Blog: A Voice Isn't Enough

Chris de Jong

I've been thinking about that show ‘The Voice’ and how the contestants are initially judged just on the sound of their voice – and until the judges turn around, it has nothing to do with their appearance, image, personality or character. But this is where I come a bit unstuck – because I like that it’s not about those things- but I’ve been wondering whether just having a great voice is enough to make it in the music industry.

Why? Because an artist needs their character to be as strong as their voice.  Can they handle this career? Are they actually ready for the limelight? Can they hold themselves together? Are they fame seekersor egomaniacs? Are they honest and genuine and nice to be around? Lots of people can sing but few have what it takes.

I guess what we’re talking about is having the whole package – you definitely need that vocal magic to make you jump out of the pack but is it enough just to have the chops? I think you need a whole lot more.

You only have to look at Amy Winehouse to see that her voice and talent was incredible and unique but her personal life just couldn’t quite get it together – her voice alone couldn’t save her...in fact you could go as far as to say that her choice of career as an artist only exacerbated her personal problems. RIP Amy – we love you.

A pop artist today is a fashion, makeup, hair icon, who’s actions are scrutinised 24/7 – this is often well before they’ve even opened their mouth to sing a note. This is pop culture and it’s a pretty harsh world out there.

Having a great voice simply not enough. The demands on artists in this day and age are enormous. Any amount of success/celebrity will test the character of the artist more than their voice ever will.

This is a massive career choice and it’s not an easy road.

To be doing this fulltime requires fortitude and stamina, a resilience to push on, to celebrate the bouquets and deal with the brickbats; a thick skin, a hunger, a passion, an energy and a whole host of other things in order to survive...in my opinion, a voice alone is just not enough.

A voice – or we could call it the artists “tool” - gets wear and strain and can even totally wear out from bad technique. And the thing is that our character can also get tired, strained and worn out if we don’t look after it too, or fail to put proper procedures in place to deal with stuff.  Or get so full of ourselves that we lose the love of doing it in the first place...and then we don’t have much of a career left do we?

It’s interesting that in this instance, you can’t separate the tool from person – “you” are the tool when you’re a singer. Therefore it’s up to you to keep the ‘tool’ in working order - the funny thing is: a voice always responds best to the whole body being ‘in tune’. So if the rest of your life is falling apart, you will always hear it in the voice.

So perhaps for you singers out there my challenge to you is this:

  • Your voice is a gift but you are more than just a voice.
  • Your character often speaks well before you sing a note
  • You need to develop yourself as much as you develop your voice in order to handle this career choice.
  • You need a strong support structure to give you wings, love you unconditionally and kick you in the butt every now and then...
  • Your voice will sound better when the rest of you is in tune.

And lastly, ponder this:

“The final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands”

- Anne Frank.