Staff Picks: Favorite Vocalists

by
Sophia Kamouyerou
-
October 16, 2017

“HE WHO SINGS PRAYS TWICE” – SAINT AUGUSTINE

We are all able to influence one another with the things that we say and how we say it. Speaking is one of the most powerful forms of expression, but singing takes it to a whole another level. The voice can move you with a holler or relax you with a whisper, but a voice with a lot of soul can transform you. There are many different styles of vocalists unique to each individual. I’m on a mission to find out whose vocals the NRG staff appreciates the most.

Kyle Hoffman – Chief Engineer

NRG Staff

“That is such a hard question to answer. It’s so hard to pick just one. I really love Elliot Smith’s voice. He’s got a really great voice. It’s like warm, and inviting, and confident but also vulnerable and kind of timid at the same time. It’s interesting. Between the Bars is probably my favorite song by him. He just has a very distinct style. It doesn’t change a lot over the course of what he’s doing. It’s just him like you hear it and you know it’s him. That’s sort of how I gage a vocalist, I guess. Do they have their own thing? Are they instantly recognizable? You know it’s them because they don’t sound like anyone else. When you hear Bob Marley on the radio, you know it’s Bob. When you hear Freddy Mercury on the radio, you know it’s him. Whereas there are a lot of great singers who may be great singers, but they don’t have their own sonic fingerprint. So I tend to like a lot of unique vocalists. Nick Drake is another one. He has a darker, lower, deeper voice. Some of my favorite songs by him include Pink Moon and Things Behind the Sun. I definitely should’ve thought of this sooner, but we just had Esperanza in here a couple months ago, and she is amazing. Her music is kind of jazzy, kind of pop. She is just incredible. She is so well trained and has so much control that she rarely messes up. Her voice almost sounds like smoke, but she doesn’t smoke. It is velvety smooth and she has such a wide dynamic range. She can be crazy power but also super delicate. You should check out the song Unconditional Love by her.”

Cooper Fuqua- Assistant Engineer

NRG Staff

“If we’re not talking about contextually, lyrically, then Prince CyHi has one of those crazy, vivid sounds for his voice. He hasn’t been in a lot of stuff lately because he was on GOOD Music so he’s sort of been off-put. Vocally, I really enjoy his tone and character. I think it’s very unique. I listen to a lot of music, so it’s hard for me to pinpoint things. I go back to when I played trombone in the Jazz band because it really made me focus on tone. It’s such a key component of who you are as an artist. If you have your tone set internally, it helps with your speech, especially with your sound and instrument, because you’re speaking, it’s a language. It’s a common misconception that it’s an art form and it’s like this instrument and then you when it should be you and the instrument as one. There’s also a song called Lush Life by a guy named Billy Strayhorn that comes to mind. He is one of the few homosexual jazz artists that obviously were suppressed but I think it allowed him to channel a lot of intimacy in his writing that I think a lot of people look over. Ella Fitzgerald did a great job covering this song. A lot of times with singers, especially her, who experience a troubled life, you can hear that. It’s in her voice, it’s in her phrasing, it’s in a lot of the songs she chose to sing and be a part of. Of course, she’s still going to do the standards, but the biggest ones that really hit with people are the ones that are emotionally driven, lyrically and harmonically speaking.”

Shaun Ezrol – Assistant Engineer

NRG Staff

“First, I’m going to say Chris Cornell. I like the character of his voice. He was the perfect rock singer. He had the grit but also the soft side necessary for a well rounded emotive singer. Shadow of the Sun and 4th of July are some of my favorite songs by him. Next up is Jeff Buckley. I liked how unique his melodies were combined with how soulful his vocals were. He had the attitude of a rock singer and had the ability to go 0-100 very quickly. There were a lot of nuances in his voice that make him instantly identifiable. Listen to So Real or Grace by him. Finally, there’s Mike Patton who has one of the largest vocal ranges and is one of the most creative vocalists around today. He truly uses his voice as an instrument and listening to his music can be a real trip. He can really do anything as a singer and can be pretty sporadic while skipping around to different voices. This may distract from his true talent but he is incredible. Some of my favorite songs by him include Retrovertigo and Quote Unquote.”

 

Jillian Burnett – Studio Manager

NRG Staff

“I’m going to have to say, Michael Jackson. He was really one of the first vocalists to step outside of the box and try new things with his voice. I remember as a child going through his records, trying to emulate all the different vocal runs and ad-libs. Growing up, I was very into theater and performing arts and I just loved him because he was a true performer. He made you feel something not just by his voice, but by the way he dressed and the way he performed. He blended vocal artistry and made it theatrical. He was a true artist who created an entire persona based on his love for singing. He transformed his entire being into an instrument to influence people. There once was an interview where he said he just wanted to figure out how to get people to feel everyday normal things and that’s where the inspiration for “Enjoy Yourself” by the Jacksons came from. He wanted to make people feel happy with his music, and he did.”

 

Kyran De Keijzer – Executive Assistant

NRG Staff

“Currently, my favorite male vocalist is Gallant. I heard Ekali’s remix of Weight in Gold and in the second verse, he reaches a high note that I haven’t heard modern male vocalists do. I also want to give a shoutout to Chance the Rapper. I don’t even like rap/hip-hop but I can listen to him because of his artistry and composition. He has a unique way of showing his art and I think a lot of it has to do with his gospel background. My favorite songs of his are Waves and No Problem, but I especially enjoy him in Ultralight Beam by Kanye West and also A Good Ass Turtle by Trippy Turtle. My favorite female vocalist right now is Tove Lo. Her vibe is perfect for modern electronic music, which is mainly what I listen to. Some of her first songs really set the foundation for modern electronic music. My favorite song by her is Habits (Stay High).”

 

Dia Morgan – Brand Ambassador

“I can’t pick a favorite. I’m just going to give a comment on Sam Smith because that’s the first person to come to my mind when I think about great vocalists. I love the way that he consistently proves his sound. I feel like Sam Smith is able to give emotion in a certain sense that no one else can. He really uses his voice as an instrument to portray how he feels. It’s shaky, yet strong, it’s vulnerable, and it’s real. Without anything but his voice, you can feel the emotion. Usually, you have to take a whole track to get that, but he only needs a piano, which means he really has some talent behind him. It’s so simple, yet so relatable. If he makes you want to cry that easily, it’s special. I just wrote an article about his new song Too Good at Goodbyes because it made me cry.”

Sophia Kamouyerou – Brand Ambassador

“Hands down, Robyn “Rihanna” Fenty is my all-time favorite vocalist. I think her voice, like her beauty, is unmatched. It’s just so unique. Who do you know that sounds like Rihanna? No one. It’s deep and husky, and so strong and powerful. I’ve been following her entire career and to see her progress as a vocalist has been amazing. Her live performances used to be pretty bad. Now, you see her performing everywhere and she is so great. I think she started coming into her own as a vocalist in Unapologetic and then ANTI just blew us all out of the water. I’m going to have to say my favorite song by her vocally is Higher. I read an article about how that song was recorded. They were actually debating if they wanted that song on the album or not. So they ended up getting drunk on whiskey at the studio and then she said alright let’s record it. Every time I try and belt that song I lose my voice. Check out her live performance of Love On The Brain at the 2016 Billboard awards. It is vocal heaven.”

Jacob McCaslin – Video Coordinator

“My favorite vocalist is Jeff Buckley. I love that when he sings it’s so effortless for him, and his vocal elasticity is remarkable. I really love the tracks Grace and Lover, You Should’ve Come Over. I think both of those songs demonstrate what he’s able to do vocally. You can actually find a video of him singing Grace in the studio. They did it all in one take and that’s what they used on the song. It’s just incredible. I also like (Jarle) Bernhoft, he has such an interesting voice. Bernhoft has a very low vocal range, as opposed to Jeff Buckley who has a very high vocal range. They are two completely different styles of music, too, but both of them are just incredible at what they do and I look up to them both. Honestly, now that I’m thinking about it, Lianne La Havas is actually my favorite vocalist. It’s just that I’ve been listening to Jeff Buckley for a decade and I’ve only been listening to her for maybe a year. Her voice is like butter. Look up her Tiny Desk concert and listen for What You Don’t Do or Unstoppable.”

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