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Old 01-02-2014, 10:55 AM
MeanOldLady MeanOldLady is offline
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Is there a name for this hyper-annoying singing style?

I'd like to be able to more easily dismiss it.

It seems every indie/faux-indie singer-songwriter girl under the age of 30 is singing with a remarkably annoying, breathy voice with an unnecessary twang in it that is at times punctuated with scratchiness. They sing softly and every vowel sounds like "ow," as though the singer is suffering as much as I am every time I hear it.

Example - Nataly Dawn
Example - Nataly Dawn annoying me again
Example - Wild Belle
Example - Kat Edmonson

If it has a name, I'd like to know so that next time someone attempts to recommend one of these types of songs to me, I can just wave my hand and say "I will not listen to [blank] singing style." A friend of mine tried to recommend to me yet another white girl with a guitar singing in this highly infuriating style, and I had to explain to him what precisely about it irritated me. I'd like to save time.

Thanks.
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Old 01-02-2014, 11:08 AM
Inner Stickler Inner Stickler is offline
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Hmm, I don't know if there's a single word that encapsulates all of that, or if there is, I don't know it. (And to be honest, I thought Wild Belle was rather different and much more interesting to listen to.) If you pressed me, I'd say, "Quirky white girl with an acoustic guitar and too much vocal fry."
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Old 01-02-2014, 11:11 AM
RickJay RickJay is online now
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This appears to be almost universally referred to simply as "indie singing style." It's very widely remarked upon.

Copycat singing styles are a pretty common thing in pop music. A lot of pop-punk singers imitated Billy Joe Armstrong's unusual vowel shifts; listen to the way Avril Lavigne pronounces "you" as "yeaou," as if she was from Nebraska instead of Ontario. It's a direct connection to the style Armstrong started.

Indie singers are just imitating the accepted indie style - and it helps that it's a very easy, narrow-range style so anyone can do it.

If you want to come up with a specific name for it it'd be a good thing to figure out who most popularized it. Not sure who that'd be.
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Old 01-02-2014, 11:13 AM
Amateur Barbarian Amateur Barbarian is offline
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It's the companion style to "I'm going to drone over a 3-note range that's slightly out of my own range for 3:25 and call it angsty."

Why so many performers today have to act as if they're bored, deeply depressed or afraid someone will shoot them for using a fourth note is beyond me.
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Old 01-02-2014, 11:47 AM
MeanOldLady MeanOldLady is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Inner Stickler View Post
(And to be honest, I thought Wild Belle was rather different and much more interesting to listen to.)
The Wild Belle was the least annoying of them, and is something I could actually like if she weren't singing that way.

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Originally Posted by RickJay View Post
This appears to be almost universally referred to simply as "indie singing style." It's very widely remarked upon.
Simple indeed. Almost too simple and a bit unfair to indie singers who don't engage in this silliness.

Quote:
If you want to come up with a specific name for it it'd be a good thing to figure out who most popularized it. Not sure who that'd be.
Hmm, if I could figure out who started it, that'd be an easy way to describe what I'm talking about. Also, so that I can send them hate mail. No, I jest. I'm sure it wasn't so bad when just a handful of imitators were doing this, but now that it's the default of indie folk singers, or whatever, it is driving me beyond nuts. It's gotten to the point where the term "singer-songwriter" is a bad word to me when used to describe young white girls. Before I even hear them, I know what they sound like and just cannot deal with it.
  #6  
Old 01-02-2014, 12:18 PM
Trom Trom is offline
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Originally Posted by MeanOldLady View Post
...

Hmm, if I could figure out who started it, that'd be an easy way to describe what I'm talking about.
...
Cat Power?
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Old 01-02-2014, 12:24 PM
Ferret Herder Ferret Herder is offline
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No idea, but I'll nominate Nellie McKay as another perpetrator. It only took the episode of NPR's "Ask Me Another" (shouting out to another thread here) where she was the guest star for me to really not like listening to her speak and sing. (Maybe it was the format or something, but her interview seemed to turn the breathy up x10 and bring out an awful lot of "golly gosh! personality" in her.)
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Old 01-02-2014, 12:30 PM
LC Strawhouse LC Strawhouse is offline
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How about "waify"? (aka "I'm a poor helpless orphan in a harsh world") College aged folks seem to find that style extremely attractive, though.
  #9  
Old 01-02-2014, 12:46 PM
aruvqan aruvqan is offline
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Originally Posted by Inner Stickler View Post
Hmm, I don't know if there's a single word that encapsulates all of that, or if there is, I don't know it. (And to be honest, I thought Wild Belle was rather different and much more interesting to listen to.) If you pressed me, I'd say, "Quirky white girl with an acoustic guitar and too much vocal fry."
Same reason I avoid a lot of 'celtic' music that copies Enya - weak unsupported drifty wispy voice. Would it kill her to take a good breath, stand up straight and belt out a song? I want to do the poke the stomach thing and mention 'breath support'.
  #10  
Old 01-02-2014, 12:54 PM
wedgehed wedgehed is offline
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To my untrained ears, it kind of sounds like the result of people, who imitated people, who imitated people, who imitated Rickie Lee Jones.
  #11  
Old 01-02-2014, 01:00 PM
Son of a Rich Son of a Rich is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RickJay View Post
This appears to be almost universally referred to simply as "indie singing style." It's very widely remarked upon.

Copycat singing styles are a pretty common thing in pop music. A lot of pop-punk singers imitated Billy Joe Armstrong's unusual vowel shifts; listen to the way Avril Lavigne pronounces "you" as "yeaou," as if she was from Nebraska instead of Ontario. It's a direct connection to the style Armstrong started.
I had no idea Greenday was so influential. But then, I'm old.
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Old 01-02-2014, 01:01 PM
wolfman wolfman is online now
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I've always thought of it as "Lilith Fair wannabe" style. Like it seems a hell of a lot of the Sarah McLachlan, Lisa Loeb etc. crowd songs use it for intro and coda(sometimes bridge), to wrap the more dynamic stuff.

But these lightweights have no dynamic ability to build to, and just meekly let the whole song leak out of their vocal cords that way.
  #13  
Old 01-02-2014, 01:18 PM
Diceman Diceman is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RickJay View Post
A lot of pop-punk singers imitated Billy Joe Armstrong's unusual vowel shifts;
He's the Green Day singer, right? So, what do you call his (also annoying) style of singing? I swear it sounds like his tongue has swollen up. Any time I Walk Alone comes on the radio I think, "Dude! Isn't there a medicine you could take for that?"
  #14  
Old 01-02-2014, 01:22 PM
Flywheel Flywheel is offline
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A lot of pop-punk singers imitated Billy Joe Armstrong's unusual vowel shifts;
Quote:
Originally Posted by Diceman View Post
He's the Green Day singer, right? So, what do you call his (also annoying) style of singing? I swear it sounds like his tongue has swollen up. Any time I Walk Alone comes on the radio I think, "Dude! Isn't there a medicine you could take for that?"
"Hunger dunger dang"
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Old 01-02-2014, 01:27 PM
MeanOldLady MeanOldLady is offline
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Huh, this might be the oldest example of this that I've seen. This nonsense started cropping up like weeds (or at least I first heard it) a good decade ago, and then it became unbearable several years later. I'd hoped people would grow sick of it, but it appears to be getting worse.

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Originally Posted by Ferret Herder View Post
No idea, but I'll nominate Nellie McKay as another perpetrator.
Very annoying. She's on my list. (Not the good one.)

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Originally Posted by LC Strawhouse View Post
How about "waify"? (aka "I'm a poor helpless orphan in a harsh world") College aged folks seem to find that style extremely attractive, though.
Heh, I like that and what's funny is if I said "She has that damn waify singing voice," I'll bet most people will know what I'm talking about.
  #16  
Old 01-02-2014, 01:31 PM
RickJay RickJay is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Diceman View Post
He's the Green Day singer, right? So, what do you call his (also annoying) style of singing? I swear it sounds like his tongue has swollen up. Any time I Walk Alone comes on the radio I think, "Dude! Isn't there a medicine you could take for that?"
I just call it "pop punk," there being no particular word for it.

It's basically a subset of the modern "unaffected" rock/pop singing style in which the singer sings in as clear and, well, unaffected a style as is pretty much humanly possible, the impression being one of rawness and simplicity; Weezer is a famous example of this. The punk thing adds the weird Midwestern diphthong thing Armstrong popularized.

Quote:
Originally Posted by wolfman
've always thought of it as "Lilith Fair wannabe" style. Like it seems a hell of a lot of the Sarah McLachlan, Lisa Loeb etc. crowd songs use it for intro and coda(sometimes bridge), to wrap the more dynamic stuff.
Lisa Loeb's a good example but Sarah McLachlan, if you meant her personally, is a terrible one. Sarah McLachlan has a very unusual and distinctive singing voice and she sounds very, very different from the examples provided this far. I'm not a fan of her music but I'll give her this, she sounds like no one else.
  #17  
Old 01-02-2014, 01:37 PM
velomont velomont is offline
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I know exactly the singing style you're referring to. I call it Feist-lite (no offence to Feist intended btw). A classic example is the Prius ad with the song "A Prius for Everyone". There's an "Ads I hate" site that has a discussion about that ad and its "breathy baby" sound. There does seem to be a lot of it out there unfortunately.
  #18  
Old 01-02-2014, 01:53 PM
Peanuthead Peanuthead is offline
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I noticed this style several years ago and there is no way I can distinguish one from another. They all sound the same. I call them "sleepy girl" singers.

That Wild Belle song doesn't seem to fit the category. She's more of an Amy Winehouse clone. (at least in that song. I've never heard anything else by her)
  #19  
Old 01-02-2014, 02:15 PM
Bryan Ekers Bryan Ekers is offline
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Ted: Look at me, I'm every singer in the 90s! Thay'er's nuthin' I can doooa, I oahnlea wanna beah with youaieiai.....

Last edited by Bryan Ekers; 01-02-2014 at 02:15 PM.
  #20  
Old 01-02-2014, 02:36 PM
Tangent Tangent is online now
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I don't watch anymore, but several years ago it seemed that about half of the female American Idol contestants (including those in the tryout rounds) were singing in this overly affected style. Very annoying.

Here are some more examples:

Corinne Bailey Rae

Nelly Furtado

The Weepies

Colbie Caillat

and so on.
  #21  
Old 01-02-2014, 03:43 PM
drastic_quench drastic_quench is offline
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Precious and moribund. I first noticed how much I hated it when a Pomplamouse video covering Beyonce's Single Ladies went viral in 2009.
  #22  
Old 01-02-2014, 03:52 PM
Missy2U Missy2U is offline
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I hate it with a passion. It's one reason I won't watch singing competitions on TV anymore. I end up with a freakin' headache.
  #23  
Old 01-02-2014, 05:50 PM
Ponch8 Ponch8 is online now
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Somebody on the SDMB got me hooked on a podcast called Coverville, in which the host plays cover versions of various songs (some well-known, others not). Generally I enjoy listening to the podcast, but it seems like every other song they play fits the OP's description. The host goes on and on about what a marvelous version of the song it is, what a beautiful voice the woman has, etc. All I'm thinking about is how much the singer sucked the life out of each song.

A perfect example: the host's 5th-favorite cover of 2013 was a cover of Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" by Daughter. Listen to the bridge (starting about 0:31 or 0:33 in each version). The cover artist makes no attempt whatsoever to sing "we've...come too far...to give up...who we are" with more than one note. It completely destroys the spirit of the song.
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Old 01-02-2014, 06:08 PM
Quimby Quimby is offline
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I think of it as a "Yodel" and yeah it can be annoying...
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Old 01-02-2014, 06:27 PM
Jophiel Jophiel is online now
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Thanks to all these YouTube links and the Google Omnibus Account thingie, Google Play is now certain that I want to buy a bunch of mp3's through Google Music by breathy pixie-cut indie waifs
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Old 01-02-2014, 07:44 PM
you with the face you with the face is online now
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Does Regina Spector's "All You've Got Time" (theme from Orange is the New Black) fall in your category, MoL? I really really want to like this song, but I find it impossible to do so because of her singing style.
  #27  
Old 01-02-2014, 08:01 PM
Simplicio Simplicio is offline
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Eh, I like it, but it is kinda over-used.

The breathiness presumably is just a fairly natural way to sing a slow song with little instrumental accompaniment.

But the affected accent thing is pretty interesting. Can anyone come up with an earlier example then Cat Power?

I guess it isn't really any different then Country singers taking on a strong southern twang when singing, or Irish folk singers dialing the brogue up to 11 when singing. But in those cases the origin is obvious. Not so much here.
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Old 01-02-2014, 08:38 PM
MeanOldLady MeanOldLady is offline
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Originally Posted by drastic_quench View Post
Precious and moribund. I first noticed how much I hated it when a Pomplamouse video covering Beyonce's Single Ladies went viral in 2009.
God, yes, this is a perfect example! It was this shitty cover that made me officially declare myself sick of this trend that needed to stop yesterday. An already stupid song covered in this whiny-ass singing voice. Great.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ponch8 View Post
A perfect example: the host's 5th-favorite cover of 2013 was a cover of Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" by Daughter. Listen to the bridge (starting about 0:31 or 0:33 in each version). The cover artist makes no attempt whatsoever to sing "we've...come too far...to give up...who we are" with more than one note. It completely destroys the spirit of the song.
Ugh, I wish I hadn't clicked on that. Truly annoying, and now like Jophiel, my YouTube thinks I want to listen to more of this waify crying into the microphone.

Quote:
Originally Posted by you with the face View Post
Does Regina Spector's "All You've Got Time" (theme from Orange is the New Black) fall in your category, MoL? I really really want to like this song, but I find it impossible to do so because of her singing style.
She has traces of it, but isn't over the top annoying with it. I'll let her live.
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Old 01-02-2014, 08:45 PM
Saintly Loser Saintly Loser is offline
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I hate this style of singing. I call it the "I'm just a girl" voice. Makes me nuts.
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Old 01-02-2014, 08:49 PM
Sailboat Sailboat is offline
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Regina Spektor sometimes sounds close to that, to me...maybe in Fidelity?

Anyway, if she qualifies, her Wikipedia entry says her music is associated with the "anti-folk scene," although that seems to be about ironic content, not sound per se.
  #31  
Old 01-02-2014, 09:02 PM
MeanOldLady MeanOldLady is offline
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Regina Spektor sometimes sounds close to that, to me...maybe in Fidelity?
Oh dear god, that is annoying. I didn't know that song had a name or a singer. I thought it was something created by marketing geniuses to be played in commercials or whatever. Like they just blended literally every damn song by every woman over the past decade. But no, there's a person singing it, and she is terrible. I was going to let her live, but I've changed my mind. Thank you for bringing this to my attention.

Last edited by MeanOldLady; 01-02-2014 at 09:04 PM.
  #32  
Old 01-02-2014, 09:56 PM
Jophiel Jophiel is online now
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Regina Spektor sometimes sounds close to that, to me...maybe in Fidelity?

Anyway, if she qualifies, her Wikipedia entry says her music is associated with the "anti-folk scene," although that seems to be about ironic content, not sound per se.
Regina Spektor frankly seems to make an attempt to sound differently in every song she sings. The same woman singing Fidelity also sings (from the same album) Apres Moi and Samson. I don't love everything she does (mainly because she changes so much there's bound to be a good number of songs that don't click with me) but I don't think she can be accused of purely having a breathy three-note range like the previously mentioned singers.

Last edited by Jophiel; 01-02-2014 at 09:58 PM.
  #33  
Old 01-02-2014, 10:55 PM
Equipoise Equipoise is offline
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I think of it as a "Yodel" and yeah it can be annoying...
Say what? How'd you get that from breathy, tremulous, fake-scratchy singing? THIS is Yodeling! (even when non-flashy, it can be georgeous!)
  #34  
Old 01-03-2014, 12:54 AM
Ellis Aponte Jr. Ellis Aponte Jr. is offline
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I agree it's an annoying style. I think of it as "people who can't really sing pretending they can sing."

As far as the Green Day singer goes, though, I always thought he basically copied the singer of The Dickies, a band which predated Green Day by about 15 years:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7c37GdAzgQo
  #35  
Old 01-03-2014, 08:09 AM
Wendell Wagner Wendell Wagner is offline
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The term "vocal fry" has already been mentioned, but let me give a video illustrating it:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UsE5mysfZsY

It's a vocal characteristic of some young American women in recent years. It overlaps with the various indie singing styles in the videos given here. As you can see from the video, this way of speaking irritates many people.
  #36  
Old 01-03-2014, 01:02 PM
velomont velomont is offline
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Minimal effort singing

It's almost as though they are trying to sing with the minimum possible expulsion of air. The most effort they put out is probably in producing the mandatory "oh oh oh oh" line in the song.

From the "Commercials I Hate" forum about the Prius ad there is a great quote: "HATE this trend of breathy baby singing by grown women. I imagine the singer looks something like Zoey Dechanel and puts bird silhouettes on everything imaginable in an attempt to look whimsical and artsy. STOP IT AMERICA!"
  #37  
Old 01-03-2014, 01:53 PM
MeanOldLady MeanOldLady is offline
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The term "vocal fry" has already been mentioned, but let me give a video illustrating it:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UsE5mysfZsY
There's definitely vocal fry in it, but it's not just the vocal fry that makes up this irritating style. It's also the out of breath soft whining and the completely ridiculous twang.

Quote:
Originally Posted by velomont View Post
From the "Commercials I Hate" forum about the Prius ad there is a great quote: "HATE this trend of breathy baby singing by grown women. I imagine the singer looks something like Zoey Dechanel and puts bird silhouettes on everything imaginable in an attempt to look whimsical and artsy. STOP IT AMERICA!"
Yes! This person is oh so very right on. We need to start a strangling campaign to end this. I'll bet they'd try to record a song during the strangulation. "These constricted airways are doing wonders for my singing voice!"
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Old 01-03-2014, 03:07 PM
RickJay RickJay is online now
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Of course, using a particular method of singing to hide one's lack of talent is not exactly a new thing or restricted to Indie Voice. Men have been using the Frank Sinatra/swing voice for decades - a voice that allows you to sing passably well within a range of about three, maybe four notes. A kid made it to like the final six or seven contestants on "American Idol" one year solely with that gimmick.
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Old 01-03-2014, 03:19 PM
Inner Stickler Inner Stickler is offline
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Originally Posted by velomont View Post
From the "Commercials I Hate" forum about the Prius ad there is a great quote: "HATE this trend of breathy baby singing by grown women. I imagine the singer looks something like Zoey Dechanel and puts bird silhouettes on everything imaginable in an attempt to look whimsical and artsy. STOP IT AMERICA!"
Interesting. I definitely don't think of her as being someone who epitomizes this sort of singing. Affected yes, but breathy and waify, no.
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Old 01-03-2014, 03:59 PM
GargoyleWB GargoyleWB is offline
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Originally Posted by Ellis Aponte Jr. View Post
As far as the Green Day singer goes, though, I always thought he basically copied the singer of The Dickies, a band which predated Green Day by about 15 years:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7c37GdAzgQo
This is what I noticed immediately when Green Day came out. To a tween generation that missed The Dickies (and John Lydon of P.I.L.), Billy Joe probably sounded fresh and distinctive as a vocalist. To me, they have always felt too deliberate and manufactured to me, "Hot Topic" punk.)

As to the OP, I've always thought of the waify singing style as "Grey's Anatomy Soundtrack Filler"
  #41  
Old 01-07-2014, 06:11 PM
BurnMeUp BurnMeUp is offline
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A friend of mine dubbed it Twee-tarded
  #42  
Old 03-25-2014, 08:58 PM
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I call it just off the boat from Ireland sound lol Drive me nuts!!
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Old 03-25-2014, 09:27 PM
Trick Rider Trick Rider is offline
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This is one of the many things I hate about a lot of indie music. It's always sounded to me like the singer has a throat full of phlegm.
  #44  
Old 03-25-2014, 09:32 PM
installLSC installLSC is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sailboat View Post
Regina Spektor sometimes sounds close to that, to me...maybe in Fidelity?

Anyway, if she qualifies, her Wikipedia entry says her music is associated with the "anti-folk scene," although that seems to be about ironic content, not sound per se.
Well early in Regina's career hear recordings were almost all piano and voice, and her singing style had much more range. Check out this song. (By the way, what genius produced "All You've Got Time"? Where did he get his backing track from, rejected Toto sessions?)
  #45  
Old 03-25-2014, 10:20 PM
Lukeinva Lukeinva is offline
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They are compensating because they can't sing. Country music twangers use a similar technique.
  #46  
Old 03-25-2014, 11:22 PM
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Annoying as it is, I think I'd still take it over the nose singing. You know, the ones who sound like they are doing impressions of Pee Wee Herman.
  #47  
Old 03-26-2014, 12:30 AM
Gestalt Gestalt is offline
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I call it Starbucks music
  #48  
Old 03-26-2014, 01:03 PM
gwendee gwendee is offline
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Heh, I like that and what's funny is if I said "She has that damn waify singing voice," I'll bet most people will know what I'm talking about.
Sign me up! Down with waify.

I watch The Voice, and whenever a contestant sings like that one of the coaches will say she (it's invariably a female singer) has a "quirky" voice. They'll often also say that "there's no one out there like that right now" which makes me want to throw something through the TV screen.
  #49  
Old 03-26-2014, 01:47 PM
Dale Sams Dale Sams is offline
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As long as you all leave Kristin Hersh out of this convo, no one will get hurt.
  #50  
Old 09-29-2014, 01:23 PM
Jamie Douglas Jamie Douglas is offline
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Originally Posted by MeanOldLady View Post
I'd like to be able to more easily dismiss it.

It seems every indie/faux-indie singer-songwriter girl under the age of 30 is singing with a remarkably annoying, breathy voice with an unnecessary twang in it that is at times punctuated with scratchiness. They sing softly and every vowel sounds like "ow," as though the singer is suffering as much as I am every time I hear it....
Hahaha! I found this forum by doing a Google search about "folk girls sound the same" to try to get a similar answer!
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