Summer is the musicians big touring season and that time of year when you get to connect with your favorite artists and even discover new live acts. Live shows are the best way to witness the unquestionable difference between a real artist versus a good entertainer or great singer. There is a difference after all.
Not big on tv, I somehow got sucked into the vortex of this season’s singing competition, The Voice on NBC – me and 12 million other viewers. Being the music that junkie that I am, I could not pass up the voices of this season’s talent and although I enjoyed the ride, I was disappointed with some of the coaching. I felt that some of these artists lost their “voice” through the guidance they were given. For example how Usher pressured Ryan Ines to over entertain, resulting in Ines’ loss of authentic emotion and connection in his final performance.
Sixteen year old Danielle Bradbury was the big winner and will receive a $100k and a record deal with Universal Music Group. Bradbury has a beautiful singing voice and expressed a lot of confidence and comfort onstage – a promising “entertainer.” She shared no signs or stories of a tortured artist nor possessed any unique style or expression like a maturer Judith Hill, however she is young enough to mentor and shape into anything the industry wants her to become.
In March Grammy Award winning artist and multi-talented musician Dave Grohl (Nirvana, Foo Fighters), gave an interview with NME Magazine expressing compelling commentary on the show. He asked the interviewer to, “Imagine Bob Dylan standing there singing ‘Blowin in the Wind’ in front of Christina Aguilera” and assumed what her response would be, “Mmmmm . . . I think you sound a little nasally and sharp. Next . . .”
His witty hypothetical was on-point and forced me to remember that Aguilera was raised by the industry and much younger than Bradbury when she joined Disney’s Mickey Mouse club. Aguilera has an incredible vocal range but the only artistic expression she has ever originally owned was dressing and posturing like a stripper at the height of her success.
Nirvana came out in 1990 when Wilson Phillips’ “Hold On” single was listed on Billboard as the number one song of the year. Who would have imagined that “Nevermind,” their first major label release, would have gone gold within one month and continued to sell 300k copies every week after? Nirvana was not only an instant musical success but created a movement and international cultural tidal wave known as “grunge.”
In this years keynote speech at the SXSW festival (full speech in Rolling Stone), Grohl explained what he felt had made them so successful. “I like to think that what the world heard in Nirvana’s music was the sound of three human beings, three distinct personalities, their inconsistencies and their imperfections proudly on display for everyone to hear. Three people that had been left to their own devices their entire lives to find THEIR voices. It was honest. It was pure. And It was real.”
The Voice is an interactive competition show offering fans the ability to vote by purchasing the studio versions of the songs they perform live via iTunes or by calling, texting, emailing or Facebooking. Ontop of Grohl peckering at the mainstream reminding us that individuality should be cherished and nurtured, the success of contestant Michelle Chamuel is a testament to Grohl’s very point. America embraced and courted Chamuel’s quirky authenticity and style, week after week. I think America is hungry for more.