And….Uh….NO.

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Happy New Year’s Eve Mighty Members of the Macroblogger League of Extraordinary Hippsters!

And……hey waidaminnit! Why is there a picture of Britney Spears on my blog? Have I gone stone-cold crazy and been deemed spam in the great celestial in-box of sane e-mail? (The answer of course is yes….long ago, but I digress…)

UPDATE: If you are reading this blogpost via e-mail: To see the videos at the end of this you will need to go to the blog itself: CLICK HERE

Reading one of my favorite websites recently (Alas, the newspaper that is delivered to my doorstep has gone the way of the hand-written music score in my 21st Century life) I was stunned to see the following article: 5 Reasons It’s totally Fine Britney Spears is Lip Syncing in Vegas. I was amazed not only at the sloppy use of the English language in the headline (but HEY, anyone who has read at least one of my blogposts knows just how much I obsess with proper grammatical usage…an’ stuff like that and whatEVER.) but also at the content of the article itself and what it says about our artistic health in general. In my humble opinion (or IMHO if you speak Twitterese) if even ONE person agrees with this referenced article beyond a cursory “OK, yeah, I get it” then we are in need of aesthetic 9-1-1…STAT!

The reasons given that lip-syncing is ok had to do with the pageantry and choreography of a modern concert exemplified by the Spearsian example. In other words, she and-or her costumes and choreography look so good, Brit shouldn’t be bothered or burdened by the music. And…uh…WHAT?

OK, my thoughts:

1. This is an example of an amazing performer who has downshifted into a surreal Newtonian (as in Wayne, not Isaac) spectacle-show in Las Vegas to make the most of the twighlight of a once popular career. No worries there. Smart business move. Good for her.

2. There is little difference between this show and a karaoke effort with amazing funding.

3. I respect the choreography in such a spectacle greatly and consider it to be high art. But to then pretend to be singing when actually faking it instantly plunges the entire affair into the realm of false advertising and insulting one’s audience. (granted, this is an audience that has paid GIANT money to see Britney…another blog for another day)

4. Why not embrace the joy of singing AND dancing AND having fun with spectacle? Why cut out the singing part? What up? (therein lies the unpacking of said soapbox)

So, I love well-written killer-slinky grooves and an occasional nibble of a tasty super-sweet pop hook, but DAYUM! My appreciation for this genre stops cold when you cut out the music and treat it as superfluous to the overall effect. Why not just sing in front of a screen where a film of the dancing takes place and lose the live dancers? Because that would be a drag for the artists who are dancers! Why not just have Britney stand in front of a black curtain and sing into a microphone? Well, no spectacle then…different genre. So: why cut out the live music aspect?!

(That being said, I haven’t seen the show, maybe at one point in the evening the lights go down and Miss Spears walks out to a bedazzled stool, sits down lit up by a tight spot and croons something into the microphone from the Great American Songbook like a cross between Garland and Vaughan. And if so, good for her…which begs the question, if she COULD do that, why doesn’t she? And another question…does this mean the Cubs will be in the World Series next year? …but once again…I have digressed…)

BIGSoap

The article states that she is “singing along with a backing track” and “lip-syncing a little.” What does THAT mean? I can see singing along with a recording to get that fat multi-layered but slightly out-of-phase pop singer sound: very cool. I would like to try that myself via trombone when we have the opportunity to perform Concerto for Folded Space live (nice product placement eh?) But don’t abdicate altogether on the music! If you are not singing, then you can’t bill yourself as a singer…period! How about the following metaphors:

If the article is correct, then by definition….

1. It would be ok for a surgeon to forgo the anesthetic? (“It was like just SO expensive, and I didn’t like the anesthetist anyway, whatever.” BTW: If your surgeon talks like this, consider another surgeon, or better yet: a Homeopath. Just sayin’)

2. You can legally sell cars without tires? (“OH HELL yeah” said Honest Bubba at “We Sell ‘Em Kwik” right down the road from my house upon  hearing this news.)

3. It is legal to sell weapons that aren’t equipped to use ammunition? (“Welcome to my world friend” said Barney Fife with a sublimely effective sneer.)

OK…I’ve run out of metaphors because the rest that I thought of were actually true and it was beginning to depress me.

And who wants to be depressed on New Year’s Eve? (except all of my friends who took those lame New Year’s Eve gigs….”Friends! Step away from the those gigs….back away….turn……RUN!”) It is a time rather for happy reflection and hopeful forward looking into the pleasant face of opportunity. Woo Hoo!

Therefore, I leave you with the hope that the talented and successful Miss Spears’ decisions are not musically representative of the current ethos in pop music live performing and that our society is more aesthetically sophisticated than this one article and/or its author would indicate. Nothin’ but love Britney, for real: I wish you all good things and am happy for your life.

However, I have faith, GALLONS, TONS, and GANGS of faith in the world. Faith that the efforts of thousands and thousands of music educators have not been in vain and that we are fast approaching a critical mass of well-educated consumer driven artistic prosperity where truth lives! Hallelujah and A-MEN! Now ain’t THAT the hyperbole and unnecessary grandiose verbiage that you singed up for when you began reading this blog? You’re welcome.

And to end the year on a good note, here are some examples of live performances that are not all quite spectacles, but are absolutely the best that modern pop has to offer IMHO, IMTSTTUM

(you already know the first Twitter-word, the second is: I Made The Second Twitter Thing Up Myself.)

Happy New Year: Live Long and Groove!

________________________________________________

Justin Timberlake (Britney’s old BF…Oh Snap!) Live band, in-ear monitors, intonation, killing groove, nice lights, great show, hmmmm)

Sting and Jo Lawry LIVE. Live Studio Orchestra, great mix, good conductor, in ear monitors, regular monitors, cool lighting, etc. etc. No big dance numbers, but wow, what a show!

Beyoncé! This video is the most comparable to the Spearsian example, and argues STRONGLY for actual singing while one is dancing athletically. Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter is simply one of the strongest, most talented, performers on the planet. (and my daughter would have KILLED me if I didn’t include this in my short list of real-deal pop artists) C’mon…you want a SPECTACLE? PT Barnum, Cecil B DeMille and Caligula all said “DAYUM” upon seeing one of these live shows. A mix of live dancing (understatement) filmed video imagery, live musicians, recorded textures and loops both vocal and instrumental, a real band, background chorus, great intonation, and NO, this was not filmed in Vegas with lip syncing. BAM

And lastly, a couple of my FAVORITE pop-music performing groups that I KNOW put on KILLING shows of the highest degree:

My Boys! Chicago with a guest dancer even: Al Pacino! The great actor appeared on stage with the group at The Greek Theater in Los Angeles to film clips for his movie “Imagine” No heroic dance routines, but talk about a show! And these guys ALWAYS kill it live. (Granted, Chicago also has jazz and rock at its core, but everyone else is allowed to do that too if they want, you dig?)

And I will leave you with perhaps the greatest pop talent of our era (once again IMHO) here is the timeless Sir Paul McCartney signing his wonderful arrangement of his mate George Harrison’s classic “Something” (see if you can suppress the thrill when the guitar solo comes in…)

Does it count as “spectacle” if the singer just stands there and emotionally destroys 100,000+ people with a simple song? I kinda think it does 🙂

PS: I could have listed THOUSANDS of great examples of modern pop artistry SINGING live here. Please feel free to do so in the comments (only if you include a Youtube clip for all of us to enjoy! 🙂

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About swiest2

Steve Wiest is a Trombonist-Composer-Cartoonist-Author and Coordinator of The 21st Century Music Initiative at The Lamont School of Music: The University of Denver
This entry was posted in Special Days. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to And….Uh….NO.

  1. Dan "Master Blaster" Billington says:

    Great post Steve!

    A few years ago I saw a band in Nashville that exemplified being able to “chew gum and walk” and think they are right on with your topic:

    Have a Happy New Year!!!

    • swiest2 says:

      Sir Daniel! Wow, Mummy mambo. I love it. But then I always loved my mummy. That stuff never gets old! The original Kings of Wrap music! HEY…I got a million of ’em 🙂
      But seriously, they sound great. I’ll bet those outfits get pretty steamy under the lights however. A drag that they must commit to that. Oh well. Good stuff!

  2. Homer Hill says:

    Happy New Year!! IMHO means what? Enjoying your blog, dude.

  3. Hambone says:

    Don’t sweat this. Spears’ appeal has never had anything to do with her instrument. Granted, I don’t own a Spears album (o.k. dating myself) but in every song I’ve heard attributed to her, the voice is auto tuned or modified beyond recognition, produced to cover up her voice rather than showcase it. So the Vegas crowd is getting exactly what they’ve been sold all these years. Now, that people would pay serious money to see somebody lip sync? That’s a troubling symptom.

    • swiest2 says:

      Hambone! I agree. Her’s is a different approach to pop music and I am all for a divergent palette out there…as long as it doesn’t popularize or legitimize lip syncing.

      And as usual…you and I are truly in sync 🙂

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