Sunday, November 14, 2010

Your singing self vs. your everyday self – which is the real you?

We bandy terms around like ‘authentic voice’ and ‘natural voice’ when we talk about singing.

Photo by Jean Spector

But how do we know when singers are truly being themselves?

Remember Stacey Solomon, one of the 2009 X Factor finalists? Offstage she had a strong regional accent, was quite nervy, jiggled about, laughed a lot (in a rather unattractive way!), looked very young and innocent, and spoke in a breathy way. Yet, when she sang, she was poised, confident, without accent, still, controlled, strong voiced, grown up and quite beautiful.

Then there’s Rebecca Ferguson in this year’s X Factor final. Not quite as big a difference as with Stacey, but there is still a disparity between her offstage persona and when she sings.

Are these singers somehow being inauthentic? Not true to themselves? Putting on an act?

I think not. We can see their personalities and vulnerabilities shine through. Many of the other participants have been criticised for not allowing that to happen, but these two seem to be ‘real’ and are simply being themselves when they sing.

How do we account for the differences? I think that when these two sing, they lose themselves in the music. They are genuinely delighted and in the moment so there is no room for them to be uncomfortable or under-confident. In some sense we are seeing the real them without all the nerves and jitters.

People like this would probably say “I am a singer” rather than “I love to sing”.

This is very different from those singers who put on a voice. Many singers set out to try and be someone else. Perhaps they don’t have enough confidence in their own singing voice or are in thrall to some famous singer. They start out by copying the style, mannerisms and accent of someone they admire. Hopefully at some point they will discover their own voice, but many times they end up just being bad impersonators and don’t allow any of their own personality to shine through.

We can detect very quickly when someone is ‘putting on an act’ when they sing. This is the basis for many of the comments on shows like the X Factor.

We all have our own singing voice. It is unique and should be celebrated. It may reveal a different persona to our everyday self, but it is no less genuine.

In a few weeks I will be looking at a related subject: where do people’s accents go when they sing?

Chris Rowbury's website:

Chris Rowbury


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