I’m not a lover of X Factor, BGT or anything similar – in fact I go out of my way to avoid them. On occasions I’ve been in a room where these programmes have been on and noticed a strange phenomenon: the young female singers who tend to thrive, Susan Boyle excepted, seem no longer to rely on the purity of their own voices but adopt the habit of making strange croaky noises at regular intervals. It’s not an attractive trait and doesn’t help their cause any, but the habit seems endlessly popular among judges.
Why do they do it? Presumably on the mistaken apprehension that it simulates genuine emotion in the performance, as if the singer were actually struggling to avoid breaking down in tears. Since the performers will have rehearsed the numbers endlessly and often sound like they have been wound up and operate by clockwork, nobody could possibly be fooled by this conceit, but still they do it.
Sadly, silly vocal inflections afflict even the best. Adele has a wonderfully rich, powerful voice but does tend to make these tics on occasion. I’ll let her off though, since some of her songs are very personal and do evoke very genuine emotion, notably the glorious Someone Like You, which, softy that I am, does bring a tear to my eye – but through the lyric, music and majesty of her voice, nothing more!
So a simple request for promising singers everywhere: don’t do stupid things with your voice or turn on the waterworks for effect, just let the song speak for itself.