Piling on Adele’s vocal issues

In the forums, people are blaming Adele for ignoring healthy technique and ruining her voice. Folks, this is so not cool. People are acting as if she has a vocal death wish.

Look, it’s not our business whether she was singing like a bad girl or whether the exhausting tour schedule got to her, or whether she has a hidden pathology. She had to stop because her voice stopped working. Seeing Adele in the past, she is likely to come out with the whole story at some point, but meanwhile lets not make all of these assumptions.

One thing that is really troublesome is the classical singers who think they know what pop styles are all about. Some of them say things like:

  • All boils down to technique.
  • Few popular singers are singing with a true bel canto fully supported technique.
  • Pop style is inherently harmful.
  • Belting and mixing over it is not for everyone , and maybe she is a soprano who doesn’t know how to use her chest voice.
  • There is no difference in technique between classical and pop, it’s just a matter of style.

Next time a classical singer cancels due to vocal issues (Jonas Kaufmann, perhaps?), how about we tell him that he needs to look at Tony Bennett’s technique, and just adjust the style? How about we have him emulate Aretha Franklin’s technique but just adapt to the classical style? Why is “classical technique” the technique that everyone is supposed to adapt to?

These Monday morning quarterbacks don’t know what they don’t know. There is an element of truth to “technique is technique” but it goes WAY DEEPER THAN “CLASSICAL”. Those who say that everything that is not classical is “just a style difference” are fish who can’t understand what water is. If “technique is technique” then classical is also “a difference of style”. Until the 20th century, you studied “voice”, not “classical voice”. The music of the Bel Canto period took advantage of a huge range of healthy vocalism, but you don’t get the technique by singing the rep, you get the rep by having the technique, whether inborn or trained.

People don’t understand that training for the classical sound is an adjusted technical training, not a complete gymnastics of the voice. In any style, INCLUDING CLASSICAL, you are working with a subset of possible vocal sounds. Too many of the classical singers who go all woofy and wobbly in their middle age are not practicing a balanced technical regimen. They are hoping that the way they have always sung after receiving training is enough to keep them in shape. Well, sometimes yes and sometimes no.

There are many, many other reasons why vocal injuries happen. Reflux, viruses, desire to please when one is exhausted, psychological issues of many kinds, hormonal fluctuations, bad environments, sound sytem issues including faulty monitoring, and many, many other reasons. Kicking a famous singer for their “poor technique” is uninformed and not fair.



10 Replies to “Piling on Adele’s vocal issues”

  1. There are indeed many reasons why vocal injuries happen. Nonetheless, bel canto requires by it’s nature a more balanced vocalism and thus is an inherently healthier approach. Adele sings in a vocally abusive manner, thus the problems she is experiencing are mostly likely a result of poor technique….end of story.

  2. Do you take any account of the fact that “classical technique” doesn’t use amplification, whereas “pop” routinely does?

    1. Yes. Judging pop sounds by a classical yardstick in terms of “what sounds healthy” is much trickier than it seems because the sound system is a part of the singing. In addition to amplifying the whole sound, it can also suppress or enhance, or add various harmonics to the sound that can make a listener very unsure of what came from the source.

  3. Nice article, and yes, you cannot compare classical and pop styles…but healthy production is healthy production, no matter the style.

    Difference is that most pop and MT singers don’t really study or know their voice as classical singers do, and do not rest the voice as they should. The amount of unsupported, and, to be honest, bad belt that exists in Pop and MT, requires rest. And they just don’t do it, no matter how many times they are warned by the people they intermittently work with.

    1. I agree with your “healthy production is healthy production”. The voice needs its proper exercise and health considerations, and these are fundamental, apart from style. I agree that these cautions are stressed a lot more in the training of classical singers. Then there is the whole issue of a pop singer knowing that their shelf life is short and the short-term financial incentive is huge.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *