Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Vocal Range and Profile: So Hyang / Sohyang

Vocal Range: D3 - C#6 - A6 (3 octaves, 3 notes and a semi-tone)
Vocal Fach: Full-Lyric Soprano
Vocal Rating: Star

Vocal Positives: A well developed and technically sound voice. Impressive utilization of dynamics, and rhythmic motifs coupled with sound musical interpretation and knowledge. So Hyang is also a master of color manipulation, from light and airy to full and slightly metallic. From top to bottom, So Hyang maintains good intonation, incredible clarity, and decent agility.

By far the weakest area of her voice, So Hyang's lower register is weak and breathy beyond A3, but can extend down to D3. So Hyang understands this and rarely ventures into the region, instead opting for her middle and upper range.

As she ascends, her voice rapidly blossoms into a resonant, booming instrument with bright, feminine colors and incredible technical capacity. Here, So Hyang begins executing impressive dynamic feats without a hint of strain, executing crescendos and decrescendos as well as transitioning between registers without breaks or faltering intonation, showing how well connected and developed her range is (see Arirang Alone). A rolling vibrato begins to appear, and full breath support is present without exception.

Her incredible technical prowess is what allows her to soar into the soprano tessitura with resonance and freedom, being able to sustain passages at incredible heights (at and above F#5) without a hint of fatigue. She maintains incredible size up to G5, and though she thins above that point, she maintains excellent placement and mixing, allowing her to sustain notes in mixed voice up to C#6.

Her head voice is also wonderfully supported and executed, being bright and resonant up to E6, and maintains startling stamina throughout, sustaining C6s for up to 10 seconds. Above E6, her head voice becomes thinner and more string-like, reaching up to A6. As previously mentioned, So Hyang can transition both in and out of this register without issue, and shows fluidity.

Vocal Negatives: So Hyang tends to become overzealous with her upper belts, and intonation can be spotty in the upper reaches of her mixed and head voice, though usually only for brief periods. Her lower register is also weak and lacks solid breath support.

D3 - C#6 - F6

E3 - C#6 - A6

Star List Qualities:

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Announcement: Change in Vocal Ratings

After nearly four years, vocal profiles will now be graded by three different ratings as opposed to one: a Critic's rating, a Public's rating, and an overall rating. This breakdown will (hopefully) illustrate how each vocalist is given their respective ratings. In addition, there will now be +/- grades in vocal ratings, to create more accuracy as the list of profiles continue to grow.

Before these ratings are implemented, there will be a one week period where you, the viewers, will be able to leave comments and feedback on this list, so that if there's overwhelming disagreement with any of these ratings, appropriate changes may be made.

As always, please be respectful with your comments, with evidence for your comments being greatly appreciated. You also reach Critic of Music on Twitter at @CriticOfMusic.

The tentative ratings for each category can be found below.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Vocal Range and Profile: Aretha Franklin

Vocal Range: E2 - D6 - E6
Vocal Fach: Falcon Soprano (4 octaves)
Vocal Rating: Star

Positives: A rich, heavy and dark voice. Legendary interpretive wit, thanks to incredible knowledge of musical phrasing and vocal pedagogy. Franklin crafted incredible phrases by utilizing rhythmic variations and motifs, dynamics, articulation, vocal colors and drives to create original and brilliant phrases. 

Her melismatic prowess brought the melisma into popular music, with her incredible pearl-like clarity, fluidity and agility. Great articulation and diction that allowed for scatting and color experimentation. A flawlessly balanced voice within every part of the scale.

An incredible lower register that was rich and warm, hit with a neutral larynx, and was reached with incredible ease and accuracy, shown by Franklin's ability to sing melisma in this area with startling intonation accuracy. Projecting down to G2 and robust down to C#3, this explosive lower register contributes to Franklin's fach as a Falcon soprano.

As she ascends, Franklin's vocal colors continue to blossom, showing off a slightly nasal but thunderous middle register. The belting register displays incredible freedom, resonance, elasticity and fluidity, soaring into a perfect mixed voice.  This register is full and projected throughout, relying fully on breath support. Franklin's technique can attest to her ability to sustain each note in this area up to D6. This area also gains a slight, airy rasp before becoming grittier around G5, and a wide rolling vibrato.

Though her tessitura lies in the mezzo-belting range, her belting range and weight soars into that of a Spinto Soprano (also making her a Falcon).

Her head voice is seamlessly connected to the rest of her range, showing incredible control of her passagio. It's bright and full, with the rich rolling vibrato seen in the chest voice.

Negatives: As she has aged, her voice has lost its power and rich color. Her belting can also become overbearing to some. The rasp of the chest voice somewhat hinders the clarity of the belts.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Vocal Range and Profile: Liam Payne (One Direction)

Vocal Range: C#2 - C5 - Bb5 (B5)
Vocal Type: Lyric Baritone (3 octaves, 4 notes and a semi-tone)
Vocal Rating: B+

Positives: Robust, clear lower register that is projected well, often being the bass of harmonies in his group. This area is achieved with great technique and support down to F#2. A highlight of the voice.

Slightly brightening as he ascends, the middle register still maintains ease and displays a warm, masculine tone. Though he gains a slight (pushed) rasp above E4, his voice remains open, projecting well. Unlike the rest of One Direction, Payne has a well-developed mixed voice, allowing him to access a clean, head-dominant C5 belt. 

A light, warm falsetto that Payne has no issues staying in for extended periods. This area possesses a soft vibrato and is reached with ease until around Eb5 when Payne needs more volume to phonate.

Solid understanding of musical phrasing, being considerate to the music by changing vocal colors, texture, and dynamics.

Negatives: The upper extremes of the falsetto are unstable and undeveloped, and the chest register thins considerably as he ascends. Though he mixes at the extremes of his chest voice, the rest of the belting range could use a more even mix.

C#2 - G4 (C#5) - G5

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Vocal Range and Profile: JoJo

Vocal Range: A2 - G5 - C#7
Vocal Type: Lyric Mezzo-Soprano (4 octaves and 2 notes)
Vocal Rating: B+
Recommended Listenings: Too Little Too Late, Limbo, All I Want Is Everything, Save My Soul

Positives: Incredible clarity throughout her range. Her melismas maintain a pearl-like clarity, fluidity, and even-ness throughout her chest voice and head voice. This agility has continued to improve over time. Soild stamina and breath support.

The lower register is strong and supported, and maintains the aforementioned clarity down to C3, while being able to consistently reach B2. These notes are achieved with a neutral larynx down to D3 and avoid sounding forced.

Her middle register/belts is/are warm, bright and glimmering, with a healthy placement, mixing and vibrato. This area is projected well (and has been projected better over time), being resonant and rarely strained. This is where her voice truly shines. Her upper-belts though outside of her tessitura, have shown potential to resonate, with an ability to stay in this register for extended periods (Limbo).

Her head-voice is well explored and connected, remaining feminine and agile throughout. The whistle register, though rarely explored, is piercing with a rolling vibrato.

Negatives: Her upper chest voice is where her technique suffers: belts above D5 begin to sound shouty and throaty, with her placement trying to compensate for her carrying too much weight too high into her upper belts. Her mixed voice could use development. Nasality is also an issue at points, notably in her upper chest voice.

B2 - F#5 - C6

A2 - G5 - B5

Monday, February 15, 2016

Music Exec. Talks #OscarsSoWhite and why the Grammys aren’t

While the media firestorm continues to swirl around the "white-washed" Oscar nominations, Hollywood is gearing up for another major awards ceremony on Monday: the Grammys.

Voices within Hollywood and the mainstream media have criticized the Oscar committee over recent weeks for their lack of diversity within their nominations: not a single actor or actress of color received a nomination this year.

Grammy Nominee Robin Burgess is the president of the New Orleans-based music management company Burgess Management, which houses 5x Grammy Award winner Terence Blanchard. As an African-American herself, Burgess was particularly struck by the issue and added her voice to the discussion in a Facebook post criticizing Hollywood, and those trying to brush off the Oscars’ oversight by undermining the value of the awards themselves: 

"For those who say the Oscars don't matter… The Oscars DO matter. It is a measurement of success which validates that you belong--in an industry that knows you belong, but won't publicly acknowledge you." She continued, "I personally know many, many great writers, directors, and producers of color who have approached studio executives of all shades, including their own, only to be told their projects weren't mainstream enough."

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Album Review: Rihanna - ANTI

Rihanna's 8th studio album ANTI has been infamously plagued by a number of setbacks and delays: the relative underperformance of the albums first three singles that in a strange turn of events didn't make the album they were supposed to promote (the #4 "FourFiveSeconds," #13 "Bitch Better Have My Money," and #78 "American Oxygen"), the approximate release date being pushed back month after month starting in May, and the often complete silence from team Rihanna. Finally, a year after the release of its MIA lead single, ANTI has reached the hands of an unsuspecting public.

The album is a notable departure from Rihanna's previous stylings (hence the "anti"), with the production being notably restrained, Rihanna's Caribbean accent freely flowing, and explicit, unrestrained drug references (notably to crack and of course, marijuana). There's no buoyant synths like in "We Found Love," slamming piano chords like "Diamonds," or even infectious hooks ala "Umbrella." The album is strikingly minimalist, and rarely steps out of its relaxed flow.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Album Review: Rachel Platten - Wildfire

"I miss my home / But there's a fire burning in my bones," horrifically cliche'd and creatively drained lyrics like this are just one of the horcruxes for an album plagued by lifeless and unidentifiable singer-songwriter pop.

Platten's songwriting style can be broken down into two parts: forced rhymes and disconnected imagery; the latter mystically leading people to the belief that Platten is somehow an original and half-decent lyricist. She shamelessly indulges in overdone lines and ideas: "I'm a lion, I'm a tiger / I'm a caged-bird, I'm on fire." Make no mistake, just because this 34-year-old writes her own songs doesn't mean she has a sliver of the maturity, wisdom and sensibility as any 16-year-old slam poet in the country.