Good morning to you all and again Happy New Year!
Back in Cleveland today for a rehearsal with my band to prepare for our live show at Music Box Supper Club on Saturday.
New Years Eve was a different sort of thing for me this time around. I was in Canada, enjoying a foot and a half of snow (beautiful) and watching a New Years celebration from Ottawa. We were hanging out in the living room where there is no TV so we were streaming from our computer. NBC would not allow us to stream Dick Clark's Rockin' New Years way up north so we opted for the feed from Ottawa.
When we started watching, Canadian country star Brett Kissel
was on stage with his band. It was snowing like crazy as he started into John Denver's, "Thank God I'm a Country Boy". He and his band were bundled in black leather jackets, cowboy hats and boots. You could see snow on the stage, on their clothes and see the singers breath each time he started a line in the song. Then he moved into his cover of Andy Grammer's, "Honey I'm Good". It's a great song about NOT cheating on your girlfriend and it was wonderful to hear Brett and his band perform it. By the time they were finished, Mr. Kissel's ears and nose were turning red. The night continued in this fashion. Live bands working the stage in winter coats and tookes and host, Rick Mercer ad libbed jokes with the crowd and treated the performers like family.
After the show wrapped up I said, "That was so much different than the Times Square Show. It's seems more down home. Everybody's really performing live and it's not so slick. I love it."
I had NO idea what was happening in Time's Square...
First I want to say that I think Ms. Carey's reaction, "shit happens" is probably a healthy perspective. The mess that was that performance was a performance, not anything that is going to really hurt any of us, take anything from us or alter the coarse of the country. And I don't think it will ruin her career. I do think Mariah has brought us some great songs over the course of her career and I do remember the first time I heard her sing like one remembers other stand out moments. Seriously, I was on I90 headed to New York for a gig. You may not like her style but she has talent no doubt.
Where her voice is now or was on new years I have no idea. Singers lose their voices for lots of reasons. They lose it when they get a cold or flu, from too many cigarettes or too much other stuff. They lose their voices from performing too many shows (shame on managers and booking agents who over tax their performers) in a week, week after week. They lose their voices from singing improperly for years. I don't know why Mariah seemed unable to belt out some lines in spite of a in- ear monitor malfunction. I do know that her first song, Auld Lang Syne was not sung live. She was lip syncing, no doubt. That means the sound people were playing a pre-recorded version of the song over the speakers (what we were hearing) while she mouthed the words and pretended it was happening in the moment. Watch the video carefully (not even that carefully) and you can see it. The songs that followed obviously had pre-recorded tracks that included notes she probably cannot always (or maybe ever) hit. That's what I know after watching the New Years Eve video that lots of us will remember.
Mariah Carey's performance on New Years Eve, is a symptom of a greater problem in modern music. She's not the ringleader here. She's one of HUGE percentage of popular performers who are using technology to make it seem like they are performing live. Voices are tuned in the studio and in live performance. Tracks are used so that the music sounds fuller and so the singer doesn't risk a bad note. That money note that everyone wants to hear? It's on tape and being played while the singer opens their silent mouth. Here's what the Boston Herald said about country stars Faith Hill, Shania Twain and Tim McGraw's use of auto tune in live performance... "[it is] a safety net that guarantees a good performance". So basically, we have actors strutting the stage, pretending that they're perfect vocalists and musicians acting like their busting out a flawless live performance.
And guess who's been conditioned to believe they are?
Many disagree with me. I don't care. I think it's not cool. Who else goes to work and pretends to do their job, which still gets done, gets paid for it and continues to be regarded as at the top of their game? Let's follow this model using the guy who mops the floor at the local grocery.
One day, he goes into work, mops the floor to a lovely sheen and when customers come in they are proud because their local grocery is "so nice and clean". The next day that same guy comes in, but this day, he has is a hologram of himself. It looks like he's there mopping the floor, working hard to get rid of the spill on aisle 7, busting his back to swipe away scuff marks. But really it's part him and part an elaborate video of the day before. He's doing some of the mopping, but not much. He gets a scuff or two while the hologram cleans aisle 7. He sort of coasts through his day. And miraculously, at the end of that day, the floor looks exactly the same as it did the day before. No one notices that its a repeat performance and that any artistry, skill (yes I do believe there is art in floor mopping) or uniqueness of experience has been eliminated from his performance. How easy for that guy! How nice for the customers...and no one has lost a dime.
This is what is happening on TV, at live shows and in the recording studio. Things are being fixed. Look at this...
This is a screen shot of a vocal track in a recording studio. This is how a voice appears on a computer. The blue squiggly line is the vocal that the singer has recorded. You can see it goes up and down, breaks (that's where the singer is taking a breath) and continues on. Look at the column on the left of the screen and notice, starting at the bottom, "E2" going up to, in this song, "A3". Those are notes in the scale of this song. Each of those notes has some lines and a shaded band. The band represents the spectrum of that note. Anywhere in that band and you are in the vicinity of that note. If you're on the middle line, your in perfect pitch. You can see that our singer (it's not me!), in blue, is a bit out of the band in lots of places. Where she strays is highlighted by a blue box. See all the blue boxes? Most of these are probably just slightly sharp (too high) or flat (too low) notes. Rather than having the vocalist do the part over and get it right, or not give record deals to people who cannot sing, modern studios set aside time for tuning. they make the vocal perfect. The engineer sits down at the computer, surrounds every off pitch note with a little blue box, pushes a button and voila, he has an orange line that is pitch perfect.
"In 2009, Time magazine quoted an unnamed Grammy-winning recording engineer as saying, 'Let's just say I've had Auto-Tune save vocals on everything from Britney Spears to Bollywood cast albums. And every singer now presumes that you'll just run their voice through the box.'"
Tuning is done live too. It's called Auto Tune....Wiki again...
"Music producer Rick Rubin wrote that 'Right now, if you listen to pop, everything is in perfect pitch, perfect time and perfect tune. That's how ubiquitous Auto-Tune is.' Time journalist Josh Tyrangiel called Auto-Tune 'Photoshop for the human voice.'"
There it is! Video really did kill the radio star. Superstars no longer have to deliver a vocal performance. It's understood if you're not feeling well, have smoked too many cigarettes or blunts, have sung too much, have a cold, are too damn tired or NEVER REALLY COULD SING IN THE FIRST PLACE that "we got you covered"! Just wear a great outfit, some false eyelashes or a cowboy hat, strap on a guitar (which is also often pre-recorded) walk around downstage and let the audience touch your hand as you pretend to sing and "it's all good". Every high note hit, every note perfectly in time and pitch.
So that's the rink that Mariah Carey was skating in on Times Square on New Years Eve when technology failed and there wasn't enough real music going on to save the day. It happened to Ashley Simpson on SNL several years ago. Adele wasn't cheating at The Grammy's and we heard her go off-key on the chorus of "Hello". It wasn't because of the monitors either. She just didn't flip into her head voice and could not belt out a note that high, that night, in her chest voice....The world didn't stop spinning and her voice coach will probably see to it that they practice hitting that note. That's work. We still love her don't we?!!! I do.
By the way here are some stars (there are more these are a few) who refuse to use Auto Tune:
I had a dressing room next to her at Lilith Fair...this girl can sing her *ss off!
God love 'em!
"How do you solve a problem like Mariah?"
If I were Mariah Carey's manager I would:
1. Make sure Mariah's voice is in shape. If it isn't, get a voice coach on board to access her voice. Does she have any physiological (I can't believe I just spelled that correctly!) issues? If so, get her to a voice specialist and take care of it. Most vocal issues can be remedied. But it takes time and work. Ask Mariah to do the work. If something else is an issue (I'm not saying it is) then address that. Basically, make sure she's ready to sing.
2. Tell the dancers to stay home. Don't be mad a me, I will bring them back eventually but not now.
3. Hire a band, musicians who can really play. There are lots of them and being Mariah Carey's manager, I can afford it. Plus I'm saving money with the dancers at home. I might even just get some awesome back up singers and a piano player or guitarist only.
4. Choose one great song. One that Mariah can sing anytime.
5. Schedule rehearsals with the band.
6. Go to the rehearsal to hear the band and make sure they are not over playing, playing too loudly and that they are awesome.
7. Schedule a rehearsal with Mariah and the band. Not a long long rehearsal. We'll start with an hour.
8. Go to the rehearsal and make sure the Wizard of Oz is not behind the curtain using tracks/auto tune.
9. Talk with Mariah. Tell her she's extremely talented and beautiful inside and out and that I want her to step up to the mic (it won't be gold, it'll just be a good old gray Shure beta 58) listen to the beautiful music and sing like you did when you were a kid hanging out in your bedroom. Don't try too hard just tell me a story. Don't worry about what you sound like. Just tell me a story.
10. When I feel the song sounds absolutely great, not perfect, great (Most great performances are not perfect), remind myself and Mariah that great performances involve huge talent but more than anything they involve making your audience feel something. How the hell else could Bob Dylan win the Nobel Prize, Madonna be a mega star and Johnny Cash a legend? A great performance does not require auto tune or tracks. It requires talent and an honest delivery. And all of that requires faith and humility. So when I feel we have all that, I call Dick Clark Productions and say, I'd like to try again. Can we schedule one performance with Mariah?
11. If DCP says no I'll call practically anyone else and book Mariah on national television. I know they want her now.
12. Go to the sound check day of television performance. If someone tells me equipment isn't working I'll refer to our contract that says everything MUST be working or Ms. Carey does not sing AND still gets paid. But that's not going to happen because I have my own sound team who I know well and who know exactly what they're doing. Make sure sound check feels good to Mariah and the band.
13. Hang out with Mariah back stage until she needs to warm up her voice. Make sure she's drinking plenty of water and nothing else. When they knock on the dressing room door to say 2 minutes, remind Mariah that she's beautiful and hugely talented. Take the feathers away from her, walk with her to her spot in the wings then watch her walk out on stage, start singing and remind people how friggin' good she really is.
This would set everything right...I know it.
That's how you solve a problem like Mariah.
With all this in mind, I'll be on stage at Saturday night, Jan. 7 @ 8pmWith that in mind, come hear a real live show this
in beautiful Cleveland Ohio. We will be LIVE, LIVE, LIVE.
will be singing support vocals without tracks, without Auto-Tune.
The guy behind me in this photo,
will be playing banjo, bass and guitar and some of the best solos you've heard without Auto-Tune or tracks.
will be playing bass, piano and guitar without Auto-Tune or tracks.
And this guy,
will be playing drums, glockenspiel, washboard and singing without Auto-Tune or tracks and the girl in front of Pete in the photo above (I know her!) will be playing guitar, ukulele, washboard and singing without Auto-Tune or tracks (but she may be drunk, NO!).
We had a 4-hour rehearsal yesterday (thank you Avon Lake United Church of Christ for letting us rehearse there) and we're ready for...
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE @
Jan. 7, 2016 - 8pm
ALL NEW FULL BAND SHOW!
GET YOUR TICKETS NOW HERE
DISCOUNTED TICKETS HERE (this is for mailing list members only. To become a member visit www.anneedechant.com, sign up and I'll send you the discount code)
You can reserve your seats for dinner too
See you Saturday night LIVE!!!!!!!!