Sing The Melody, Please

Posted by Heather
In career, life, music
21Feb 11

     I remember a time when I’d hear a song on the radio, and would exclaim to my friends or family, ” I LOVE that song !!! “.  Admittedly, sometimes it was because I thought the guy singing it was cute, ( when I was very young ) but most of the time, it was because the song was well-written, and the singer’s voice was amazing.

     I have always admired people that can sing a song so beautifully that it moves you to tears – no fancy stuff, no embellishments or vocal acrobatics,  just a pure, rich, melodic tone to their voice. Their genuine emotion comes through in their delivery and phrasing, but it’s subtle, not over the top.

     Back in the day, people appreciated a good song, and a great voice.  You could close your eyes, and be transported to another place, and you never wanted the song to end. Think of all the Love Songs and Power Ballads you liked as a teenager … and how those songs still “get you” when you hear them, all these years later.

     A singer used to be able to sit on a stage on a stool in front of a mic, and just sing …. and people went crazy.  Back then, real talent was rewarded and appreciated, pure and simple.

     Nowadays, people expect a bunch of costume changes, elaborate sets, backup dancers etc. to keep their short attention spans focused.  Many of the famous singers don’t even have that great of voices, but they are marketed to look/act a certain way, and the masses lap it up, like a bunch of sheep. Some sound good in the studio, but live, not so much – this goes to show just how “manufactured” much of it is today. Why is that accepted?

     The main reason I’m writing this post is to address the issue of singing “runs”.  Well-executed runs, by such people as Christina Aguilera, Mariah Carey, and a large number of Gospel singers, are absolutely phenomenal.  We can all appreciate their vocal talent, whether or not it is our “kind” of music.

     What drives me crazy, is when contestants on all these singing competition shows try to emulate these people, and sadly, most don’t do it well.  There are only a handful of people that are able to pull these runs off, and it really should be left to them.

     I recall hearing Randy Jackson say to a contestant a couple years ago something like “That was great, you didn’t try and put runs all over it, you just sang the melody”, and I was very happy to hear that. When even the experts are saying that kind of thing, maybe some of these young people will get the message.  If you can really sing, you don’t need to drown a word in all these notes, to the point where no one can understand what word you were trying to sing.

     Just for fun, I Googled the subject of vocal runs, or melisma, just to see if I was alone in my opinion.  I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I am not.  There are a lot of articles on this, but one of the best I found was here.  Make sure you scroll down and read the part “What are they doing wrong” – it says it all.

     The best example for me of excessive vocal runs was when Whitney’s “I Will Always Love You” came out, as is also mentioned in the above link.  Previous to that , I liked some of her songs, and I liked her voice.  To this day, if I hear the first few notes of that song, I run and turn it off. It is just too much, in my opinion. I may not be known as a Country fan, but I much prefer Dolly Parton’s version of the song.

     Even the handful of women who are really good at runs have songs ( such as ballads ) that I prefer the sound of their voices in – rich, pure and simple.  I want to hear a beautiful voice, not something drenched in vocal acrobatics all the time.  There is definitely a time and a place for it – in small doses, by a select few – but I think aspiring singers might want to find their own unique voice, rather than only trying to copy others …. just a thought.

     My husband agrees with me.  We were watching something on T.V. a couple weeks ago, and he said he wished people would just sing the melody, because “It’s not a yodelling contest ! “.

     Do you think that too many people are ruining songs these days by excessive vocal runs?  It would be great to hear some opinions on this subject.


1 Comments

  1. Tani, February 21, 2011:

    I totally agree!!!!!!!!! I didn’t know that kind of singing was called “vocal runs” – I just knew I did not like it at all!! And I feel exactly the same about Whitney Houston!

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