Those of you who paid attention to the 2011 Billboard Year-End charts may have developed the same conclusion as other intelligent consumers of popular culture – most of the year’s successful songs were performed by artists who can’t sing. So, where are all of the powerhouse vocalists? At the bottom of the charts.
Top 40/Pop radio was once a battleground for some of the industry’s best singers. Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey and Celine Dion were lauded for their massive vocal ranges and incredible skill whereas those acts who were unable to compete with a plethora of grandiloquent high notes were mocked. In fact, if artists such as Madonna and Janet Jackson didn’t compensate for their lack of vocal ability with shocking visuals and dance-heavy performances then they would have had no chance of scoring a hit single.
However, we are now in a completely different era where the tastes of the average young consumers are polar opposites to their older and quite frankly, more intelligent counterparts. Members of the dominant iTunes generation do not demand vocal bombast bolstered by intricate runs or thrilling trills. Instead, those individuals crave catchy hooks, memorable melodies and bouncing beats to which they could dance. Really, the consumer of the modern era merely desires simplicity.
We live in the Digital Age; a time where people demand speed and accessibility in every aspect of their daily lives. Think about it: 20 years ago, you would have taken the time to slap your classic Nintendo at just the right angle to stop the screen from jumping and if that didn’t work then you would have probably blown the tape to remove the dust. Now, if an app on your iPhone takes too long to load then you would promptly delete it and slander the developer on Twitter. Well, guess what? A similar mentality applies to music.
“People flocked to iTunes in droves to purchase Rihanna’s idiotic ’We Found Love’ because it was simple enough for even the silliest Media Take Out reader to understand.”
Many people didn’t want to listen to Jessie J use complex staccato and vibrato as she soared through the octaves in ‘Who You Are’ because that required too much time and energy to learn. In other words, it would involve too much work. Instead, the same persons flocked to iTunes in droves to purchase Rihanna’s idiotic ’We Found Love’ because it was simple enough for even the silliest Media Take Out reader to understand.
Let’s use more comparable artists for our next example – Christina Aguilera and Lady Gaga. The former’s ‘Not Myself Tonight’ was a solid record with all the elements of a club hit. Yet, the song was a mediocre success and failed to crack the top 20 of the Billboard Hot 100. Gaga, on the other hand, ruled the charts with ‘Bad Romance’ – a song that was also geared toward club audiences.
Why did ‘Not Myself Tonight’ flop on the Hot 1000? Not considering Aguilera’s horrendous PR in 2010, the single tanked because she was doing too much singing. People did not want to hear all of those vocal tricks while driving their cars or shaking their backsides at 3am in the club. It was too much for the lazy young fans to handle; a noisy disruption of their steady diets of ringtones and jingles.
“But Trent, Adele is a great singer and she dominated 2011!” It is true that Adele had a phenomenal year and appealed to a wide range of listeners but is she really an amazing vocalist or is her talent exaggerated when compared to her feeble competition?
Honestly, Adele does not execute the vocal gymnastics of Jessie J or Leona Lewis. Rather, like most traditional British Soul performers, she functions within a comfortable pocket of her range and her singing is far more expressive than impressive. For instance, dozens of artists, such as Nicole Scherzinger, covered ‘Rolling in the Deep’ and easily hit every note but failed to deliver the same emotion and that is why their versions paled in comparison to the original.
In conclusion, good singers fail on Pop radio today because they overwhelm lazy listeners with their vocal talents. Simplicity is the key to success and if the average person is unable hum all the notes of a song then it would probably fail to chart on the mainstream formats. Perhaps, that is true reason for Rihanna and Katy Perry’s prolific careers.