Often, someone will ask ‘Why do bad singers land record deals?’ Putting aside for the moment the record deal, as we know it, is experiencing a major, paradigm shift. Still the question beckons, “What makes a bad singer relevant in today’s music scene?” Simply put, bad singers become relevant when they are artists. Artistry lies within the ability to reach an audience. Artists who connect with their listeners on a personal level understand the listener doesn’t care to be 'sung at' but instead craves dialogue, a conversation. Are you an artist or just a really great singer?
Now before we proceed any further, let me explain. I am not suggesting, in anyway, studying vocal technique or being a skilled vocalist is of little-to-no value. In fact, greater artistic freedom is precisely the very reason why you should study vocal technique; in order to get beyond the mechanics, remove the clutter, and ultimately, protect your greatest asset - your voice! Concentrating on how to sing a high note, or how to get through a phrase, etc. while recording or performing steals focus from the job-at-hand, Connecting with your audience on a meaningful and personal level. That, my friends is why bad singers are relevant. Because artists 'get it!'
Artists understand 'It isn’t about what a great singer they are.' Artists understand 'It is about the listener and the listener’s experience' and their sole purpose, as an artist, is to stir the listener’s emotions.' So the next time you walk out on a stage or step in front of a mic, ask yourself "What is it I really want to achieve? To impart, a feeling… a story… a message?" When you take this unselfish approach, then and only then, you too will be relevant! An artist, you might say. One final thought, a great singer who is an artist; that is a force to be reckoned with!
Often in the studio, I'm working with vocalists of all levels on developing artistry. Here are three easy ways I've learned over the years, singers can improve their artistry, immediately!
1) Ask yourself, if you could choose ONE word to describe the emotion of a song, what would it be? Once carefully and painstakingly curated, never fail to deliver 'the hook' again without expressing that one singular emotion. A hook is usually the title of the song and summarizes what the song is about. Sadly, many great singers fail to DELIVER the hook. Thus, missing the mark and the opportunity to connect. Marrying emotion to 'the hook' is where (music) magic happens! After all, what good is a song minus the message!?
2) NEVER sing a word, phrase, or emotion of which you don't fully understand. If you can't define it, articulately, you don't understand it!!! Look it up. Further, even if on a playground level, artists must understand what emotion they are trying to convey. Dig into the lyrics and ask yourself probing questions as to the 'What' and the 'Why.' There are no right-or-wrong answers. But having a clear answer, shapes and directs the delivery of your intention. If you don't understand or BELIEVE one-hundred percent in what you are singing, how do you ever hope to convince or relay to the listener!?
3) Lastly, don't just sing-along to the riff of a song, anyone can do that! Set yourself apart from the crowd and sing to the LYRICS. Watch for action words (typically verbs). Or defining words (typically adjectives). Emphasis should almost always fall on these two types of words. Further, assigning ownership to pronouns is key! If you're singing the words "I Am Beautiful" and you're not owning it.. breathing it, living it; then you are merely a pleasant sound. (Assigning ownership equally applies to pronouns such as you, he, she, we, etc..) A listener should always be able to distinguish the emotion you have towards a person by the way you refer to them (inflection.) Adhering to this tip will dramatically improve your believe-ability factor as an artist!
Bonus Tip: 99.9%* of all singers SING within the structure of music (ie: the beat, rhythm, pitch, etc.) It is the singers who confidently and aptly sing outside the structure, who are ARTISTS worthy of note!