Thursday, June 11, 2009

The power of the female voice and spontaneous dance mobs

Last night at the Neko Case show at the Warfield, I couldn't stop thinking how absurd it was how impressed I was by a singer who can actually sing.

Silly as it sounds, in what may be the Golden Age of Autotune, it often seems like you don't even need to have an actual singing voice to be a singer. Stars are chosen for their looks or God knows what other reasons and we're presented with a live show complete with prerecorded vocals and multiple costume changes like it's supposed to mean something.

It doesn't seem like it would be that hard to find a woman who can sing and just let her do her thing. It worked pretty well for Patsy Cline, Janis Joplin, Emmylou Harris, and Aretha Franklin.

Despite the changes over the last fifty years in what society thinks popular music should be, female vocalists still seem to dominate the landscape. Apparently this Taylor Swift person has made quite the run on the charts, as did that Umbrella girl who got beat up a poor man's Ike Tuner.

My friend Jordan will probably read that last sentence and give me shit for what he sees as willful ignorance and hipster indifference, but I can promise that my apathy is real. I listen to pop music and feel like I have no idea if the people singing can actually sing. Everything is so manipulated that I get better idea of the producer's talents than the musician's.

I had no such problem last night.

Neko Case's soaring vocals had the crowd captivated and rapt for a couple hours with nothing but a solid band, a great backup singer, and the ever-present banter between the songs. There wasn't a single costume change or pyrotechnic display--just one talented ginger lady and a microphone.

For me, it was refreshing to hear a woman's voice and react with child-like wonder. It had been a long time since I paid to see a woman sing and I didn't know what to expect. Needless to say, I got my money's worth.



Check out the scene from Sasquatch Music Fest. We all need more of this.


  1. As a big music buff and an unabashed lover of pop music, I think that there is nothing wrong with not knowing how good a person singing is.
    All forms of art are shrouded in some deception. Pop music is no different, there is no inherent value in a singer who sings well over someone is is made to sound as if she sings well. The result is the same.
    I actually think Neko Case's vocals are often grating her lyrics are indulgent in their use of metaphors and descriptive phrases that go nowhere.
    I am not saying Rhianna (the singer of umbrella) is a better artist, she's not. But she's not substantially worse because she is overproduced.

  2. Interesting point, but I think a lot of people would disagree with you. See Milli Vanilli and Ashlee Simpson for examples of public backlash when the curtain is pulled back on how technology helps certain performers.

    People want to enjoy the show, but they also want to believe that what they're seeing is "real."