So when I posted my first “How to sing like…” article, I immediately had someone ask me to tackle Lady Gaga. And why not? She’s rapidly become one of pop music’s biggest icons. Personally, I think she and her team are nothing short of sheer genius. But, what makes her voice so compelling?
Honestly, there are so vocal characteristics that define Gaga that narrowing it down to just one idea can be difficult. But, as I was listening to her music driving over to the coffee shop getting ready to write this article, one aspect of her style stood out clearer than all others.
It’s so subtle it’s genius. It’s the way she alters the tone of her voice. The way she varies her tone from phrase to phrase is really pretty incredible. In a world of instant gratification channel surfers… where people are so A.D.D. that the average time spent on a website is 6 seconds… it’s imperative that we are constantly changing up what we’re doing. Gaga knows this, and while there are many aspects of her music that are changing and growing constantly, her tone is no exception.
Take the song “Bad Romance.” You have the little chants at the beginning which alter subtly between a warmer tone and a forward, more spoken tone, altering the resonance from the back to the front of her mouth. The Ra Ra part isn’t that different, but more exaggeratedly forward on the, “I want bad romance” part.
Then, the verse starts. Pretty consistent… mostly warmer, but with a brightness to it. The second part, she plays with a couple of words, lowering the larynx on them giving them a certain distinctness (hand/sand/love). This makes them stand out, giving them a little more emphasis.
Then, the pre-chorus (“You know that I…”) is a breathier texture, mixing up the feel of the piece. Almost whispery, undoubtedly to give it more of a seductive feel.
Then, the chorus rings in and she’s got both of those resonators open, giving it an overall powerful feel.
The Oh and Ra chant re-enter with the same tonal qualities as before.
The next verse actually really well defines the type of tonal shifts I’m talking about, she just does it more quickly (can’t be too predictable… we are ADD… we’ll recognize patterns and get bored… oooh, something shiny! :p)…
Okay, back to the article… Second verse, right? Listen to the extreme way she speaks the word “Love” the first time, so far back in the mouth that it’s literally luv, not love. After that, she repeats the word love 3 times in a brighter tone, almost giving it a sarcastic feel in my opinion. Then, after the second section of the second verse, this “Love, love, love” part is done again, but it gets even more forward and obnoxious, once again, hinting on a greater degree of sarcasm. After all, most bad romances come with a twinge of bitterness.
Back to the the whispery pre-chorus, with the overly powerful and forward “Cause I’m a…” over it. She really does alternate the tone EVERYWHERE in this song.
I could keep going, but now that I’ve pointed some of this out to you, it should be way more obvious to you (if it wasn’t already). Lady Gaga does this constantly. Her music changes all the time, and her vocal tone is no exception (well, unless she’s seemingly mimicking another artist in my opinion to borrow from their authority… think “You and I” and Shania Twain, or “Born This Way” and Madonna).
All that being said, I think Gaga if freaking genius, and a heck of a lot of fun to listen to. Like I said before, this is just one small element of the signature sound, but if you can master this part, you’ll be well on your way to discovering how to sing like Lady Gaga.
ps – You can purchase Gaga’s song Bad Romance on iTunes, or you can watch it on Vevo here – http://www.vevo.com/watch/lady-gaga/bad-romance/USUV70903493. As a side note, when I uploaded this article, this video had nearly half a BILLION views. Now that’s rock star!