Tuesday, September 23, 2014
Lately, Babs has been making the rounds, hawking her new duets album. TANGENT RANT: Does every singer have to do a duet album now? Usually they’re old established crooners who now struggle to hit notes they once sang with ease. And Stevie Wonder. It’s as if a publicist said to these icons, “You gotta appeal to the kids. Let’s see if that Gaga person is available.” There have been enough of these albums now that the duet partners should all pair off and make their own albums. That way we could hear “It Had To Be You” by every combination of artists who ever made the Billboard charts in the last fifty years.
Last week she was on THE TONIGHT SHOW… as the only guest. A lot of the things I give her credit for are also the things that piss me off. She’s very effectively positioned herself as a larger-than-life personality. For her to appear anywhere is a major event. That’s great career management. When she was on THE TONIGHT SHOW she was the only guest. When she performs in Vegas tickets are more than your house is worth. But a part of me resents that. I want to say, “Hey, who the fuck are you? So you sing well and are talented?”
Whenever she’s a guest she portrays herself as just a folksy down-to-earth Jewish girl from Brooklyn. But you KNOW that’s not who she really is. What Jewish girl from Brooklyn builds a shopping arcade in her home? At one time Barbra gave free concerts in Central Park. Now she charges the national debt of Canada to see one of her rare Vegas shows. So only the super rich and super famous can attend. Way to reward your loyal fans.
I hear she’s very difficult to work with, but I don’t know that first hand. I’ve heard that about Kristin Chenoweth, yet I directed three episodes of her sitcom and found her to be an absolute delight. She was kind to everybody, an uber hard-worker, and a total pro. So I give Barbra a pass on that one.
My real issue comes from her singing, and this was exacerbated by listening to that dedicated Streisand channel on satellite radio. When she wants to be, she is, in my humble non-professional estimation, the greatest living singer on the planet. Sorry Miley. When she chooses to, she can elevate a song to unimagined heights. It’s like she swallowed at Stradivarius.
But way too often she over sings the shit out of songs. She launches into vocal gymnastics that obliterates the meaning of many of her tunes. It’s like she doesn’t trust the material. A gorgeous melody and heartfelt lyrics aren’t enough. She has to put her stamp on everything. And often, it’s more like a “stomp.”
For me, this is infuriating because I love her voice so much. I often feel cheated. You may disagree. You may love everything she sings. The louder the note; the longer the note – the better. And that’s great. But for this simpleton, less is more.
You don’t have to work that hard, Barbra. You don’t. LeBron James doesn’t have to take every shot from half court. Tom Brady doesn’t have to throw a Hail Mary pass every play. Just sing the songs. Nice. Easy. Follow the melody. And I need new shoes. Any chance I could swing by your mall and see what you’ve got? I’ll just be there a half hour. I swear. Oh…and do you take all major credit cards?
Okay, so after all that Barbra bashing, here's an example of why I keep tuning back to the Streisand channel. God, is she unbelievable when she wants to be. Wow.
By Ken Levine at 6:00 AM