Archive for Jennifer Hudson

Who sang “And I Am Telling You…” the best?

Posted in Female Vocalists, Songs, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on May 4, 2017 by Ain't No Other Tan

Since its debut production in 1981, Dreamgirls has gone on to become one of the most iconic musicals of all time since due to its progressive story about racial division and the music industry of the time, dynamic characters based on real life Motown and soul singers of the eras and of course, its incredible soundtrack. “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” is the pivotal song that is considered one of the most vocally demanding songs from a musical – in fact, in contemporary music. The grit, range, power, resonance, breath control, stamina and agility as well as emotion to inject into the song and act it out are an extremely rare combination of requirements that a singer must meet in order to pull it off successfully…

And many have tried. Those who play Effie White, needless to say, have to have a BIG voice. A dramatic soprano or mezzo or spinto soprano are probably the voice types best suited to the song due to its intensity, climactic middle and ending and elongated sustained belted notes in the fifth octave at full volume. And let’s not forget this comes after an hour of singing already (for those who performed in the actual musical), with enough voice left to keep going for another hour. However, some with smaller voices have also attempted the difficult challenge, though unless they have a decent enough technique to at least support and hold the big notes easily, they may find it pretty suicidal for their vocal cords.

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Below is a rundown of some of the most prominent performances of the song and my ratings on their vocals to see who is the Queen of all Effie Whites and this song.

Jennifer Holliday (1981)

The original Effie White, Jennifer is a veteran of theatrical performances and she really always gives it her all when she sings this song – even in her later years. However, her voice is very marmite – it’s full of grit and she loves to grunt and growl, which makes her timbre sound ugly and even demonic at times when she constantly switches. So you either love the energy she puts into it or you are cringing badly at how rough she sounds – either way, it’s a marvel she can still pull it off in the same way as she did way back then.

Rating: 2.5/5

Lillias White (1982)

Effie 2.0, Lillias performed in the first US tour of the production. Lillias has a slightly more pleasant voice than Jennifer but her voice is quite light and a bit nasal, which if you didn’t know who she was you’d probably think she was Fantasia Barino. Vocally though, she was quite decent.

Rating: 3/5

Gladys Knight (1985)

Gladys certainly has a beautifully rich, smooth and soulful voice, but has never been considered a powerhouse vocalist so it was quite a surprise to know she had taken on this song. However, ever the consummate musician, she is able to cleverly mould the song to fit her voice for a restrained vocal delivery that retains the emotion and shows that she is in fact a versatile and talented singer.

Rating: 3.5/5

Whitney Houston (1994)

Whitney performed this as part of a medley so unfortunately we never got to hear her full version of the song. She cuts parts of it out – coincidentally the higher parts – but does extremely well in showing off her best assets, which are breath control to sustain the big mid-belts, soulful conviction and maintaining her full and rich tonal quality throughout, without sounding thin, shrill, growly or husky in parts, unlike many of the other singers who’ve sung this. It would have been great to hear her sing this when she a bit younger and her voice wasn’t as tired, as she does chop her phrases up a bit during the verses. On top of that, Whitney displayed her musical creativity with the arrangement and her tasteful addition of runs, which didn’t detract from the song or melody.

Rating: 4/5

Jennifer Hudson (2006)

Jennifer Hudson’s performance is probably considered the gold standard version of this song due to its immense popularity. She always puts 100% into singing it and has sometimes shown that the song is too hard even for her live, usually struggling to hit the high notes on pitch. However, over the years she’s definitely improved and what she nails the best is the sustained notes, holding them incredible ease. Only her shrillness on the top notes at times and enunciation are what often holds her back, though this may simply be due to her southern twang.

Later, both Jennifers performed this as a duet and did really well – of course Holliday still brought her strange facial expressions, grunts and overused “ha” to the table while Hudson didn’t sound great in the upper range but it definitely started off nice and smoothly and they vibed off each other well for a duet that surprisngly, didn’t result in them trying to out-scream one another.

Rating: 4.5/5

Amber Riley (2009 and 2016-2017)

Amber has a much lighter voice than most other women who have done this song, but she a good enough technique to hold her own. She sounds a bit nasal on the top notes but does add a bit of grit when needed, which is a contrast to her normal smoother vocal delivery. Overall, not the biggest fan of her rendition only because she sounds so youthful and girly, but at least she doesn’t sing outside of her ability or force her voice to sound different.

Rating: 3.5/5

Jessica Sanchez (2012)

Jessica gave quite a subdued version of this song on American Idol (particularly at the beginning and end of it). However, she did add quite a few growls when she has such a naturally light voice which didn’t sound too healthy. She later performed it with Jennifer Holliday, which basically resulted in Jessica awkwardly trying to mimic Jennifer’s mannerisms (see below).

Rating: 2/5

Tituss Burgess (2013)

The fact that this man manages to sing this song better than a lot of ladies says it all really. Thanks to his high tenor voice he is able to reach for the higher notes with ease and really gets into the performance as well. Of course, to some his upper range may be very impressive, though to others it might be a bit off-putting as it is not common to hear a male attempting to belt that high, often sounding a bit pushed and unnatural.

Rating: 4/5

Sam Bailey and Nicole Scherzinger (2013)

Unfortunately this rendition was quite jarred. Nicole really stole the limelight from Sam here and outsang her – and Sam had the biggest voice on the show that year. She didn’t do too badly though, but all emotion was lost in what was more like a battle to be heard than a proper duet. Nicole has some very surprisingly impressive chops on her though and really went for those high notes – just at the expense of feeling the song.

Rating: 3/5 (Sam) and 3.5/5 (Nicole)

Melanie Amaro (2014)

Although Melanie was paraded about on the first season of the US X Factor as a Whitney/Mariah wannabe, she really had a great voice to pull of songs only others on the show could dream of. She slayed with this performance in the comfort of her own home, showing why she was won the talent contest in the first place – great phrasing and precision.

Rating: 4.5/5

Cynthia Erivo (2015)

Cynthia is respected musical actress who has performed in The Color Purple but could most definitely get herself a part in Dreamgirls should she so want it, I’m sure. She gave a great rendition of this song in 2015 with very clear and well executed vocals.

Rating: 4/5

Marisha Wallace (2016-2017)

Probably the best of them all that I’ve heard perform this song, Marisha has pretty much everything that is required as mentioned above to do this song justice – her nuances and inflections as well as tonal and dynamic changes throughout the song were on point without a technical flaw or pitch issue in sight (as it were).

Rating: 5/5

Sarah Ikumu (2017)

For a 15 year old girl, this rendition is certainly impressive. Simon correctly says it’s one of the biggest songs in the world, but her confidence is what really makes this performance. Her overall vocal shows great potential – she has good breath control – but she is often off pitch and strained the higher notes, something that for a young voice can be damaging. Also, it sounds like she’s thickening her voice to sound deeper and heavier than normal.

Rating: 2.5/5

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WINNER: Beating off stiff competition from Jennifer Hudson and the legendary Whitney Houston, Marisha Wallace IS the Queen of Effies!

So those are some of the ladies who have put their vocal abilities to the test with this song – some doing very well, others not so much. But there are definitely others I’d love to hear attempt this song as I have faith they’d do great renditions:

Patti Labelle – a true dramatic soprano of pop music with some of the most extraordinary lungs of all time. I have absolutely no doubt Patti would be able to smash this song out of the park – even now – and I’m surprised she’s never performed it before.

Anika Noni Rose – she played Lorrell Robinson in the film version of Dreamgirls and has proved that she is a very capable vocalist with a rich, warm voice and great range and technique. It’d be very interesting to hear her tackle the song.

Beverley Knight – Bev is one hell of a vocalist who could undoubtedly take this song and do it more than justice. I can imagine her leaping up and down the song’s range with complete ease and adding carefully thought out and beautiful runs to it, as well as tasteful growls.

Beyoncé – She may not quite have the breath control to sing the sustained notes or the upper belting register to hit the higher notes but Bey has a very proficient technique and is a clever enough singer to be able to make this song her own, so can I imagine she’d give it her best shot.

Jessie J – Ok, not a huge fan of Jessie’s style and I don’t have faith she’d give a great rendition to be honest, but it would definitely be intriguing to hear her bring her own sound to this.

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Top Twenty Favourite Female Vocalists (1 to 10)

Posted in Female Vocalists with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 26, 2013 by Ain't No Other Tan

This list is part one of two of my top twenty favourite female vocalists but does not include British females as I will make a separate list of those another time. The list is based mainly on personal taste and them as singers, rather than as artists (for example, Christina would be higher as an artist) but I do draw on some truths and facts about each singer as well to tell you why I think they rank higher or lower than others – and these opinions and facts are based on tone/timbre, vocal ability, versatility and live performances (as for many singers, they may have a great recording voice, but totally suck live). For each singer I have also provided a video of their best (or one of their best) live performances.

1) Whitney Houston

Whitney-Houston

Type: Spinto soprano (pre-1993), lyric mezzo? (post-1993)

A vocal beast, period. A mixture of things made Whitney stand out: her luxurious tone which consistent throughout her voice, her great range, her strong mid-range belts and practically unparalleled control, especially when using vibrato. But above all, it was how she delivered songs, particularly live, with so much emotion and added riffs, runs and inflections only when needed, and wherever she did so, still sounded magnificent and executed them great precision, perfect pitch and brilliant phrasing. Even though from the late 1990s onwards, her voice had begun to deteriorate, Whitney’s delivery was still on point (most of the time anyway).

Unfortunately, Whitney wasn’t as perfect as she may have seemed; her belting may have sounded great, but were done so through poor technique – which aided in her vocal decline, amongst other things.

2) Aretha Franklin

Aretha-Franklin

Type: Dramatic mezzo

Whitney’s godmother, Aretha was just as amazing in almost every way and it was from singing in church and Aretha (and her mother Cissy), where Whitney learnt her skills. And Aretha’s skills are pretty much the same as the ones I have listed for Whitney, but her range is wider, she could belt higher and her technique was better; it’s just Whitney’s timbre that I prefer over Aretha’s that pushes her into second place.

3) Mariah Carey

Mariah-Carey

Type: Lyric coloratura soprano

Out of all twenty singers, Mariah is probably the best when it comes to technical ability (perhaps only bettered in some parts by Céline), having almost no flaws whatsoever, except for some pitch issues in live performances and scratchier upper belts (in recent years anyway). Many singers very rarely reach the same peak as their own idol, but like hers, Minnie Ripperton, Mariah has earned her place alongside her as a true master of the whistle register, even if she does overuse far too much. What is astounding about Mariah is is the way she manipulates her timbre in different registers – deep and husky in the lower register (which is actually more like her natural voice), full and powerful in the middle, and light and airy in the upper registers.

4) Christina Aguilera

Christina-Aguilera

Type: (Light) lyric mezzo

First of all, let’s get Christina’s negatives out of the way – she employs poor techniques to reach many of her higher belts that are beyond her comfortable range and limits, which results in a scratchy and shouty sound and produces pitch issues, and sometimes she does go overboard on the riffs and runs, but when she keeps it clean, straight and reined in and within her comfort zone, she reigns supreme and is definitely more of an emotive singer than a technical one.

Of course, her main strengths are: her unique and gorgeous timbre (which she can also manipulate to sound different in different registers like Mariah) – based on tonal quality alone, this is the main reason why she’s known as ‘the voice of this generation’; great vocal power and range – and although she has proven to be able to hit whistle notes she unfortunately rarely does; and she is extremely versatile, having covered or touched upon countless different genres (although that’s more about her artistry). Also, while like some singers (such as Charice), Christina grew up listening to and emulating her idols, she still managed to develop her own sound and style of singing that the likes of Charice haven’t done.

5) Donna Summer

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Type: Lyric mezzo

The Queen of Disco, Donna Summer was a underrated vocalist but those who were fans of her music would know she had an incredible voice. A great, soulful tone which could sound sultry and sexy and some of her songs and smooth and warm on others, she had excellent technique too that helped keep her voice in good shape even in her later years.

6) Kelly Clarkson

Kelly-Clarkson

Type: Full lyric soprano?

Probably one of the best technical singers out there right now and excels in what the type of music she does best – soulful, rocky and country-tinged pop, a sound which reminds me a lot of Anastacia. Except Kelly has a far more pleasant and less gravelly tone.

7) Toni Braxton

Toni-Braxton

Type: (Low) lyric mezzo

Toni Braxton is one of my favourite traditional R&B divas from the 90s; I love her deep, rich tone, which is hella sexy, heavenly and soulful. Another singer who I am saddened by the fact that she hasn’t made any new music in such a long time.

9) Nicole Scherzinger

Nicole-Scherzinger

Type: Full lyric soprano

Why people call Nicole ‘Shitsinger’ is beyond me when this lady has a very solid voice with great technique – probably because she has had classical training as an opera singer with incredible power, range and control. To me, she sounds better singing opera, when her slight nasal tone she normally has is absent, as she is unfortunately underrated as a vocalist in the pop industry.

9) Beyoncé

Beyonce-Knowles

Type: Coloratura mezzo

Along with Kelly and Nicole, Beyoncé is also one of the best technical singers out there today with really good control over and knowledge of her own voice, and if it weren’t for Christina’s greater power, versatility and nicer tone, Bey would probably beat her to the pole position as ‘the voice of this generation’. However the best parts of her voice are her warm and smooth lower register and clear and bright head voice. Out of all them though, I am personally not a huge fan of her and the hype that surrounds her, but acknowledge her entertainment value at least.

10) Jennifer Hudson

Jennifer-Hudson

Type: Spinto soprano?

J-Hud’s power is unmatched by nearly all the ladies in this list, except Patti Labelle, and like Patti is able to belt ridiculously high, even though some notes can sometimes sound shouty or screechy. She has a singing style that is deeply rooted in gospel – and is the genre she excels in the best, which means she sings with an immense amount of soul , and a very strong mid-range that today is probably the closest to that of Whitney Houston in her prime. It’s just a shame she is so highly underrated.