Sunday, February 13, 2005

Let's try to enunciate. The other day I was at work thinking that I don't know how much more I can stand of Delta Goodrem's retarded singing. I have been trying to work out why I hate the sound of her voice so much. Initially I thought it was because of her hooty, Celine Dion-style intonation (best demonstrated in that song of Celine's where she goes "This is seeeeeeeerious!" but it comes out "sooeeooeeooeeorious!") but now I think Delta's actually begun to mangle her enunciation more in her vain attempt to channel Tori Amos. I remember reading a Clem Bastow review of the "Mistaken Identity" single in Inpress and really laughing when Clem said Delta sounded like she had marbles in her mouth. God, I hate Delta so much.

Of course, what I call 'hootiness' is quite a hallowed vocal technique, especially among female singers trying for a 'diva' effect. Anastacia is a hooter, as is Taylor Dayne, and famously, Toni Childs. As an aside, while listening to Inaya Day's cover of the Vanity 6 song "Nasty Girl" I have been thinking about what vocal qualities make for a 'diva' voice. I have the impression that some of the original disco divas had quite soft, seductive voices rather than big gospel voices, although Donna Summer is an obvious exception. (I'm thinking about Diana Ross' "Upside Down" and "More More More" by Andrea True Connection.)

But then house divas seem to privilege the harsh, angry quality of the disco diva voice, leaving behind the seductive diva voice. Classic example is Martha Walsh, ex-Weather Girls, who provided the "Everybody dance now!" hook on C&C Music Factory's "Sweat". Walsh also provided vocals for Black Box, but because she was fat and unphotogenic, she was replaced by models (Velma Davis and Katrin Quniol, respectively) lip-synching her words. However, Black Box's biggest hit, "Ride on Time", used an uncredited sample of Loleatta Holloway's 1980 song "Love Sensation". Holloway successfully sued Black Box. (The same song, credited this time, provided the sample for Marky Mark's "Good Vibrations".)

But anyway. This got me thinking about how some mangled enunciation has become par for the course in pop music, and we don't really think it's weird anymore. I think Eddie Vedder has a lot to answer for. The other day Jason Mulgrew was attempting to work out the lyrics to "State of Love and Trust" - it had me in stitches. My favourite bit was "Sherpa lord the accountant" or perhaps "Take a shit - England in my head". Then there's Anthony Kiedis, who has to insert an L in front of I, as though his instinct is to say "Well I" but over time has got it down to "Lie don't ever wanna feel like I did that day..."

There's also the "sh" phenomenon, best shown off in Michael Jackson's "Bad". He famously says something like "Sham on, sham on, lay it on me, all right". I only write it like this because of the Weird Al parody, "Fat" - "Ham on, ham on, ham on whole wheat, or rye". According to various lyrics databases:

Sing365: "Come on, come on, lay it on me, all right"
Lyrics Find: "Come on, come on, lay it on me, all right"
Lyriczzz: "Cause I run UPT." (The fuck?)

So my conclusion is that as a vocal affectation, Jackson pronounces it with a soft C. I can accept this from someone as adventurous with the possibilities of the human voice as Jackson. But it seems just as arbitrary and puzzling as another very strange variation on the "sh" phenomenon, which I noticed in "From The Sea" by Eskimo Joe. The singer means to say "Hello, hello, oh hello" but sings "Shallo shallo, oh shallo".

Can someone tell me if this is some music industry chestnut, a meme that gets cited by musicians and passed down like some kind of vocal sample?

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