Saturday, 9 June 2012

Chou Style: The Voice

That's one of my favourite shots of Jay, taken during The Era concert in Taipei Arena. One day, I shall attend his concert in his hometown....hopefully the next one!

One very oft-heard comment from my friends when they find out how enamoured I am with Mr Chou is:
"But why?? He doesn't have a very good voice! There are so many other better singers."

Yes, yes....I've heard it all, read it all....the criticisms about his voice being not powerful enough, not having such a good range, yadayadayadayada....
So this begs the question:
If he's that bad a singer, how then did he become the King of Mandopop??

I believe my earlier post on Chou Style: The Essence of Jay provides some answers:

I wanted to include a point about his voice in that post but chose not to as I feel this is one aspect of Jay which you either love to death (like all his devoted fans) or detest (like all his critics).

Just remember that he did not start out as a singer; it was his songwriting which got him noticed.
Once again, all thanks to Yang Junrong who recognised the unique quality of his voice on Loveable Woman for what it is:
A soulful, brooding tenor which Jay is not afraid to sing in the higher ranges to an almost falsetto voice as he scats.

*Definition of scat singing from Wikipedia:
vocal improvisation with wordless vocables, nonsense syllables or without words at all. Scat singing gives singers the ability to sing improvised melodies and rhythms, to create the equivalent of an instrumental solo using their voice.

And Jay himself has likened his voice to being just another instrument in his songs.

Personally, the one word which comes to my mind when I listen to him is "heartfelt".

As the TIME journalist described it:
"when he sings that he is hurting or yearning or that he needs you so bad, you believe him. His delivery is Boyz II Men-smooth, and he hits those notes with a conviction born of having proved himself as a songwriter. Remember, he spent nearly two years in that studio watching and hearing what worked and what didn't, and the results of that dues paying are a confidence and a swagger that comes across on disc. On CDs like Jay, Fantasy Life and Eight Dimensions, you're listening to a man who believes in the musical choices he is making, who knows he is right. He is not singing what some manager in an office somewhere has told him will be a hit; he is singing his heart out, right now, for you." 

Some of my favourite parts of this type of singing are in the ending of I'm Not Worthy, the verse of Secret Signal, and in Loveable Woman....beautiful!

In line with the "voice as an instrument" description, it then comes as no surprise that Jay is also not afraid of singing in different ways to suit the song.
He can sing in turns nasally, throaty, childlike, Peking opera-style (in Huo Yuan Jia), Middle Eastern chant (in Enchanting Melody, where he actually goes through four different voices)...and to the horror of many of his fans for which this is a bad word, he even tried the dreaded!

I'm not sure if he's ever had vocal lessons (unlike some other singers who have studied voice) but to me, it seems like he just went into the studio and winged it!

At the end of the day, I think his success is primarily due to the wonderful music he composed but his distinctive voice definitely played a huge part.
No other Mandopop singer sounds like him. Period.

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