Wow, What a Month Full of Vocal Problems, Flubs, and Tragedies!
First Adel recovering from Voice Surgery, then the recent Steven Tyler bashing over singing the National Anthem, and now the Greatest Tragedy of All … the Loss of Whitney Houston the Day Before the Grammy’s. What is Going on with Our Singers?
The vulnerable thread connecting each of these events is: “Vocal Problems.” Each singer has been criticized and condemned for NOT LIVING UP TO THE EXPECTATIONS OF THEIR AUDIENCE, REVIEWERS AND FANS during live performances. Adel’s recent cancelled tour stretched her voice to it’s limits and caused her vocal cords to rebel from the abuse she put them through trying to live up to her amazing recorded CD. Steven had the courage to sing the National Anthem LIVE even though he had just gotten off of a flight from Los angles where he had attended 2 funerals. His reward for that was the media calling his National Anthem “The worst since Rosanne Barr.” (Read my take on that is in a recent post… ‚) And now today the media is filled with stories of Whitney’s amazing voice failing due to drug abuse and personal problems.
Voice Realities For Those Who Have Never Walked In A Singers Shoes
This morning amid all of the speculation as to why Whitney’s tragic death has happened, Record Producer David Foster (who had worked with Whitney many times), said it so well; ” Don’t speculate or judge Whitney unless you have walked in her shoes.”
I would like to now, amid all the speculation as to “the big why…”, address David’s insightful statement. As a voice coach I not only listen to my students who constantly face the typical “voice demons” that confront us all when we step on that stage to sing, whether its the lead in a high school play, the National Anthem at a major sports event, an American Idol audition, or a concert in Central Park, each one has of these singers HAS walked in Whitney’s shoes, including me:
To begin with, it has been said that the greatest fear people have, is the “fear of public speaking.” Well, amplify that 10,000 times and try; the fear of standing up in-front of a crowded room full of expectant people judging how you sing.
They call it Stage Fright but for singers it should be re-named, performance anxiety. On the news, they have been announcing all morning that they found Xanex, used to treat anxiety and panic attacks, in Whitney’s room. After the last two years of Whitney having to hear in the media, over and over again, how her “amazing voice was, gone, shot, destroyed by drugs etc.etc. etc…” that night she was about to sing again at her mentor Clive Davis’s yearly Pre –Grammy party. Was she anxious, scared, nervous, panicked to once again open her mouth and sing in-front of the recording industries biggest stars????? Wouldn’t you be if you knew that each person in that room, no matter how much they loved you, would be disappointed if your voice was not up to their expectations? Put yourself in Whitney’s shoes right now. . . can’t you just imagine the fear she was facing???? If you are a singer, having a “bad voice day” , (which happens way too often), knowing you would disappoint everyone in the room if your voice “cracked”, wouldn’t you want to take anything to keep the fear and panic out of your voice? She had gone to the voice doctor the day before she died and it’s very common to subscribe something to relax the voice before a big event.
Big Shoes to Fill
Adel walked in Whitney’s shoes at every concert, as her voice began to weaken from over-use and stress (according to reports). Steven walked in her shoes singing the National Anthem without sleep (according to fellow band member Joe Perry), every singer who has had doubts and fears before a performance has walked in Whitney’s shoes, as have I, when I was diagnosed with COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (from in-haling second hand smoke singing in smoke-filled rooms, which forced me to stop singing 2 years ago.)
The human voice is an amazing God created instrument and like any instrument, it must be understood, loved and not abused. The high notes and the loud volume expected from today’s singers is causing chronic voice problems because much of what the public hears is created in an electronic studio and CANNOT be duplicated live all the time. (Just a note: For those that are comparing Whitney’s National Anthem to what they are calling “Stevens Flub”, need to re-evaluate their thinking because Whitney’s Anthem was created in a studio and she was lip-syncing while Stevens was LIVE. (Read my post)
As the true facts about Whitney’s death become known and all the speculation is put to rest, David Foster’s suggestion to “Try walking in Whitney’s shoes before you judge her action.” will ring true for every singer who has the courage to step on a stage and open their mouth. Do not be so quick to judge next time your favorite artist does not “sound exactly like the CD!” Maybe they are having one of those “human bad voice days.”
Whitney IS still the greatest singing voice I’ve ever heard and is now singing with pure joy in her heart…