Channeling your anger

Four or five years ago, a splatter of now-fading girl-power in pop music gave us the likes of Britney Spears, Christian Aguilera, Jessica Simpson, and Leeann Rimes and a whole new generation of female vocalists of all kinds who suddenly got in touch with their Inner Angry Girl (IAG). IAG singing is characterized most often by a gravelly, guttural inflection of certain tones in select phrases (guys do this too - i.e. Russ Taff and Jason Crabb - but when they do it, it’s called “bluesy” singing). Kim Hopper was probably the first big sg name to put IAG vocal stylings to widespread use in sg music, but it’s hard to use Kim Hopper’s voice and what she does with it as a standard of comparison for most of the mere mortals who toil beneath her awesome talent. Among the current crop of young sg female vocalists in the generation just behind Kim Hopper’s, Lauren Talley handles IAG moments the best, and as her voice has matured, she tends to indulge her IAG more and more frequently on stage (though the uptick in her IAG moments increased around the time of that duet with Jason Crabb, I noticed). “On stage” is key to the best uses of the IAG voice. Smart vocalists use their arsenal of vocal tricks, ornaments, flourishes, and “moves” strategically, which is why you rarely hear IAG sounds from Lauren Talley or Kim Hopper on studio projects, where the recording environment picks up every sound you make and is far less forgiving of vocal improvisation that isn’t spot-on. Not only can IAG singing be pretty in-your-face stuff that easily sounds affected and contrived if used unwisely outside the context of live performance, it also becomes a predictable crutch for struggling, insecure, or maturing vocalists who want to project the illusion of vocal power and strength but haven’t quite found their Inner Kim Hopper yet. Listening to sglive365 recently, I heard Jessica Beauvais-Harrison of Hope’s Call tapping her IAG voice a bit too self-indulgently on a studio cut of “Halfway” (and add the McRae’s with songs like “If it Had Not Been the Lord” to the list of IAG abusers). And that put me in mind of Angie Hoskins Aldridge of the Hoskins family, who tends to get a titch carried away with her IAG moments, at least on stage. This isn’t purely subjective. Too much growling and husky-voicing tends, if overused or used without great care, to obscure the melodic line - a real and crippling danger that groups have to be aware of. IAG moments probably ought to be reserved for solos (and then used only sparingly) and be banned altogether in ensemble singing, which is what I remember thinking when the Hoskins Family sang at least year’s NQC. A friend of mine with whom I attend the convention annually leaned over to me during the Hoskins’ set last year - during which Angie Hoskins Aldridge badly oversang most of her lines with a lot of IAGing and general carrying on - and hissed: “Sure would be nice to hear the MELODY,” and my friend was right. It’s often much harder to sing the melody well than to sing all around it with improvisations like the IAG voice. The point in all this is something that should - but doesn’t necessarily - go without saying: vocalists need to learn to sing their lines straightforwardly, cleanly, and plainly (not a bad word), before reaching into a bag of tricks or getting in touch with their IAG. Because it sure is nice to hear the melody.

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