who's lovin' it?
Make Your Choice
Who's Your Fave?
My Other Music Hubs
- Ebony and Ivory: Some of Music's Best Colorblind Collaborators
Musicians whose collaboration proved to the world, that there is more to music than just black and white.
- In Name Only: My Favorite Artists Lacking in Vocal Abilities
My favorite artists whose voices are far behind their swagger and stage presence.