I’ve chosen Michael Hutchence because he is a very well known, if sadly deceased, male performer. As the lead singer of INXS I believe it was Michaels voice and charisma that took what would possibly have been a very good if nothing special band to international stardom. But this is not a fan letter and this post has nothing whatsoever to do with what I do or don’t personally think about Michaels talent and charisma etc. What I want to talk about now is STYLE.And Michael had a ton of it. Basically, if I had to really break it down and totally simplify it, I’d say that Michael was a great example of making the most of what u have and playing to your strengths. I will be addressing this topic in future posts because it IS a complicated subject but just for today I will start to touch on this as best I can. When you have a listen to Michaels singing you’ll notice that he had, in fact, quite a low range. In other words, he didn’t sing too many high notes. Compare him say to Michael Jackson or Bruno Mars. You’ll find that these two really hit some very impressive high notes. Now, u might say, so what? What’s the big deal about that? And THAT’S where it gets interesting. In the industry there is such as thing as a ‘commercial voice’. It’s not some deep dark secret. It’s a well accepted fact that there is a certain ‘sound’ that some singers have (think Pink, Beyonce, Bjork, Sara Blasko, Sia) that is generally pleasing to most people. And those singers have quite a high range meaning that they often sing in the upper registers of their voice. Not exclusively of course but they can all ‘get up there’ and use that to great effect. The REASON for this is because most of the emotion and expression comes to its full effect up in the high registers. Does that mean that a low voice can’t be expressive? No, of course not. Barry White forged a whole career from his low, gravelly voice. Also, Amy Winehouse didn’t do too badly either and her voice was quite low AND expressive. However, more often than not, singers are always trying to extend their range (from your lowest note to your highest) so that they can get the big high notes because often the song will ‘arc’ or ‘climax’ on those hard to get at high notes. So going back to Michael Hutchence. As appealing and distinct as his voice was, he was a great example of a very successful singer who, when you get right down to it, did not have a great voice. Distinct? Yes. You can really pick his voice out of a line-up I reckon. But did he have a great voice? No. Michael just knew not only how to make the most of his voice but more importantly, he knew how to perform. And as a performer he was incredible and electrifying and THAT was his strong suit. And he knew that and he milked it for all it was worth and it was worth a lot. His performance was so strong that the fact that his voice, distinct as it was, was a bit limited never limited HIM. He very simply MADE THE MOST OF WHAT HE HAD. It’s a bit like those makeover shows where they take someone who looks a bit ordinary and doll them up. Come on, we’ve all seen them. They use to be big a few years back. Anyway, afterwards they were almost unrecognisable! Same people. Just styled differently. So by all means work on your voice and don’t accept its ‘limitations’. If you do some real work (preferably with a good teacher) and get some experience (more about that in another post) you will be amazed at what your voice is capable of. I see this on a daily basis with my clients. The techniques that I teach and that are around today are just phenomenal and I know that not only from the things I experience with my clients but also the changes I have witnessed in my own voice. It’s nothing short of stunning. HOWEVER, this post is not about the voice per say, but about personal style and how even a singer with a less than perfect voice can do very well. A little bit of style and confidence goes a long way. Look at Michael as a great example of that. But others come to mind as well. Jim Morrison from The Doors. Mick Jagger. I mean really, think about it, Mick Jagger would be lucky to get into the local choir in all honesty. Yet there he is, and has been, as the lead singer of one of the greatest rock no roll bands of all time. And in rock n roll style and attitude matters almost as much as talent. Now, you DO need some talent. Don’t get me wrong. The artists I’ve mentioned in this post all have talent. They just don’t all have the best VOICES. So work with what you have, get some training because you’ll be chuffed at what’s possible with a good teacher, get some decent threads and work it! The most important thing I can tell you is this. THE AUDIENCE DO NOT KNOW WHAT YOU ARE OR ARE NOT CAPABLE OF. They will give you the benefit of the doubt unless you give them reason not to. . So, put your best foot forward don’t go for some big high note if you can’t do it well. And make sure the song is in the best key for you! So to recap:
Singing is different to performing. You need to be good at both but it’s not necessary for success.
Don’t sing songs that don’t suit you ie Stairway to Heaven is awesome but Robert Plant is a hard act to follow. Michael Hutchence would have known better than to attempt it. It would not have showcased him very well and all it would have done is made the audience think, huh, he’s not that good is he? NOT SMART.
Make sure the key of the song is right for you. You may need a few lessons w a teacher to help you with that.
In the world of rock n roll, style is at least as important as sound.
And if all else fails get a REALLY great pair of skinny black jeans and hope for the best!!