Is your favorite musical artist a musician and singer – or simply a performer?
Rightly, or wrongly, I have drawn this line for years.
A true musician writes their own lyrics, writes their own music, plays an instrument, and sings their own songs. Whereas a performer only sings.
Sure we can enjoy a wonderful sounding voice and all – but in my experience, lots of people know how to sing. And if lots of other people can do it, why do people care about simple performers anyway?
For instance, take Bob Dylan and Celine Dion. He can do it all where she seems like just a voice.
But that can’t be right. Celine Dion is breathtaking to hear. And that analogy is like saying Yo-Yo Ma “only plays the cello.”
Does it matter if artists are musicians (as I have described them) or merely performers? Do fans even care?
Or is it part of why we stretch the truth about who is writing the songs we love?
The artists occupy a central place in the songs, but more as vocal personalities than singers. The voices belong to real human beings, for the most part, although in some cases the vocals are so decked out in electronic finery that it doesn’t matter whether a human or a machine made them. On sheer vocal ability, the new artists fall short of the pop divas of the early ’90s—Whitney, Mariah, Celine. And who are these artists? Britney? Kelly? Rihanna? Katy? Kesha? What do they stand for as artists? Their insights into the human condition seem to extend no further than the walls of the vocal booth. And who really writes their songs?
-John Seabrook, The Song Machine