Sunday, November 29, 2015

Adele and Janis Joplin

Nov 29, 15

Adele and Janis Joplin:

So I drove down to have lunch today with my beautiful, oh-so-smart daughter Aviva Basman, Canada's greatest refugees' rights lawyer, her exquisite and shimmeringly lovely husband Scott Pearce, their cute as all get out son, Max Pearce Basman, kinda nerdy, kinda geeky, in the best, most endearing, most charming senses of those qualities, and their oh so girrrly daughter Roxy Pearce Basman, a diminutive throw back to second wave feminism, when girls were girrrls as in girrrlpower, if you get my drift. 

But all that's a digression from my point. 

On my way down, today about a 35' drive, I played over and over and over and so on again and again, Janis Joplin's incredible version of Little Girl Blue. The best version of it ever, I'd argue. And as I kept repeatedly listening to it, I kept comparing it to Adele's Hello, which I've heard a few times now and don't love. S'ok. 

And I thought, for as much as I really liked Rolling In The Deep, a great marriage of voice and song, that Janis Joplin is so much the better singer judging by a comparison of Hello and Little Girl Blue. 

In Hello, I find Adele, who's got an undeniably big voice, more bombastic than affecting, more generic in her expression of sorrow and regret than inside those emotions, more histrionic than dramatic, unsubtle in her phrasing, dynamics and melisma, with too much unnuanced belting, more, generally, signing outside than inside the song. 

And to my ears, Janis Joplin's singing in Little Girl Blue is 180 degrees different. Her voice and phrasing range from the subtlest quiet delicacy in the intense empathy she feels for Little Girl Blue's pain and desolation to the powerful, big and full voiced urging of her to count her little fingers, just to get her past thoughts of suicide:

...And I know how you feel,
And I know you ain't got no reason to go on
And I know you feel you must be through.
Oh honey go on and sit right back down
I want you to count, oh count your little fingers...

from providing matter of fact, prosaic, resignedly sung, wise advice--"What else is there to do"--to the poetic and wistful evoking of the similarities and associations between "count your little fingers" and ...."count those raindrops/Oh, feel 'em falling down on you..., and the evocation of devastated loss and lonely hopelessness through the imagery and metaphor of the falling raindrops:

...all you ever gonna have to count on,
Or gonna wanna lean on
It's gonna feel just like those raindrops do
When they're falling down, honey, all around you.

Rodgers and Hart meet one of the bluesiest chicks who ever lived, who took your evocative show tune lyrics and elevated them by imbuing them with the spirit and sensibility of the blues.

To my ears, as MC Hammer once said, Adele can't touch this.

Here's the difference for anyone interested: