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The Freedom of Music: Divas

May 11th, 2014


One likes to believe in the freedom of music.
Rush – Spirit of Radio.

I’m not one for the current crop of pop stars. In the best imitation of my parents that I can do, it often occurs to me ‘that’s not really music.’ Over-reliance on computer tricks, double-taping the vocals and too many dancers on stage make a guy wonder if they’re hiding what they don’t have by spending a fortune on show. sidebar-1 But less face it, I write on music because I love music. As much as I have my fair share of the miserable old bastard about me, if somebody who I previously dismissed manages to blow my socks off, I’ll not stand there saying, “but, but…”

Nobody hides on a Broadway stage. You either have the stuff, or you die up there while the critics in the pit rip you apart. So when my daughter and I went to see Carly Rae Jepsen as Cinderella in Rogers and Hammerstein’s stage variation on the beloved fairy tale, I was skeptical. Jepsen, the Call Me Maybe hit-maker, is cute as a button and perky like Tigger. But can she sing with the auto-tune in the off position?

Short answer: oh yes, she can. Jepson as Cinderella was a) cute as a button b) perky like Tigger and c) sang the Rogers and Hammerstein score flawlessly. I may never be a Call Me Maybe fan, but I’ll tell you what I know: Carly Rae Jepsen can sing.

But when it comes to female pop singers, nobody’s bigger than Beyonce. She has it all, the designer clothes, multi change stage show, half-naked dancers, celebrity rapper husband and Time Magazine cover. But it’s easy to see the pictures of the celebrity couples baby, Ivy Blue, in the celebrity magazine’s and the Pepsi sponsorship and forget she came out of a vocal group, Destiny’s Child.

Watching the 2008 movie Cadillac Records, about the success of Chess Records, Beyonce, starring as Etta James sings an astounding version of I’d Rather Go Blind. It is a performance of a classic song that sends chills up the spine. If you haven’t seen it, it is a must watch, just so you can put aside whatever bias you have against Beyonce, she’s that good in this movie.

At the risk of repeating myself: Beyonce can sing.

No, I’m not running out to buy Beyonce, or Carly Rae Jepson’s records, and because the evidence suggests these two women can sing, doesn’t mean Lady Gaga, Madonna or Brittany Spears automatically can. There’s still too much trickery, not enough relying on talent. But it’s useful to remember that just because talent isn’t immediately evident, doesn’t mean it’s absent.

The Freedom of Music, This Week on my I-Pod

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