Archieology 201 ~ Advanced Phrasing
Posted by bebereader on Wednesday, April 13, 2011
“He digs into lyrics, considers words, lingers over them and has a master plan of the effect for the song. “
Reading the dictionary was a hobby of mine when I was a child; I was fascinated by the syllabication and pronunciation of words and later by grammatical goodies like alliteration and onomatopoeia. By the time I was in college I realized that I was super-sensitive to the timbre of a person’s voice. There have been times when the sound of it is so repelling to me that it sends shivers down my spine, while at the other extreme, so intoxicating that I cannot get enough of it. David Archuleta has the most beautiful voice in creation, whether speaking or singing. With the soulfulness of someone older, he has the ability to control the power of his voice to create his unique sound. I was drawn to David immediately, in part because of his crisp enunciation and the compelling way he phrases his songs. His diction is nearly perfect. Unlike others who drop the ending consonant of a word, David, 99% of the time, ends his words with their rightful letter, like the ending “t” when he sings the word “night” in “Something ‘Bout Love.”
He’s very deliberate in his lyrical style and there’s no doubt that he instinctively knows what will work. A master at interpreting a song, David knows how to manipulate notes and lyrics, and he plays with them to get a desired outcome. The result is that he tells the story of a song with such emotion that he makes us understand. His use of phrasing is impeccable; he has the ability to tailor musical passages and control his breathing to make a song as expressive as he wants. Once he makes a song his own, it is untouchable by any other artist.
In “Imagine,” David conveys John Lennon’s message, that we should all be one country, one world, one people. To create a cry in his voice, he intentionally stretches out the notes and you can hear it throughout the entire song.
“A bruuuuutherhood of maaaaaaaan
Imaaagine all the people sharing for the world
You-hoooooo, you may say I’m a dreamuhhh…
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you‘ll join uuuuusssssss
And the worrrld will be as one
You may say I’m a dreamuuuuhhh
But I’m not the only one
Take my hand and joinnn us yeah
And the world will liiiiiiive, aaaaas one.”
He does the same in “When You Say You Love Me,” where one syllable words suddenly become multi-syllabic, as in “breathe” “be” “could” “alive” “fly” “words” “me” and “you.”
“What couuuuuuuld it beeeeeee that comes over me?…
At times I can hardly breeeeathe
For a moment, there’s no one else alive, iiiiiiiiiiiive…
When you’re with me if I close my eyes
There are times I swear I feel like I can flyyyyyyyyyy
For a moment in tiiiime
Somewhere between the heavens and earth, fro-zen in time
Oh when you say those woooooooooooooooords…
When you say you love meeeeeeeeeeee….whooooooooo
When you say you love me, do you know how I love youuuuuuuuu.”
When he sang “Contigo En La Distancia” at the ALMA Awards, his voice was as smooth as silk as he conveyed the heartfelt message of missing a loved one. You can hear his soft consonants and the control he has as he switches effortlessly from soft to powerful and makes an emotional connection with the audience.
David has the ability to use his voice as if it was a musical instrument, another example of phrasing. We’ve teased that we’d buy an album of his hums and wails but it’s not a joke. He uses this technique sometimes in “Barriers.” Does “mun-a-mump boom boom” sound familiar? And again at the beginning of “Something ‘Bout Love.” Another time at the end of “Angels We Have Heard on High,” throughout the entire repertoire of Christmas songs…
…and again when he performed with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir at the very end of “Los Pastores a Belen.”
In “Falling Stars,” Eman, the writer, felt the song had a different energy and wanted David to leave off the vibratos he’s famous for so he wouldn’t sound like himself. The result: David delivered a powerful recording, filled with angst, vulnerability and sensuality. He also changed the pronunciation of the word “me” to “ma-ee” and “to” becomes “to-uu” creating the different vibe.
“…I won’t be offended
‘Cause I always knew that the day would come,
When I’m not enough to make you stay
You tell me it’s not possible, no way that we could break
But nothing is illogical, believe me…”
In “Crazy”, he teasingly mocks the lyrics as he sings them tongue in cheek:
…Do you really think you’re in control-oh ahhhhh?
I think you’re crazeh, I think you’re carrrazy,
I think you’re crazeh just like meeeee-ee.
I think you’re CRAZY! I think you’re CRAZEH,
I think you‘re crazy crazy crazy crazy just like mee-eee.”
Phrasing in music can be used to stretch out notes for emphasis, to speed up a song to create excitement, or to slow down a passage at the end of a phrase. Changing the pronunciation of a word is another example of phrasing. David has used all of these and more when he sings. His natural phrasing, runs and nuances have become his trademark and he never sings a song the same way twice. His ability to match his voice to a musical passage and use it as an instrument is astonishing to me. His uncanny ability to interpret music and connect to the audience is pure genius.