A Beautiful (and Underrated) Thing
MUSIC is always on my mind…
something that is never going to relinquish its grip- this year has not provided (the strongest and most enduring sounds). I have stepped away from reviewing for a number of reasons-tiredness is one of them. Few new acts have caught my imagination; compelled me to listen hard- weariness and boredom have taken the place of surprise and fascination. In addition to having a severe lack of free time, I am finding something worrying (happening in music): it is starting to decline. A lot of times (when reviewing) I found my integrity hiding away- uneasy being critical to musicians (I felt deserved it). Few bands and acts lingered in the memory and it has been fairly easy walking away- I hope 2015 provides to be more eventful, fruitful and imaginative.
One of the best things about music is the vocal- the voice(s) being the creations. Talent and reality shows emphasise the voice- in a bad way. The sorry and miserable excuse for singers (and humans) that litter these shows have distilled and clouded the potential of the voice- that magic essence that can elevate music (to rarefied and dizzy heights). Most of my favourite new music (and most cherished classic music) is synonymous with terrific vocals- it doesn’t have to be showy and huge. A great singer can turn a mediocre song into something special- just with the simplest of utterances. Too many people get confused- thinking range and histrionics are the most important factors (when it comes to finding a tremendous voice). Discount the likes of Freddie Mercury and Michael Jackson (too singers with vast ranges) and you can find a lot of good- artists that can hook you and compel the senses. Whether you prefer the graveled and animalistic tones of Tom Waits; the soulful hypnotism of Otis Redding- you don’t need a monumental (vocal range) to seduce and entrance. Too many new musicians overlook the Importance of the vocal performance- the ability and necessity of getting into (the listener’s) consciousness. Over the last year or two, singers like Sam Smith and Paolo Nutini have made their mark- buckled the knees with their inimitable and distinctive vocal prowess.
I am not saying that the voice is the most important thing- it just seems to be lacking (as-of-late). Too many acts are concerned with cramming in noise and music- focusing on the sound alone. Duos like Royal Blood have been lauded for their hard blends; 2014’s best and most profitable have been notable in their own way- how many unique voices have resonated in the mind? I have a huge amount of respect for the likes of FKA twigs, Kate Tempest (and other Mercury-nominated wonders), but I have craved something singular- a vocal sound that is hard to shake off. Maybe once (or twice) a year do we hear of such a thing- reality shows are proffering false idols and raising expectations.
Perhaps I will get back to reviewing music- when I am feeling a bit better- but something spectacular needs to happen- the quality has to increase; the vocal warriors have to make their moves. It is not just enough to have a remarkable voice- you need the songs and lyrics to back them up. One could criticise artists like Sam Smith for being too thin and effete- not being gritty and real enough. Whilst few can ignore his immense vocal chops; his stories and themes do not delve that deep- he has the potential to get better, though. Acts that concentrate away from the voice- like Royal Blood- are too limited- one wonders how long public fascination will last. Perhaps I am over-simplifying, but the public yearns for that next great voice- someone who can buckle the knees; and has the songwriting quality in there too. Into next year, I hope to work closely with a terrific young singer (and her band); someone who has an incredible songwriting talent- an exciting prospect to witness.
Whilst I plan my musical ideas and endeavours, I have been focusing my attentions to another realm: animation and comedy. Although music is my main goal; the thing I will focus on the most- comedy and animation has been obsessing my mind. In the U.K. we do not really have an animation industry- aside from the odd commercial or children’s show. When it comes to comedy, we are somewhat limited- in more ways than. Aside from the odd hal-decent comedy, we are not exactly consistent- most of the finest comedies are American-born. Whether we lack the talent, the money or imagination, it is the U.S. that has always led the way- stamped out the finest animated shows of all-time. From the classic days of Looney Tunes and Disney; the terrific shows like The Simpsons, South Park and Family Guy- they are showing how it should be done. I have always hated the influx of animated films- there seems to be a new one every week. Once Toy Story passed, I got bored of the medium- with every coming week comes a new animated film featuring talking animals or some flimsy plotline. It is comedies such as The Simpsons that grip my hardest- fascinate my mind and excites me hugely. I have always been obsessed with the voice; what you can do with it- how far you can stretch it. Fantastic actors like Hank Azaria and Harry Shearer provide dozens of voices (between them)- amaze you with their talent and versatility. Look at legends such as Mel Blanc and June Foray- two of the greatest voice actors who have ever lived. When it comes to extraordinary ability, few can top Frank Welker- an actor few would have heard of. He is the most bankable actor of all-time- no other actor has pulled in the bucks he has; nobody else has his pulling power. From the throat-shredding vocals of Dr. Claw (from Inspector Gadget) to Slimer (from Ghostbusters) he can do it all- his range of animal voices/noises is mind-boggling. Nobody alive has his ability and talent- he is one of the reasons I want to get into the craft. Mel Blanc is probably the name we all think of (when it comes to voice acting), but modern artists like Dan Castellaneta (Homer Simpson himself) are wonders of the craft- defying belief with their abilities and vocal turns. In Britain, we are not over-stocked with vocal legends- nobody actually comes to mind. Impressionists like Jon Culshaw and Alistair McGowan are undeniably skilled, yet none match the heights (of the U.S.) legends- we just don’t have the same talent. One of the biggest problems is the entertainment industry itself- we do not have the same opportunities America offers.
The voice is a wonderful thing, and should not be confined to music- there are vast possibilities out there. Every time I watch an episode of The Simpsons or South Park, I wonder the same thing: why are we not producing similar gens? In the past (the U.K. has dabbled) with animated comedy- one or two average shows have emerged. Thinking about it, we have not really come up with anything memorable or long-lasting- we are much better (when it comes to longevity and prolificy) when it comes to live-action comedy. There are quite a few animation studios (in this country) but they tend to specialise in adverts, children’s shows and promotion pieces. One of my secret ambitions is to be a voice actor- combine it with music if I can. There are so many accents, voices and sounds in my head- anywehere up to a couple of thousand- they need somewhere to go- I risk being one of those crazy people that talks to themselves. Rather than being put into a home, it would be great to get the voice out- have somewhere for them to go. I have conceptualised and synopsised an animated comedy- that I hope to parlay into a fully-fledged series. I have mentioned it in previous blog posts, but I have some trepidation- will it ever get made? Even of the ordained (to get a commission), are there studios that can accommodate my demands- anyone out there that can do the words justice? I know this country has some great voiceover talents- they are being reduced to hocking lousy goods and voicing idiotic cartoon characters. We have some great comedy writers- a paucity compared to the U.S.- that would love the chance to branch into animation. Animation is so much better and more freeing than live-action- it allows the imagination to run wild; realise your most ambitious ideas without spending millions doing so.
Voice acting is not something (most of you) will think about- not in the same depth as me. We all watch great animated comedies like The Simpsons- given half a chance; we’d all love to appear in an episode! In tandem with a music career, I would kill to do voice acting- release all of the odd characters and accents floating about my brain. I have written an animated comedy, but fear no channel or studio would pick it up- maybe America is the only option? Of course Kickstarter is out there- that afford the chance to get finances raised- so that a home-made endeavor is possible- you still need to make the animation and find someone to help. I think America has the opportunities and facilities- moving there may be an answer. I do not need much of an excuse to flee to somewhere like Burbank or Los Angeles- given the chance I would prefer to stick around London (and the U.K.). In so much as great voices are important in music- they are just as needed in the entertainment industry.
Perhaps I will get back to music reviewing- when I am less anhedonic and tired. If the quality goes up; if the desire is there- perhaps I will produce the odd review. I just feel that a spark is lacking; a lot of new music is too safe and aimless- that the best we have had is the best we will ever get. Too many bands and artists pack in noise and music; they negate the importance of terrific vocals- the voice is a beautiful thing to behold. In a society that values looks and aesthetics (over personality)- the voice is an instrument that needs to stay tuned and loud. My favourite current musicians and musical peeps possess tremendous voices- it is the reason I adore their music so. It may be my particular tastes and bias- I just think the voice is a wonderful thing. So much more fascinating and interesting than anything else, it makes music (and comedy) better and more fulfilling. Whilst I (perhaps fruitlessly) hunt for U.K. animation studios; write music and imagine ideas- let me know if you hear of any truly captivating voice. Reviewing may be what my blog represents (and is designed for) but the voice is my true passion- the reason I want to throw off the shackles of the ordinary; do something truly remarkable. Whether my ambitions and dreams are a reality, I am not sure- I will keep pressing and searching. If you have any idea and thoughts, let me know. When it comes to wanting to find a great voice; unearth something truly extraordinary…
THAT is something we all have in common