Archive for Mariah Carey

Hot topic: Is Ariana Grande better than Mariah Carey?

Posted in Female Vocalists, Mariah Carey with tags , , , , , , , on August 27, 2014 by Ain't No Other Tan

Ever since Ariana Grande moved away from acting to launch a pop career, when she was posting videos of herself singing and performing covers of songs – namely ones by Mariah Carey – she has been constantly compared to the legendary diva. This peaked (for the first time) when she recorded a version of Carey’s song “Emotions” – one of the hardest pop songs of all time. Now, she did quite well actually – her range on the cover spanned 4 octaves, a few notes short of the original, and she managed to do her best to replicate (yes, “replicate”) the same riffs and runs Mariah did. Since then, Ariana has continued to perform Mariah songs – whom she says is her all-time favourite singer and called her “the best singer on the planet” – and her vocal styling is quite obviously very much influenced by her. So does that make her as good or better than Mariah? Many “Arianators” have called their idol “the next/new Mariah Carey”, say she is better than her as a singer (even when Mariah was at her peak in the 90s) and sang “Emotions” better than Mariah, not to mention all the insults towards Mariah’s age, deteriorated voice, image and perceived personality. Well, here I am going to debunk all those opinions (except the last ones) and will provide facts and evidence to back up my statement that no, Ariana is not – in any way, shape or form – a better singer than Mariah… and that not only includes then, but also now.

Mimi-Ariana

DISCLAIMER: This piece is mainly objective and I am using constructive criticism. I am not a “Lamb” – I like Mariah, think she is definitely one of the greatest singers of all time, but am not a hardcore fan. Nor am I a “hater” of Ariana – she seems nice, has talent and a good voice, I just do not particularly like it or her songs and absolutely detest those who ignorantly think she is anywhere near as good as Mariah, let alone better than her. This is also about a comparison between their voices and abilities, not their successes, music, personalities and not the conditions of their voices/health.

Here are some of the opinions I’ve heard or read by Ariana fans or Mariah haters that show that these people seem to be confused with actual facts based on musical knowledge and vocal pedagogy:

1) Ariana’s version of “Emotions” shows more range and skill than Mariah’s.

Really? Mariah’s range in the song spans from C3 to E7, Ariana’s spans from E3-E7. Mariah’s runs were created by her and perfectly executed – Ariana EMULATES these runs to the best of her ability, but they are NOT as well executed. Also, listen carefully to the two versions – Mariah accesses the whistle register with complete ease, while Ariana does not to the same extent.

It should also be noted that Mariah has performed the song countless times over the past 20+ years, while Ariana has NEVER performed it live at all. Could she do that and do it the same way or better? We’ll see… So far, she has yet to show she can emulate the recording and her use of the whistle register since then has been limited, and well, not particularly good. There is also speculation that studio miracles were responsible for “touching up” Ariana’s version… Of course this has not been proven and I’m unsure myself but there is that to think about until Ariana does perform it live – if she does.

2) Ariana has better control of her voice and better technique.

Now let’s break it down, shall we?

Lower register (below Middle C):

  • Mariah: Resonant, can sustain notes in this area and phrase well (and can go even lower).
  • Ariana: Weak, unsupported, breathy from Middle C and below.

Mid range (Middle C to E5):

  • Mariah: Has power, great resonance, good agility, well-supported.
  • Ariana: Limited power, limited resonance, some agility, sometimes too throaty.

Upper belting range (up to A5):

  • Mariah: Retains power, resonance, agility and fullness of timbre pretty much throughout.
  • Ariana: While she can hit notes here easier, this is only really due to her light, high voice and her nasal placement. But her voice thins out, becomes shrill and more nasal in this area.

Falsetto (breathy in tone and lacks vocal dynamics – more flute-like):

  • Mariah: Uses a lot – well supported, great agility, musical and creative (with runs).
  • Ariana: Uses a lot – good agility, but weak.

NB: Falsetto is not considered a real register and should therefore not be considered particularly impressive if one has strength in this area of the voice, since it is not hard to achieve from a technical aspect for practically anyone.

Head voice (fuller in tone – more bell-like, with a “ring” to it):

  • Mariah: Doesn’t use a lot but has great agility, power and resonance.
  • Ariana: Doesn’t use a lot and lacks power and resonance.

Whistle register:

I’ll get to this part in more depth later.

General points:

  • Mariah: Can manipulate her timbre (rich, husky, smooth, light, girly, etc.), good sense of pitch, great interpretative skills, seamless register switches, proficient technique.
  • Ariana: Little weight or colour to the voice (only has one sound – light, high, shrill), good sense of pitch but poor enunciation, limited musical creativity, nasal placement, though has a relatively healthy technique that does not push her voice beyond its limits.

3) Ariana could “sing circles” around Mariah today.

Firstly, check out this video below comparing both of them at around the same age when they both released the debut and second albums. Is it fair? Is Ariana as good as Mariah was back then? Short answer: no.

Now, while it’s true Mariah’s voice has declined over the years – this is due to nodules ageing the voice and overworking in the first ten years of her career more than anything to do with her technique (overall, it’s not perfect but as close as probably any singer could get) – could Ariana outsing her today? I believe it would be close (particularly in a live setting), BUT:

  • Mariah’s enunciation is still better
  • Mariah can still sustain notes with good vibrato
  • Mariah’s technique is still relatively good and healthy (some rasp in the belts, probably the main area of deterioration)
  • Mariah can still sing well in the whistle register
  • Mariah still has a better lower register
  • Mariah still has greater musicianship, creativity and more complex runs, as shown in her song “Heavenly” (see below)

4) Ariana can sing in the whistle register better.

This is a common one! It seems anyone who can hit high notes these days is immediately compared to Mariah (much to the Elusive Chanteuse’s despair), from Christina to Leona and now Ariana. However, unfortunately, none of them – not even Christina – is better than her at singing in the whistle register and the last two still seem to be in shadows of the moniker “the new/next Mariah”…

Now, Mariah’s use of the whistle register is beyond brilliant – her technique is practically perfect, she has amazing agility, is powerful and resonant and can sing words and phrase in the whistle register. However, there is sometimes a slight breathiness/raspiness due to nodules, though this has nothing to do with her technique or ability to hit them. Check out what she can do with ease and consistency in this register and why she is one of the best of all time at using it:

Ariana, on the other hand, prefers to use falsetto instead (note: it’s unhealthy to push falsetto that high) and has rarely shown she can sing well in the whistle register, though there has been some improvement. Unfortunately, overall she has limited control of it and the notes are usually strained or forced and weak. Check out the video of her below singing “high notes” – but very few of those that are live are actual whistle tones.

And lastly…

5) Mariah looks like she’s in pain when singing – Ariana doesn’t.

This is probably the most laughable comment. Facial expressions do not always correspond to how a person is singing. I also, long ago, initially thought that Mariah looked like she was straining – and this is more obvious in her later years – but as mentioned above, her technique is good and she rarely forces or strains any part of her voice, except again, sometimes in her later years. Yes, these days Mariah does struggle singing harder parts of her bigger songs live but Ariana’s flaws are probably just as prominent. So forget about looking at their faces when they sing and listen to them instead and to be fair, here’s two recent live performances by them for you to see and hear for yourselves:

Ariana: The title of this video “Ariana SLAYS Break Free” is misleading (sorry, couldn’t find another video), because slay she does not. Her voice sounds thin, she is not very audible above the backing track (even if you turn it up louder), her enunciation is still poor, she is breathy (and she’s not moving about that much, if anyone wants to make that excuse) and slightly pitchy.

Mariah: Completely live and undubbed (I think, anyway) – unfortunately a rarity for her these days – this is her singing a song that is relatively similar to Ariana’s in terms of difficulty (i.e. not very). Her enunciation is good, her voice has resonance, power, she’s singing with an open throat, quite good support and technique and her pitch is on point throughout most of it. But is she straining? Does she look pained to you?

So, again, who is the better singer then and more interestingly, who is better now? In studio, Mariah is still better and there is barely a trace of any “studio miracles” or auto-tune. Live, they are both patchy (and pitchy) sometimes and Mariah’s performances are usually lipped (for most of the song or the hardest part) or dubbed over for a better sound quality. But of course, we’re looking at how they sing – which includes the technicalities of singing and the command and control they have over the voices, range and registers – not the state of their voices. Even if the question was “who has the better voice?”, Mariah would still come out on top, for hers is more versatile, interesting and more powerful – even today.

Perhaps this post was informative to many of who you read it and maybe even changed the minds of some of you that were not sure or thought Ariana is better. Or maybe you agree with me? Anyway, thanks for reading it – feel free to leave your comments (I’m seriously interested on who comments and what is said, especially from “Arianators”) and I’ll leave you with this rather hilarious image:

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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”.

Vocal Spotlight: Dreamlover by Mariah Carey (20th anniversary)

Posted in Mariah Carey, Songs, Vocal Spotlight with tags , , , , , , on July 27, 2013 by Ain't No Other Tan

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20 years ago, one of Mariah Carey’s most popular and biggest hits, “Dreamlover” (her 7th No.1 single in the US) was released. It was the first single from her third album, “Music Box”, which went on to sell an estimated 30 million copies worldwide, making it her most successful album to date. “Dreamlover” – which is more “pop” than any of her other singles she had released before, with a bit of soft soul and R&B elements – showcases Mariah’s softer, more carefree and less showy vocals but at the same time still manages to showcase her wide range (over 3 octaves), unique tone and great technique.

The song may not be a huge vocal challenge for Mariah herself, but her soaring, sweeping voice rides along nicely with the instrumentation and is still enough to make you feel in awe of her talent. Mariah is known for adding in the use of her adept whistle register in practically every other song, but on this one she doesn’t overdo it and reins it in tastefully, only doing it at the beginning and along with the hook at the end of the chorus. She performed it many a time live during promotion of the single and album and has done since then, but rarely added in most of the whistles. I tried to find a good live version of the song to post but since some were dubbed over, I instead chose the David Morales Def Club Radio Edit Mix because I really like it. Mariah re-recorded another version of the song and made it more upbeat, funkier and more vocally aggressive for this dance remix, which although has no whistle notes, it does give her the chance to show off her brilliant use of melisma (without going overboard again). It’s a shame she never performed a live version of this song!

Mariah’s Ten Best Uptempo Songs

Posted in Female Vocalists, Mariah Carey, Songs with tags , , , on May 28, 2013 by Ain't No Other Tan

Mariah Carey is one of the biggest-selling female artists of all time as well as one of the world’s greatest, most influential and respected vocalists. She’s well-known for a lot of her ballads, such as “Vision of Love”, “Hero” and “We Belong Together” but here I’ve listed my top ten favourite uptempo songs by her that’s she’s released since her début in 1990.

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1) Emotions

Her vocal range in this song spans more than four octaves. Need I say more?

2) Make It Happen

One of the first time Mariah incorporates gospel music into a song as well as released one with inspirational and personal lyrics.

3) Fantasy

In the mid-1990s Mariah began experimenting more with R&B and hip-hop, which is what a lot of her more recent music is. “Fantasy” was one of the first of those genres and still remains a classic.

4) Someday

“Somebody” was the first uptempo single Mariah released and although she is reportedly not fond of the song herself, I am and really like that it delves into the new jack swing fusion genre.

5) All I Want For Christmas Is You

One of the most popular and original (non-standard or traditional) Christmas tunes of all time that in itself has become a standard shows the accomplishment of a true icon.

6) It’s Like That

“It’s Like That” was the first single from “The Emancipation of Mimi” and although this comeback song wasn’t as successful as “We Belong Together”, it put her back on the radio and chart and got her back on to the R&B and hip-hop scene again.

7) Fly Like A Bird

“Fly Like A Bird” is very much like a “Make It Happen” Part II, drawing in soul and gospel influences again with inspirational and personal lyrical content. The only main differences are the inclusion of bible verses and of course, the obligatory whistle notes.

8) Get Your Number

For “Get Your Number”, Mariah teamed up with Jermaine Dupri again for this club-banging R&B hit. I like the contrast between the song’s groove while she’s singing and the beat when he raps.

9) Honey

As cliché and as cheesy as it may sound, but Mariah’s vocals on this song are just like that of its title – thick, sweet, oozing and sexual.

10) Sweetheart

Lyrically and vocally, “Sweetheart” is very reminiscent of “Honey”, although the song is more Jermaine Dupri featuring Mariah than anything else. This was also the first of three times that the two of them have collaborated together.

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

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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

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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

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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

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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.