My thoughts...Wisdom from over the years

“Let It Go”

Posted in: Blog, Featured, tip of the week ♦ Wednesday, February 11th, 2015, 8:29 pm ♦ 5 Comments on “Let It Go”

frozen

I have two adorable granddaughters. Both of them recently celebrated their birthdays in “Frozen” style (a month apart). If you live anywhere in the dim view of Disney/Hollywood movies (in other words not under a rock) you will have heard of the latest movie phenomenon: “Frozen”. Last year I was introduced to the world of “Frozen” by my eldest granddaughter (now 6) while I was tucking her into bed one evening and she asked me to read her a book. Her favorite book at the time was none other than aforementioned movie—in book form–geared toward the attention span of 4-5 year olds. It was my first real foray into the frozen world of Elsa and Anna the sisters who are forever emblazoned into the hearts and minds of children everywhere. Since then I have watched while both of my beautiful granddaughters enjoy their “Frozen” themed birthday parties, their “Frozen” costumes, “Frozen” birthday cakes, “Frozen” tea parties replete with themed dishes, and last—but surely not least—a full on costumed performance (duet) of the theme song “Let It Go” for the entire assembled family on Christmas Eve. Surely one of the highlights of the evening. J

As a nation we have had a couple of opportunities to listen to the theme song “Let It Go” aside from the movie. Idina Menzel belted out her famous rendition at the Oscars and in NYC for New Year’s Eve. Both of her live performances were highly criticized. In both circumstances it was obvious that Ms. Menzel had intonation issues, vocal problems and other problems associated with her performances. The blog on the NATS (National Association of Teachers of Singing) website was erupting with observations and strong opinions-most all of which were concerned with Ms. Menzel’s style of singing and the obvious injurious vocal technique(s) she was displaying.

Here is my concern. When the world looks at Ms. Menzel, they see a successful artist. At this point she is a household name. The song she has become famous for is literally an international sensation. Thousands—if not hundreds of thousands—of little girls all over the world are belting out their own wannabe version of “Let It Go”; Even my own kin. What the concerned educators on NATS are ruminating over will be completely missed by the adulating public and the little girls lined up to be little “Elsas” screaming out “Let It Go”. Their screams are deafening to our vocally educated ears. But who will be there to sound the alarm to this generation of little girls who lift up Ms. Menzel’s singing style as the standard of singing perfection and the ultimate in success?

It is not just little girls who are trying to emulate her style of singing either. She herself is likely a product of a generation given to a type of singing that is a form of vocal gymnastics forever pushing the limits of what is physically possible. Vocal feats heretofore untried—and for good reason—are constantly lauded and applauded. The general public wants more and more of a type of “passion” we see being pushed on singers, that depletes them of their vocal health and renders them vocal cripples while still in the prime of life. (It is notable that most of this type of vocal acrobatics is not genuinely able to be reproduced live—thus so much of the lip-syncing and auto-tuning we see so often employed nowadays) It is SO COMMON now for singers to end up with vocal damage, vocal nodules, vocal polyps, exploded vocal cords, etc. It’s hardly even news now. This rampant vocal damage is pandemic.

I often feel like my message is negative. Many times I am out there waving the banner of VOCAL HEALTH while other vocal coaches can smile and talk style without giving a nod to the importance of treating the voice with respect. Although it is becoming more and fashionable to talk about vocal health in vocal training circles, it is still not changing the popular view of artists and wannabes. Many unhealthy vocal techniques, such as belting, screaming and singing with a raspy (airy) tone are being used by singers of all genres—Contemporary Christian music is far from immune. The fact is, most of these singers are getting NO training or very light training and a good deal of encouragement to go for whatever style suits them regardless of the cost to their body, often until it’s too late. Then they have to go through a difficult rehab, relearn how to talk, sing and come up with a style that won’t slowly squeeze out the life of their vocal cords. Sadly, some just end up fading into the sunset of their singing careers far too soon.

We need to use our heads. I remember many years ago my mother telling me that people had no idea that smoking cigarettes was bad for them. She told me how doctors would appear in cigarette commercials giving everyone a sense of how healthy it was to smoke cigarettes. Really? I know the public can be duped, but did it really take a genius to figure out that breathing smoke into your lungs all day long was unhealthy? Is it just me that thinks it’s pretty obvious that if breathing smoke for a just a few minutes in a burning house can kill you, then breathing smoke all day long into your lungs can’t exactly be good for you? To me, many harmful vocal techniques are just as obvious (some not so much). If your throat is sore or hoarse after singing, that is a pretty good indication that something is wrong. It may not always be obvious to the untrained singer WHAT is wrong, but we should be smart enough and aware enough to know that something is wrong. I wish my mother had used her head a bit more rather than following the crowd back in the 50’s. It was no fun losing her to lung cancer…

I want people to reach their full vocal potential. I want to see people singing for a lifetime. Following passing fads of crazy vocal gymnastics is most likely NOT the way to reach either of those goals. PLEASE—take care of your voice, pay attention to who you emulate as a singer and watch closely to see how your children are styling themselves vocally. Make sure you learn what the basics of good vocal technique and vocal health are so you can spot the difference between good and bad vocal practices. Let’s not just follow the passion of the latest trending song or singer—let’s be smart enough to know when to “let it go”.

 

 

 

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