By Bill Hall
A slightly strange young woman with a dress made out of meat has a singing voice so powerful and expressive that she should no longer need gimmicks like a raw meat dress to draw attention.
I speak of Lady Gaga, the entertainer who has previously gone a bit overboard with quirky costumes. She is now offering a major league voice that pleases most who hear her.
Show business teaches its practitioners that singing is not enough if you really want to make the public pay attention. Gaga has done that for several years using wild costumes including that infamous dress made of raw meat. (I wonder why she didn’t add catsup).
Now that we recognize she is pulling our leg, we finally focus on that astonishing voice that could blow most of her competitors off the stage.
Gaga (or her real name – Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta) – has arrived as a mature performer. At this year’s Super Bowl, she almost reinvented the Star Spangled Banner, a woman as much at the top of her game as an NFL tackler.
Life can be a kick in the pants when people my age notice that our grandchildren share some of the same music today. Best of all, music is using something called lyrics.
I had almost forgotten lyrics in recent years – poetic words that speak of mirth and sadness, not to mention love. Lyrics are the story – the magic message of song, the pliable, playful healing tales that run through our lives, our minds and our hearts.
Of course, music also has some function without lyrics. A song without words can still convey a feeling, a spirit, a sense of danger or triumph. But a song without words has its limitations.
Until recently, many songs had words but performers wouldn’t let you hear them. They were drowned out by husky instruments played with such brute force that the musicians themselves killed their own ability to hear clearly with a hearing loss.
The irony is that the words, on paper, were there to sing and be heard all along. But the lyrics, the poor little things, lacked the strength to coherently cross the divide between the singers up there and the audience down here.
More and more, the words are coming back. Young and old want more than instruments. They want the whole package.
Once upon a time, we had gifted performers who not only wrote songs but gave you a chance of understanding the meaning of what was being sung. We now have more professional singers who serve the mission of being heard.
I assume some of those earsplitting musicians probably do actually sing well. But how would you know? Even if they do sing sweetly, the words can’t survive the instruments.
Unfortunately, a performer doesn’t need to sing well. You can’t hear what is sung. Nobody can tell what that cacophonous mumbling up there is all about. Nobody goes home after the concert humming a tune. Who can hear the bloody tune? Their ears died years ago.
I like the new crowd of modern singers who deliver words everyone can understand. They share. We, the old and the new audiences, now enjoy more high quality performances with audible lyrics. More bands let the little lyrics live and be heard.
An album was released last year featuring a first- class orchestra that gave words a chance. Best of all, the two stars who teamed up and sang those words were Tony Bennett, age 88, and his singing partner, Lady Gaga, age 28.
I heard every glorious word, and I sing her praises now because she left the meat dress home.
Bill Hall is