So what’s up with Mariah Carey’s voice? Was she feeling the emotions welling up from Michael Jackson’s death during her slightly off performance yesterday, as she claimed—or is her voice just shot from Choire Sicha at The Awl thinks it might be the latter, based on an interview he conducted with her a few years back where they discussed just how her voice made its octave-leaping sounds. “I do really have different vocal cords,” she told Sicha at the time. “It’s because they’re not––I don’t use my voice the way different people use their vocal cords. A lot of people couldn’t sing through the nodules the way I do; I’ve learned to sing through my vocal cords.” How did she do this? Through the power of her mind! Sicha explains, and then theorizes:
So she would regularly go to Dr. Scott Kessler and together they would look at pictures of her vocal folds. To produce her trademark high-pitch sounds, she sings through her nodules, or at least, conceives of singing through them; sites of damage created most likely by, well, creating those high-pitch sounds.
Over the years, it’s pretty obvious that there have been changes to Carey’s voice. (Also she seems like a much happier person, and one that is making better music!) And what remains is a pretty luscious, hissy thing. But you also get the sense that everything is so completely jury-rigged between her mind and her throat. And it looks to me, watching both yesterday’s and other recent performance, that while she is singing, she’s seriously thinking through what will “fail” in the right way, to produce a stop, or allow her to pull off melisma, or jump about between voices, producing a pleasing effect—and what might possibly fail in a bad way, ending in disaster. I think that while she is singing, she is in a bit of panic about manufacturing sound.
Hmm. Hmm! Well, “panic” certainly did come into play yesterday somehow. And I can see the whole idea of the “failing” that worked in the old days not playing the correct sorts of tricks now–Carey, after all, has been singing professionally for some 19 years now, as the below clip of collected performances would indicate:
Honestly I kind of like her voice best when it isn’t trying so hard. Like on “I’ll Be Lovin’ You Long Time,” which was pretty straightforwardly awesome, possibly in part because it was free of unnecessary high-C leaps:
That chorus is a thing of beauty, too.
Is Mariah Carey’s Voice Just Done For? [The Awl]