Pop music is fun and everything, but you know sometimes it really upsets me. It upsets me because sometimes it’s like a like a big ugly pile of landfill, a steaming, stinking mass of wastage.
I’ve seen it happen over and over again in the pop genre — fantastic voices slaughtered in an expensive studio, buried by a producer who is probably getting paid way too much to make what is already a fierce talent fall flat like a sugarless bubblegum bubble.
Recently, I saw a clip of one of pop’s current darling, Demi Lovato, singing the American national anthem ahead of Game 4 of Major League Baseball’s World Series.
Amazing, right? Absolutely nails it, every note, not too much warbling, just beautifully executed. When I hear raw vocals like that, I’m not embarrassed to admit it makes me tear up a little.
A little while ago, I also saw Lovato crush this cover of Hozier’s Take Me To Church, ably assisted by two of the sweetest backing singers you’ll ever hear or see.
Again, she slays it. In fact I’d probably pick this version over the original for its raw power. It gets better and better as she rolls through the song.
I hadn’t heard much more of Lovato, to be honest. I knew she’d been around for a bit, already danced with the devil of depression, drugs, violence and then some, become a Christian, cleaned up and, recently, released her fifth album — some milestone for a girl who is just 23.
That album, Confident, has been getting a lot of press, so I though I’d give it a go. Despite the evidence of the two clips above, I can’t say I was at all impressed. Lovato’s clearly brilliant voice is lost in a sea of overly produced sounds, and overly produced in itself to within an inch of its life.
There are three tracks on the 11-track long player that offer a small hint of her vocal ability — For You, Stone Cold and Father — but the rest of it I could happily never hear again. Ever.
We see this too often these days, and it’s an insult to the artist and those of us that love music in its most naked and vulnerable form — stripped back, raw and powerful. No amount of production can improve that if it’s already there, and in Lovato’s case, it most certainly is. She could sing the phonebook and you’d feel something deep down inside you.
So please, producers out there, work with what you’ve got. Don’t blow it away with your toys. It annoys the shit out of me and, I would imagine, many thousands if not millions of other people.