Monday, September 8, 2008

The Minnie Riperton effect

When you have a voice like this, people look for something to find fault with. Riperton was actually a fine singer, but I seldom see her name on those "best" lists, probably because people figure with a voice that good, she couldn't be a really excellent singer, too -- too much talent for one person (Whitney Houston gets this tag, too, which is annoying as hell to me). I think, in many ways, Aretha did her career and reputation a big favor by degrading her voice by smoking for all those years. She had a good voice, but didn't have the range of Riperton, which meant that people paid attention to her genius with the words, not her gift for making soaring noise. Riperton's voice was so brilliant it overwhelmed the quality of her singing, the bands she played with, the words she sang -- it overwhelmed everything. Nothing else in her songs matched that voice, or could match that voice, and so it all sounded ... not so good by comparison. Aretha, on the other hand, made a point of using her voice to complement the music when she chose, let her musicians add to the quality of the songs, instead of being mere accompanists. There's a campaign lesson in there somewhere, I think. Or maybe I'm just trying to be intellectual.