Labelling Versus Comparison (and the dangers of both)

I_sound_just_like

I stopped blogging a while ago. Mostly, because I began reading articles by successful bloggers telling me what and how to write to have a successful blog, and it intimidated me so much that I just didn’t want to bother and take the awful chance that I was going to make some horrendous blogging faux pas that would, somehow, make my blog  – oh, horror! – unreadable. That, and I began perusing some really well-written blogs, and thought – uhhhhh… yeah, I’ll go back to bed.

 

But…

 

I have something to say, and something that needs to be heard. By everyone (at least, by everyone having anything to do with music – specifically singing – or even anyone that listens to music). I am fully aware that not everyone reads my posts (very few do, actually), but that doesn’t change the fact that what I am going to share is something that everyone should get a hold of.

 

Never try to pigeon-hole a vocalist by asking them who they sound like. If they don’t sound like themselves, they need to go home and stop singing. If they sound like someone else out there in the charts, why do we need them? The answer is, we don’t.

 

I think this applies to all artists. Unless someone is a “tribute act” or likes forging paintings – an artist should be original. Because we need no carbon copies.

 

This issue is continually brought up ad nauseum in TV shows like X-Factor, with judges – who should know better – asking those who come to audition, “Now, who do you want to be like?” 

 

Go, on… I double dog dare you to ask me that question.

 

My answer? I have never wanted to sound like, nor have I ever tried to sound like, anyone but me. I am unique. My contralto voice is a rarity. There are other contraltos, but it is the rarest female vocal range. That, in itself, sets me apart. But, as I say, there are other contraltos. Do I sound like they do? No! I don’t sound like Annie Lennox or Cher or Norah Jones, I certainly do not sound anything like Stevie Nicks (just to name a few famous contraltos). Each contralto, though we share a common range, has her unique voice and style.

 

What precipitates this post being written, is that for years I have had people who come to hear me sing (or who listen to anything I have recorded) say, emphatically to me, “Oh, you sound just like so and so!”  I often wonder if these people are hard of hearing, because I have been likened to everyone from Florence from Florence and the Machine to Karen Carpenter (I sound like neither, by the way – and, Florence isn’t even a contralto). I always try to smile. I know they think they are giving me a compliment, and so I take it as such. But…

 

I would like to get people out of the habit of labelling artists. We don’t want to be labelled – at least most of us don’t. If I sound like so and so, you don’t need me – you have them. Many are not aware that when they say to a singer, “You sound just like Mr. or Miss Pop-Rocks”, that, in many cases, that translates to the vocalist as a negative: they think, “But, I’m not like them!”, (even if they like whoever “them” is), “I want people to like me (my music) because I am me (my music is uniquely my own)!” I know this is not the case for every singer out there, and they will happily be labelled…but, I don’t get it. If you want to sound like someone else other than yourself…well, become a tribute act. But, I’d like to ask you, if you have a gift – a talent – why wouldn’t you want to be an original and provide the world with something they don’t already have?

 

I know that comparison can be useful to spark interest in a less well-known artist. But, one must be careful. Because, sometimes it comes down to style – and interpretation – and not to voice (in the specific case of singers). People will say that you sound like so and so, when you don’t, just because you have employed a style (which someone else famous uses a lot of), for one, or a few, or all of your songs. For the music lover, there must be a definite difference made between voice and style. However, because I traverse many styles, it is difficult to even pin me down there. On this point, I had a dear friend tell me that he thought that in my recent single release that my voice sounded like Enya’s. Again, I know this is a compliment! He likes Enya, and something about the style of the song reminds him of a style that Enya uses most of the time. However, it would be dangerous to go around telling people that I sound like Enya, because then they are bound to come hear me or download another single and be disappointed if what they were wanting was another Enya. I don’t want people to be disappointed – and while I may have touched on an Enya-esque style in one of my songs, I’m unlikely to do it again…or, someone else other than my friend may not hear the Enya-ness even in this particular song. It is his interpretation of my chosen style for this particular one of my songs (he and his lovely wife are the only people who have made the comparison. Personally, I don’t hear it – and I like Enya – and no one else who has listened to the song – and then talked to me about it – has made the same comparison). Perhaps, it would be better for my friend to say something like, “This song, to me, is reminiscent of Enya’s styling.” That would let the comparison my friend feels be made, but without saying, “her voice is like Enya’s.”, which, quite simply, isn’t the case. I want people to enjoy the wonderous uniqueness of us all!  And, if we are in a habit of labelling, that just won’t happen. The worse situation is if you compare an artist to someone they really aren’t like and then people don’t check them out because they don’t like whomever you have compared them to. Ouch!

 

This all being said…

 

I had another good friend (a rather cosmic musician and songwriter himself) liken my voice and style to one of his all-time favourite female vocalists. Because I respect this man very much (he is my “objective critisism person”), I was instantly honoured that I reminded him of such a big fave. I had to go and do some research into this woman: the late, and totally brilliant, Sandy Denny. Because, even though I was extremely honoured to find out that my voice and my songs remind my friend so much of a beloved singer/songwriter, I am still very wary of any comparisons. What I discovered is that our singing and songwriting style – Sandy Denny’s and mine – have some startling similarities. So much so that when my husband came in last night and heard me singing a song of Ms Denny’s that I had just discovered, he assumed that I had written another song! She wrote heartsong-folk and sang from a place that instantly resounded in my heart the first time I heard her. Now, I do not sound just like her, but if you need a comparison for comparison’s sake, then it will do – and I will be proud and happy with the comparison – because I can hear the similarities myself. But, still, don’t label me the next, or another
, Sandy Denny. I’m not. She was unique. As am I.

 

So, while comparison can be useful, be very careful with how you use it. And, labelling – yourself or others – is just plain harmful. Don’t do it!  At all. Ever.

 

Thank you… and goodnight.

 

(Was that ok?  I didn’t do a major blogging boo-boo, did I?  I don’t care if I did, really… I’m sticking with the Autumn-esque style… it suits me!)

 

Oh, and to experience more of my music go here:

My YouTube Channel

My Facebook Artist Page

Sound Cloud

And remember that my single “Hope Breathing (A Lullaby)” is available to buy from CD Baby, i-Tunes and Amazon!