By Bernard Zuel
We've spent the past decade or two genuflecting at the altar of vocal gymnastics, where everyone from Idol contestants to so-called divas works on the basis of why sing three notes when there is room for five and then a key change.
The truth is the voice has been the least explored part of pop music. All that was required was that the producers make it big, make it clear and make it "perfect". If the raw material wasn't good enough, there are now enough tools in the studio to make the most tone-deaf soap star sound musical. The voice? Who needs it?
For French singer Camille, however, the voice was the start and finish for her second album, Le Fil (reviewed here in February and now getting a local release). With relatively little accompaniment from bass, keyboards and some brass, each track examines the possibilities of the voice, from multi-layering, character shifts and odd harmonies to the percussive and rhythmic capability. But what appeals to Camille about the voice?
"First, it's inside; it's not something you have to carry, to clean. If you treat it with respect, you treat yourself and your body with respect," she says in accented-but-perfect English. "The voice is about exploring your body and respecting your body. For me, it's holistic and it's total, global. As a musical instrument I feel it is supple, you can use it in so many ways. It's so changing depending on the way you are, the way you feel. It's very, very varied, like a rubber band, and I love that because I feel it has more textures than any other instrument."
The language barrier disappears in Camille's work, particularly in a song such as Au Port, where she starts sounding like a chattering young girl and finishes with a quite operatic turn. We don't have to understand French to understand the transformation of this character from youthful naivety to strong adult.
"On that track, it's about how a little girl finally wakes up and becomes a mature woman and I used that opera voice at the end but I did it completely subconsciously," Camille says. "I didn't think about the significance of it, I just felt that it had to be an opera voice at the end. A friend of mine told me afterwards that is the little girl changing into a woman."
Does that happen often, that the directions taken in a song happen subconsciously?
"You know, I think that's what psychoanalysis is about sometimes," she laughs. "You do a subconscious thing and then you analyse it and it is very, very meaningful. I think in music you take shortcuts, you express yourself subconsciously, directly, and that's what's so interesting about it."camillle
- french singer
- le fil