Is the Next Adele a Guy?

For at least another year or two, all of the U.K.’s up-and-coming sisters (and brothers) with voices will have their work cut out for them. As if it’s not already tough enough to rise above the pop pack, they’ll also have to contend with all of those inevitable Adele comparisons.

Is she (or he) the next Adele, the future of U.K.-bred pop talent hoping to achieve global domination?

Admit it: You wonder, too”every time a great new voice emerges from the British music scene. With the ruling pop diva of the last two years now between albums (perhaps she’ll be back in the autumn singing the theme for the next James Bond film, Skyfall) and expecting her first child with boyfriend Simon Konecki, the battle is on for the keys to the kingdom that the princess hasn’t even yet vacated.

If you’ve got a great voice and/or a slightly unconventional pop sound and/or look, if you’re more substance than style, to the front of the line you go. It’s the latest greatest aspiration in pop since the days when it was all about being the next Amy Winehouse, whether you sounded anything like her or not. Challenging Adele might be as scary a proposition as walking in the late Winehouse’s scuffed shoes might have been (terrifying for reasons that had everything and nothing to do with Winehouse’s talent), but at least fans are in for some great music. Recently, I heard a Rumer (the off-the-beaten-pop-path singer behind 2010’s Seasons of My Soul and this year’s Boys Don’t Cry), and my first thought was “Is this it?”

Rumer isn’t the only talented singer who’s making me listen and wonder. Here are three others:

Emeli Sandé (Current hits: My Kind of Love and Next to Me) In June, a friend sent me the video for Sandé’s recent single, Next to Me, on Facebook, with a short and sweet message: love… After watching the clip, my first impression was Sara Bareilles with a really dated look. White on black is so mid-˜90s! My second impression: How is it that everybody all over the world doesn’t already know her name (which, incidentally, is actually Adele Emeli Sandé)?  (more…)

Susan Boyle: Great Singer, Unpleasant Neighbor?

Susan Boyle seems like a sweet woman. Preternaturally talented with an agreeable disposition, Boyle is one of the more pleasant creations of the reality television machine. But if reports from the UK this week are to be believed, living next to the “I Dreamed A Dream” singer sounds like a nightmare.

Boyle’s neighbors have filed a noise complaint with local authorities, stating that living next to the multi-platinum singer is “unbearable.” Allegedly, Boyle has a penchant for singing at all hours of the day, belting out some of her signature tracks like “Unchained Melody” and “I Dreamed A Dream” over and over, for hours on end.

“It is so loud, you can’t hear the telly,” says Teresa Miller in The Sun. Miller is one of the neighbors that shares a wall with Boyle’s flat and who, most likely, possesses an extremely pronounced English accent. “You wouldn’t get Bono from U2 standing in his house singing his songs at the top of his voice. Maybe she’s practising for her next track or the next time she’s going to see Simon Cowell, but it’s unbelievable.”

Boyle and her neighbors have apparently had a long standing row, with Boyle becoming more of nuisance since achieving her fame in 2009. Friends of Boyle have come to the singer’s defense, saying that it is Miller and the neighbors that are really the troublemakers. “They are the ones causing all the trouble,” one anonymous source told the The Daily Mail. “Susan doesn’t even do her practice in that house. She has her piano in what she calls her posh house on the other side of town and does all her practice there. So it is very unlikely she would disturb these neighbours with her singing.” Neighborly drama and posh houses? How droll.

Sound and Vision: Why Judging a TV Star Search Is More Valuable Than Winning One

The votes were counted and Phillip Phillips was crowned the 11th American Idol on May 23. So what’s next?

If this is going to be just another case of recent history repeating, a first blush of modest success (his Idol winner’s single “Home” entered Billboard’s Hot 100 at No. 10, with 278,000 downloads), maybe even a platinum post-Idol album (like his predecessor, Scotty McCreery), then… nothing much. Unlike American Idol‘s early seasons, which made durable stars out of Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood, taking the grand prize no longer comes with guaranteed gold or platinum (if only for one album).

Even Adam Lambert, Idol‘s eighth runner-up and the show’s lone international star launch in the past several seasons, is in the throes of a sophomore slump. Although Trespassing, his second studio album, released on May 15, entered Billboard’s Top 200 album chart at No. 1, it did so with only 77,000 copies sold its first week. That’s 120,000 less than his 2009 debut, For Your Entertainment, and the lowest one-week total for a No. 1 album since last August, when Adele’s 21 sold 76,000 copies in its 12th non-consecutive week at No. 1. (more…)

Vocal Points: A Few Words Of Advice

Over the course of writing this column, I’ve come across some pretty sensational vocalists, and I had the chance to pick many of their brains about the most important aspects of being a professional singer. I’ve also observed many of the biggest voices in music, and the way that their voices have developed and changed over time. Getting up and singing for an audience, whether you’re a professional singer or just someone who loves to sing, is not easy. So, here is a list of some of the advice I’ve encountered while writing Vocal Points that may help the aspiring singers out there:

  1. Everyone can sing. This is probably the most important piece of advice I’ve encountered because so often we feel that only certain people are blessed with a beautiful voice. As vocal therapist Mark Baxter said in his OurStage interview, “Singing came before speech. Humans are instinctively wired to send and receive melodic passages of emotional statements.” So if you love to sing, don’t let anyone else stand in your way.
  2. Nobody is perfect. Its important to remember that our favorite vocalists got to be so good because of hard work and practice. As Kevin Devine explained to me, “I think I’ve embraced my limitations as a singer and tried to re-frame them as strengths. “
  3. (more…)

Vocal Points: A Voice That Trumps All Else

Susan Boyle. Discovered on Britain’s Got Talent, she shocked the judges with her incredible voice and became a worldwide sensation just weeks after the show’s airing. And she continues to build her success, with another album which was released November 1st.  What wows fans about Boyle is the fact that she is a simple, middle-aged woman who came out of nowhere. She is not the most beautiful nor is she thin, she does not put on a crazy pop show with insane choreography. She offers fans one thing, her voice, and that voice continues to be enough.

Not many stories like Boyle’s exist. Sure, there are variations between singers. Some have a better stage presence than others, some are more glamorous. But we rarely get the chance to see performers raw, uncut, and without all the other stuff that makes them stars. Many times, we don’t want to see our favorite singers without all the extras (full band, cool clothes and dramatic effects). We want all of it.  After all, that’s what we’re paying the big bucks for. And yet, when Susan Boyle sings, we don’t care about any of the other details.

Adele is similar to Boyle in that she is a simple performer. Without a crazy backdrop or fancy moves, Adele wows audiences with her voice (that is, when she’s not canceling tours because of recurrent health problems). It truly seems that her simplicity is what makes her fans so crazy about her. Despite not looking like your stereotypical pop star, her killer voice shines through.


Sound And Vision: It's the Same Old Song for Thespians Who Sing — and Chances Are It's Not a Hit!

Though Susan Boyle helped make music’s mainstream safer for the mature crowd, her chart-life-begins-at-nearly fifty success story remains a rarity. But perhaps in the case of Jeff Bridges, who won an Oscar for playing an alcoholic country singer in Crazy Heart, a music star could have been born at the ripe old age of 61. Alas, it was not to be. His debut album, Jeff Bridges, entered Billboard’s Top 200 album chart at No. 25 the week after its August 16 release and then tumbled to No. 58.

Thankfully, Bridges is in no danger of losing his day job.

These are hard times for actors and actresses moonlighting as recording artists. Back in the ’80s, the biggest movie stars usually were guaranteed at least one big pop hit if they bothered to try. Eddie Murphy, Bruce Willis, Don Johnson and Patrick Swayze all did, and each managed one trip to the Top 10 on Billboard’s Hot 100. But that was then. By the ’90s, mega-stars like Johnny Depp, Keanu Reeves and Russell Crowe were forming rock bands that went nowhere on the charts.

More recently, Jared Leto’s 30 Seconds to Mars has approached a level of heat commensurate with that of his acting career (which, considering his overall filmography, isn’t as impressive as it might sound), but there hasn’t been a movie star who’s been able to consistently score on the music charts since Jennifer Lopez made her seamless transition to pop diva in 1999 with the No. 1 hit “If You Had My Love.”

A handful of TV stars have done slightly better. Just in time for the September 18 Emmys, House star Hugh Laurie, an Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series nominee, sees his debut album, Let Them Talk (produced by Joe Henry, Madonna’s talented brother-in-law, and released in the U.S. on September 6, months after its successful spring launch in Europe), enter the Billboard Top 200 album chart at No. 16. Meanwhile, the single “Police Dog Blues” debuts at No. 58 on the Hot 100 — respectable, if not spectacular. But does his chart career have long-term potential? At first, Hilary Duff‘s seemed to, but her music career stalled nearly a half-decade ago (her one-time nemesis Lindsay Lohan‘s never really took off), and Miley Cyrus, who had to make her initial cross-over to pop as her small-screen alter-ego Hannah Montana, is in flux after tanking last year with Can’t Be Tamed.