The Voice, Part 2: Xtina and the Gender Dilemma
Is it really The Voice...or is it the sex?
Now that The Voice is over and we all know the outcome, it seems that blogging about it will be a whole lot easier. We won’t have to get all wrapped up in contention and opinions and conjecture. Right?
I’ve been wanting to write about The Voice since somewhere around the 2nd show. But it wasn’t easy. I held back. To me, the show started out rough, with some seemingly random choices and early performances that left some really genius singers out of the running and some seriously GREEN talent on the stage for no reason at all other than they sounded weird. And some truly great VOICES that didn't end up making it because of image (which is contradictory to the show's stated mission). It's worth noting early on here that the show's winner, Jermaine Paul - was ONLY buttoned by Ceelo Green and country vocalist Blake Shelton. WHA?
But, some of the finalist choices were truly great. I don’t think anyone was disappointed with those last standing. (I was pleased with all but one - but we’ll get to that later).
Katrina Parker was pure talent. Jermaine Paul, former background vocalist for Alicia Keys and eventual winner, was a joy every second that he sang. Opera groundbreaker Chris Mann was stellar (his duet of The Prayer with Christina in the final hours was one of the few truly astounding “coach tribute” moments of the show). Erin Willett consistently delivered from the heart while undergoing the loss of a parent, which was truly a feat all it’s own. Lyndsey Pavao ended up proving she had more than quirk. Tony Lucca evolved dynamically before our eyes. Jamar found a soul consistency and greatness beyond his previous story. And Juliet Simms evoked memories of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s all-star rock females that have shaped the history of classic American music.
This was definitely an astounding vocal season.
Even more astounding was the amazing commeraderie found among the vocalists - and something that I’ve found true to the most talented of the vocal community (and uncommon among the least): we support each other. And we’re honest about our performances. Even. If. We. Lose.
As much as we vocalists want it, we want mostly to DESERVE it. And it’s no secret, even to us, that often the gold medal is a very close splitting of performance hairs.
Much like the Olympics, where the gold is scored in tenths of a second, in vocal competitions the vocal level is currently so high and the talent so pure, that winning and losing is truly defined by extremely close shaves and good or bad days. For the first time in history, vocalization has arrived in the popular culture. It’s very exciting. And very nerve-wracking. And it keeps me working A LOT. And my students very anxious. Because everyone wants to be next.
Something not so subtle this season was the palpable gender competition going on not only in the show setup, but in coach banter. I can’t say it wasn’t warranted. The voice world (lower case, as in general world and not the show) is largely undergoing a gender war of it’s own, mostly fueled by the economy (which naturally pits men against women) and shifting dynamics in vocal dominance.
Let’s look at the big picture:
The truth about voice is it is a female dominated art. Most of the vocal icons in our history have been women up until electric guitars and screaming became popular. And let’s face it - many of those guys have more balls than voice (I’m talking to you, Steven Tyler.)
This isn’t simply because, for the majority of America’s history, voice was women’s only avenue in music and we wanted to do it well, but that we are dramatically more suited to the vocal arts.
The study of voice - which is actually the study of body connection, breath, and the expression of lyrical ideas is a very emotional journey. Who better to translate it, than those most in touch with our bodies and our emotional selves? In addition, there are the advantages of maturing before the boys do, and being better “listeners.” Don’t ask me for data. As a coach of adolescents, it will take me years to write it.
Even today - in an era where male vocalists dominate the radio and judge spots on the TV shows (where only ONE female coach will be allowed on the show at a time) if you want to truly STUDY voice - your teacher WILL be a woman. Seems a little stilted when compared to the 3 men/1 woman American Idol, X Factor, and Voice judge panels, doesn’t it?
That’s not accidental. It’s not accurate. It’s not even descriptive of what’s true about modern or, even non-modern, singing.
Basically...it’s a lie. A modern media lie. Want some proof? Here you go...The Wanted. A dismal, non vocal perfomance group of ginamous proportions if I ever saw one. Panned by Christina. Heralded by J. Lo. Yeah. Not a vocalist in sight. I'ma let you vote. Commentary:
Maybe they should just be called, Wanted: A Voice - ANY VOICE:
Which is why Christian Aguilera has been accused of being “bitchy” on The Voice this season. And why GENDER became an enormous part of this season’s storyline.
She has some really good reasons.
Check back. Part 2 comes next week..vocalists unite, my peeps. VOICE ONWARD!!!