Audio Tuning significantly devalues artists with incredible voices. It takes away from their authenticity as singers. Hip-hop/rap performers like Kendrick Lamar or Logic incorporate audio tuning and background effects because their identity doesn’t revolve around belting out tunes. They spin off rhymes faster than a train can travel and thus use additional techno beats to spice rhythms up. For artists capable of bringing exuberant vocal power like Chris Blue, however, audio tuning masks how powerful and wonderful their voices can be.
For those unfamiliar with Blue, he is the recent champion of NBC’s “The Voice.” He is an R&B/soul singer with roots in the church and insanely good pop sounds too. Not only did he win for his amazing presence as an artist, but his voice is phenomenal. Rarely in my life will I ever award “phenomenal” to a singer. Someone has to truly inspire me and blow me away to earn that word from me. Yet, through his renditions of Rihanna’s “Love on the Brain” and Kirk Franklin’s “Take Me to the King”, he did. His intangible qualities and stage presence blew me away with soulful notes slathered in authenticity.
In the finale, his original “Money on You” definitely dabbled with the techno side of things, only it wasn’t over the top. It blended various computerized sounds with real background singers and it displayed a steady increment of his vocal range. It possessed authenticity. Unfortunately I cannot feel the same love for “Blue Blood Blues”. While this first release since winning the show contains gorgeous moments with gospelly feels, the tech takes away from Blue’s genuine talent. In fact, with the exception of the middle 30 seconds, his vocals take a backseat to a warped microphone setting and an awkward accumulation of real and computerized music.
Violins and a semi-haunting chime begin the piece as his own words are echoing behind him. I enjoy the added elements of tambourines and increased background volume as his voice slowly develops into the first notes of his mid-upper register. However, my ears still could not get past the fact that he is pouring in powerful emotions of sorrow and regret while singing into a mic that tweaks his voice to the point where it seems ingenuine. The typical recording setting would have suited this song better. Additionally, it would be a lot more powerful if he would have started the first few lines of the opening verse acapella and then added in musical components. Doing so would have set the stage for a powerful story that emerges in the middle of the single.
Praises and grade boosting points to Blue for the middle section of this song. As his incredible range exposes the millions of goose bumps on my body, the drums and volume in the background explode with him. Similar to the energy he displayed in “Take Me to the King”, he draws from a source of blazing passion and removes all doubt as to why he is the voice. Grant it, he would have been better off without the microphone altering his voice, but nevertheless he gave all of himself in the middle. Blue used every aspect of his belt and brought out his inner Prince with a cascading falsetto.
From this point the song still has plenty of spunk left in the background noise. A faint chorus sings behind him as the cymbals clash to the final exiting of the violins. Ultimately though, Blue’s voice never goes anywhere near where it did in the middle again. Had he maneuvered the notes around to where he could have ended powerfully, the song could have taken a much stronger position. It would have left listeners feeling the fervor and pain that he was expressing in the lyrics “I made a choice/ I played the fool”. Instead though, he started at a 2, took it to a 10 and then went back down to a 2-3.
Blue’s “Blue Blood Blues” (how’s that for alliteration?) lacked the authenticity of what I hoped he would have. I love that he gave all of his voice and vigor to this track. Furthermore, I enjoy that he chose a style that we have not heard from him yet. I just wish he could have focused more on the minor details that usually help a song go from a 6/10 to a 10/10. This single makes use of inauthentic musical elements with incredibly truthful emotions. Additionally, Blue did not quite balance out the special moments that he creates with his voice.
I get so hyped when he goes off in the middle portion and am then left hanging for the remaining minute and a half. I may not be fully content with everything in his first release, but I am pleased that he is getting music out and fulfilling his promises to produce original music. Nothing on the single felt familiar or below average but stylistically, I am not fully seeing eye-to-eye with Blue.
R&B/soul I Republic Records