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So I Started a Pandora Account

As you may know, Pandora is an online service that recommends music for you on the basis of your input.

Some interesting stuff is coming up. But what does it say about me that when I get male singers whose songs have the same patterns/aspects as the songs I like by female artists, I find the guys whiny and emo?




( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 9th, 2010 12:10 pm (UTC)
Well, if its anything like country music, it could be that the men are singing about how they'll never ever change and women should put up with their bad/inconsiderate behavior and women who expect them to compromise or have manners are evil witches trying to crush their spirit, and the similar songs by women are largely saying "up yours" to inconsiderate men who want to walk all over them?

(I actually don't care a lot for country music and the themes in a lot of the songs, but a lot of modern music types give me a headache if I leave them on for long, but I can play country radio indefinitely without getting one.)
Apr. 13th, 2010 11:41 am (UTC)

I don't think it's the lyrics - I think it's the effect of a certain type of attempt to sound sincere and reflective that doesn't seem to come off well with a male tenor. I'm wondering whether it's a double standard on my part, actually.


Country often seems to have better lyrics and a more melodic line that most pop/rock, but the stylized vocals and twangy instrumentation don't do it for me. I do have the Dixie Chicks' "Long Way Home," and that's pretty good. I also like Mary Chapin Carpenter, and she counts as country.

Apr. 14th, 2010 12:29 am (UTC)
Do any of those guys who grate on your ears sing something other than tenor? If you're fine with the occasional baritone or bass delivering similar material, or with deeper-voiced female singers, it may not be so much purely a gendered problem as it a visceral dislike of certain sounds. Mentioning nothing but tenors here, when I know there are some other things you've enjoyed with tenor voices, has me wondering whether some subset of these guys might be attempting to push their voices to a higher and lighter tone that they think suits the genre/material they're doing, and not doing it terribly well, whereas more of the women are perhaps singing in their natural ranges and not trying so hard to force their voices higher or deeper than comfortable and thus not sounding as strained/affected/overdone etc. as many of the guys?

An awful lot of modern country, of the most commercial radio-friendly sort, is basically just highly-produced smooth pop music with a bit of an accent and maybe a touch of twang to remind listeners they haven't strayed to an adult-contemporary station by mistake. I don't mind the twanginess, because country actually first picked up the pedal steel by way of the faddish mainland popularity of contemporary Hawaiian music in the turn of the century and again in the early 30s, but the high-gloss production values tend to put me off -- I listen more to older and more iconoclastic artists like Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson, or genre-blurring alt-country groups like Whiskeytown that have a little more of a rough-around-the-edges punk/indy sensibility. You might possibly like Whiskeytown alumna Caitlyn Cary's solo work, it's largely in that quiet singer-songwriter mode you seem to prefer; possibly Gillian Welch, especially her more recent albums that don't have as much stuff that sounds like recently-discovered 1930s field recordings? Emmylou Harris has written some really great stuff too, but her voice might have a little too much twang for you. If you're liking a lot of the Dixie Chicks stuff, you might enjoy Crystal Shawanda's "Roots Are Showing".
Apr. 11th, 2010 10:22 pm (UTC)
Heh. Pandora doesn't seem to take lyrics into consideration when it's doing its comparisons and making recs -- so is it the sort of thing Megan is wondering about, where a lot of the male folky-acoustic-singer-songwriter types who are coming up with a similar sound to female artists you like are tending to have a different (and annoying) lyrical angle? Or is there some quality of vocal tone or phrasing that you like or don't mind as much in higher/female voices but find more grating from a male singer?
Apr. 13th, 2010 11:47 am (UTC)

I don't think it's the lyrics. As I was saying to megan, it seems to have something to do with what attempts at painful sincerity sound like to me when sung with masculine timbre. I don't know why Sarah MacLachlan-esque songstering bothers me from a guy, but it does.

Pandora just now presented me with Eva Cassidy doing Paul Simon's "Kathy's Song," which was actually wonderful. That's one of my very favorites and one of the few that I was able to sing creditably myself: "I stand alone without beliefs / The only truth I know is you" and "I know that I am like the rain / There but for the grace of you go I."

It's also playing John Mayer for me, and I like it, which is upsetting, because I don't like him - he's a stupid little git who says idiotic and sometimes racist things.

Apr. 14th, 2010 12:41 am (UTC)
Heh, and I find MacLachlan's voice rather annoyingly grating myself, and only managed to like "Possession" when it was given a rather hard-edged rock cover with male vocals -- what a mismatched pair! ;)

And BWAH -- John Mayer is ANOTHER one who has a general sound and vocal quality that I really can't stand! The ex *LOVED* his first album when it came out so I heard it over and over and over and over, but try as I might I found the instrumentation really bland and soporific and Mayer's voice cheesy -- and the lyrics were just too dull and trite to notice except for occasional songs like "Daughters" that just annoyed me.

Hmmmm. I seem to recall you're also fond of Dave Matthews? Did you like Ten Thousand Maniacs and/or Natalie Merchant solo? And I know you've talked about like Steely Dan. Perhaps you should check out David Gray and Deacon Blue, see if the pattern holds up there as well...
Apr. 14th, 2010 01:55 am (UTC)

You've got to remember that my main musical influence was my Dad, who listened to Broadway and old-style folk (Jean Redpath, for example). He liked Joan Baez' more traditional stuff too.

Yes to Natalie Merchant, although she needn't have re-done "Because the Night" - I prefer the Patti Smith version.

Some things I find myself listening to recently (not all of them new - and some of these you know already) at work: Sara Bareilles (whom I used extensively for those writing prompts), Norah Jones, Idan Raichel, Oysterband, Springsteen's "The Rising" album, Regina Spektor (don't like her as much as Bareilles), Dione Farris (thanks to delux_vivens, who linked a video). Also, the following Putumayo discs have a lot of things I like: Gypsy Groove, Women of the World: Acoustic, Cafe Cubano, Euro Groove, Cover the World (world music covers of old hits - lots of fun), and Women of Jazz.

Other old favorites that I don't know if we've discussed much: Everything but the Girl, Annie Lennox (alone or as Eurhythmics), Meat Loaf (aw, come on, "Two out of Three Ain't Bad" is such a classic ... ), k.d. lang (in her pop mode rather than her country mode, although I liked a couple of her country songs also), Joni Mitchell, Heart ("Crazy on You" is an old old favorite), Carly Simon, Anita Baker, Roberta Flack (old old times ... "Killing Me Softly").

Jackson Browne is a guilty pleasure - the whole Darryl Hannah incident - but I really love a lot of his songs: "Somebody's Baby," "Fountain of Sorrow," "Doctor My Eyes," "The Pretender."

And Stan Rogers and Eric Bogle for folk, but I'm not always in the mood these days, for whatever reason.

I have songs I like where I don't really care that the words are tripe - the voice is just another instrument.

(ANd oh! I just found a really gorgeous version of my favorite Sting song, Shape of My Heart.)

Edited at 2010-04-14 01:55 am (UTC)
Apr. 14th, 2010 02:40 am (UTC)
Heee...I have no problem with going for voice-as-pure-instrument if the sound really appeals to me on some level, and/or the lyrics are in a language that I don't understand; but I seem to focus on voices so much that if I don't particularly care for a singer, I cannot get past the voice to enjoy any of the instrumentation behind it. (This is my big problem with acts like Rush, or the Dave Matthews Band -- I'd probably love both bands if they had a different vocalist.)

Most of the vocalists you've mentioned are ones I quite like (Baker, Lang, etc.) or at least don't mind, but there's a few on that list -- Joni Mitchell and Natalie Merchant -- that sometimes grate on my ears in similar ways to MacLachlan or Mayer. How do you feel about Macy Gray? I like the quirky, raspy quality of her voice and can hear a real Billie Holiday influence in her phrasing, but her voice used to send the ex into fits. ;)

Hmmm. If you enjoy k.d. lang's voice, you'd probably enjoy some classic Patsy Cline. And if you don't mind Holiday-ish jazz phrasing, but with a smoother voice, you might like Madeleine Peyroux -- she doesn't get so much into that stunning voice-as-brass-instrument thing Billie did, but there's a similar feel to some of her more light-and-swinging sort of numbers. And have you ever heard Renaissance/Annie Haslam solo? You've got a lot of overlap with bands/singers you like with folks I've known who were very fond of their work...

(And I still have to hook you up with the John Jones solo album, speaking of Oysterband!)
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