Thursday, February 10, 2011

Dreadful Singing

So you know how Christina Aguilera took the National Anthem out for a spin Sunday?  It turns out that I'm not the only one who was miffed by her approach, and that of many other singers who like to add a supposed soulful depth to their work.
The great Jerry Wexler -- who produced both Ray and Aretha -- coined a great term for it: "oversouling." He described it as "the gratuitous and confected melisma" that hollows out a song and drains it of meaning.
Melisma is defined as melodic embellishment.  I define it as somebody who's trying to hard.

There are a ton of artists who are guilty of "oversouling" songs:  Mariah Carey, Cher, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Michael Bolton, the cast of Glee, any American Idol contestant, etc.  Melisma is not a bad thing.  But after watching Aguilera employing it several days ago, I might just group it alongside lip-synching and auto-tuning.

Don't overdo it, friends. 


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