Archive for Adele

Aretha vs. Adele: Rolling in the Deep

Posted in Female Vocalists, Songs with tags , , , , on October 8, 2014 by Ain't No Other Tan

Aretha Franklin, a.k.a. the Queen of Soul is back! Her new album, “Aretha Franklin Sings the Great Diva Classics”, will be out soon and the first single is her cover of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep”. Though I’m not quite sure why she’s covering it because I wouldn’t class it as a “diva classic”, especially when it is among songs by true legends such as Etta James, Chaka Khan, Gladys Knight, Barbra Streisand and Dinah Washington. I guess it was mainly for commercial purposes as most of the other songs are quite old or not well known. Anyway, since the audio was released it has garnered mixed reviews from a lot of people. But who did it better and who is better overall?

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Now, don’t get me wrong, I like Adele’s version (even though I find her to be boring and overrated) and of course being the songwriter she does it well and connects with it, but you cannot deny Aretha’s genius musicianship when it comes to recreating other people’s songs. The fact that Adele’s version is still so fresh in people’s minds and was such a big hit, may be part of people’s problem – it’s already been covered so many times, and usually not particularly well or to the same level. Most comments I’ve seen from people on the internet are along the lines of “Adele wins hands down” or that “I love Aretha, but this is Adele’s song” and that “Aretha is just screaming” or “there’s too much auto-tune”. So, which version is better? Can Aretha still sing? Is Adele better than her? Here I’m going to break down my personal thoughts on the two different versions and the two singers so we can better understand the differences between them.

1) Use of auto-tune

Unfortunately, for some reason, there is quite a bit of auto-tune on Aretha’s version, which could have been to give it a more contemporary feel or cleaner sound – to me, I don’t see that as a huge problem. Whether the auto-tune was used for pitch correction however, is another thing. Aretha is rarely that flat, sharp or out of tune, so I highly doubt whoever did the vocal production thought she was off so corrected it – it’s just that it wasn’t done particularly well, and is sadly, all too obvious in parts. I agree with many who say she doesn’t need auto-tune what with being one of the greatest voices of all time and that her using it could diminish her reputation as a vocalist as some would say she can’t sing like she used to… Well, duh. So in terms of the production/mixing of her version, no it wasn’t as brilliant as Adele’s.

2) Emotion/connection to the song

A completely subjective aspect of singing, which does not necessarily relate to how good a singer or a vocal is. Of course, Adele wrote the song so her connection to it would be greater, but not necessarily glaringly obvious since it’s down to opinion. Then you have Aretha, who may not have a connection to the song’s lyrics but being the Queen of Soul and coming from a strong gospel background where they learn to connect with and understand the meaning of songs that they perform, surely you can presume she sat down and studied it enough to want to take it on and not just did it for the sake of it?

3) Musicianship

Both these women are good musicians and both are great songwriters but Aretha’s iconic interpretations of other people’s songs have sometimes overshadowed even her own material as well as the originals themselves (see “Respect”, “Son of a Preacher Man”, “I Say a Little Prayer”, “Bridge Over Troubled Water”) and while I have not heard many of Adele’s live or studio covers, the ones I have heard (“Fool That I Am” and “I Just Wanna Make Love to You” by Etta James, “Make You Feel My Love” by Bob Dylan and “Lovesong” by The Cure) have been pleasant to listen to but not exactly overly different, exciting nor musically groundbreaking. Adele may be one of very few true artists and musicians out there today, but Aretha still stands as one of the best of all time.

4) Vocals

First off, it should obviously be noted that they have completely different voices and styles – Aretha is a dramatic mezzo with a naturally larger, more powerful and voluminous voice that can reach low notes with solidity and resonance and also hit higher notes with great power and ease. Adele is a typical lyric mezzo with a smaller voice and a more lachrymose quality to her singing compared to the metallic, sometimes unyielding sound of a dramatic voice. Thus, comparing them can be open to debate. However, check out the videos below of Aretha’s range, use of runs and basically show-stopping vocal moments:

Adele is a good singer, but is she a phenomenal singer? No, I don’t think so. Aretha is and always has been the superior vocalist when you look at skill and technique – when it comes to range (both low and high notes), use of intricate and complex melisma, vocal delivery and lyrical phrasing, power, resonance and overall technique (breath support/control, larynx position, vocal placement), Aretha is better and there is no debate about it. Even at 72, after decades of smoking, ageing and natural wear and tear, her voice is still rather impressive. The clarity and timbre of her voice may have declined and she may be more nasal these days (an easier placement to sing in to hit higher notes), but the rest of it is pretty much there and in tact. Adele on the other hand, is limited in range, technical skill and isn’t the most technically proficient singer – her arsenal is simply the sultry, rich and husky tone in her voice and her delivery, which some may prefer over the more “dramatic” sounding and powerhouse voice of Aretha and that’s fine but to say Aretha can no longer sing or that Adele is an “amazing” singer or better than Aretha? Blasphemous!

5) Live

Aretha recently performed the song live for the first time on Letterman, and I kept saying that we should not judge her based purely on the studio version until she does it live – where there would undoubtedly be NO auto-tune, reverb or lipping. Of course, as mentioned before, Aretha is about three times older than Adele and both have very different voices as well as their voices being in different states, so you can’t expect a fair comparison between the two. However, Aretha certainly does a good job considering her age and way out of prime voice. The beginning is slightly wobbly and not particularly great when she tries to scale between multiple octaves in just one phrase, and yes some of the belts are rather wheezy and nasal, but the power and resonance is still there. As she gets more into it halfway through though, her voice picks up and becomes a bit stronger and she starts to shine when she creatively mixes in “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” towards the end and pulls off a classic church-style Aretha performance with quite surprisingly nice and well-executed belts.

Here’s a “nasal version” by Adele who isn’t 100% well here, just to make it a fairer comparison… Hehe:

In conclusion, Aretha’s voice may not be as stable as Adele’s but we shouldn’t disregard Aretha just because she’s so much older now and not as amazing or as practically unparalleled as she once used to be 30-40 or even just 20 years ago. I’m sure Adele still has a lot more to give and she definitely shouldn’t be overlooked as one of today’s great young talent (though I don’t hold high expectations from her on her next album, both lyrically or musically) but the Queen of Soul’s voice and musicality and is not one to ever be underestimated and I for one am definitely interested in hearing how she has recreated other “diva classics” for her new album.

What do you think? Which version do you prefer and do you think Aretha has still got it in her or is Adele the new Queen of Soul?

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Take a listen to… Emily Jardine

Posted in Female Vocalists with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 2, 2013 by Ain't No Other Tan

This is a post I thought I’d do about my best friend, Emily, who has been singing pretty much all her life, that I think all of you reading this should a take a listen to. She’s classically-trained although for most of her professional singing career she has sung pop, rock and jazz songs with cover bands as well as with a gospel choir to improve her skills in harmonies and her coloratura abilities (fancy word for the technique of being able to execute complex riffs, runs, trills, wide leaps, etc. with ease).

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Voice type: Lyric soprano

Range: Approximately 4 octaves

Emily’s musical and vocal inspirations are varied across many genres – from pop and R&B, to rock and jazz and from gospel to opera – and include Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Céline Dion, Beverley Knight, Ella Fitzgerald, Erykah Badu, Adele, Leona Lewis, Emeli Sandé, Queen, The Killers, Spanish opera singer Montserrat Caballé, Yolanda Adams and various other gospel singers, among others. With a vocal range that spans over 4 octaves, Emz possesses the ability to belt into the lower sixth octave (a la Patti Labelle-ish) and use whistle register (though rarely does or needs to do either) but through her great technique manages to maintain the same gorgeous, warm tonal quality, good support and resonance throughout each register and her whole range, particularly her head voice. Check out the video below of her singing her first solo with the Reading Community Gospel Choir for the “Sister Act 2” version of “Joyful Joyful”, as originally performed by Lauryn Hill.

Also take a look at her profile on StarNow for more information and a small selection of other clips that show off her voice and versatility as well as give you a taste of her large repertoire, from singing “Ave Maria” to “Skyfall” and from “Sweet Home Alabama” to “I Have Nothing”.

Top Ten Favourite British Female Vocalists

Posted in Female Vocalists with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 5, 2013 by Ain't No Other Tan

After my list of twenty favourite female vocalists, I have now completed a list that focuses on British females. Again, those on the list were chosen and ranked based on my own opinion and looks at the ladies’ timbre, vocal ability, power, versatility and live performances.

1) Beverley Knight

Beverley-Knight

Type: Coloratura mezzo

She may be highly underrated but Beverley is an amazingly talented vocalist, whose style is rooted in gospel singing. She has an incredible range, great technique and is a very powerful belter, giving it her all in all her performances, and is very much like a younger, British version of Aretha Franklin. It’s such a shame she isn’t as widely recognised when she is far superior than the likes of Adele and Leona Lewis.

2) Annie Lennox

Annie-Lennox

Type: Coloratura contralto

Annie Lennox’s musicality is astounding; classically trained with an almost operatic-like singing voice (she’s a contralto but has a phenomenal range for one), she is not only a very skilled technical singer but also an emotive one. She has a very rich and warm tone to her voice but her high notes are also very full and clear, and she could definitely show some of the younger generation how it’s done!

3) Gabrielle

Gabrielle

Type: Low lyric mezzo

What I liked about Gabrielle’s voice, which reminded me a lot of Mary J Blige and Macy Gray rolled into one – like a British version of both of them, was the sweet and soothing yet raspy tone to it, and the cool edge she had to her sound and music.

4) Heather Small

Heather-Small

Type: Lyric contralto

Astonishingly deep and extremely rich, Heather Small’s powerful gospel-influnced voice is distinctive and full of soul. Her voice may not be to everyone’s taste but there’s something about her that makes me love the bombast way in which she sings.

5) Jessie J

Jessie-J

Type: Spinto soprano

Jessie J is a vocal beast and definitely one of the best young singers in the UK out there today (well, there aren’t many to compare with… I mean, look at Ellie Goulding, for example). Sometimes her vocal styling isn’t to everyone’s taste and her upper belts can be rather screechy but overall she has a great technique and there is a lot of power in her voice.

6) Adele

Adele

Type: Low lyric mezzo

A deep, rich and soulful voice, Adele certainly knows how to deliver her songs well with a lot of emotion (even if they are all very similar and monotonous). Although I don’t think she’s as phenomenal as a lot of people seem to believe her to be, she’s certainly great at what she does, so let’s see if in the long run her recovery from vocal surgery and after quitting smoking she further improves.

7) Leona Lewis

Leona-Lewis

Type: Light lyric soprano

A very sweet voice (almost too sweet perhaps, sometimes), Leona made a name for herself trying to impersonate her idols Whitney and Mariah on The X Factor. However, when she broke away and did her own thing and didn’t attempt iconic songs that were too big for her to handle, she really exceeded. She has a impressive range and the best parts of it are her pretty falsetto and head voice.

8) Jamelia

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Type: Lyric soprano

Another underrated singer and of the last proper British female R&B singers, Jamelia deserves more recognition than she gets, especially when it comes to the ballads she recorded, where her real talent for singing and her and gorgeous tone shone through.

9) Joss Stone

Joss-Stone

Type: Lyric mezzo

I could never tell whether the way Joss Stone sings is actually her real voice or just totally fake, which was slightly annoying, but either way she is good singer and an emotive one at that and one of the first pioneers of British blue-eyed soul singers since 2000 onwards.

10) Amy Winehouse

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Type: Contralto/low lyric mezzo? (debated)

The thing about Amy Winehouse’s voice is that you could never tell if she was drunk or sober or not at the time of singing, whether it was in the studio or live, yet at the same time she had a very compelling voice that told the story of her songs with a lot of emotion. She was far off from being a great vocalist, especially when she definitely wasn’t in the best of health due to alcohol, smoking, drugs and other illnesses, but there was certainly something about her that was interesting, particularly her rich, almost sickly sweet lower register and drawl.