Who Is This Chick Called “May”?

My little girl is 8, so she is allowed to like this show:

I couldn’t resist teasing her, though, because at 0:18 Victoria Justice sings “somebody could hear” in the traditional manner, pronouncing “hear” so that the listener thinks of this:

Then at 0:25, for some strange reason, she pronounces the rhyme “disappear”, as dis – a – one of these:

Singers do this vowel-mangling all the time, if you let them, but it’s usually the writer’s fault. Stay away from the pinched vowels, lyricists, like “eeee” and “eeeer” on long sustained belt notes. Especially near a young girl’s break in register, that’s a minefield.

It often happens on the word “me”, which turns into “may”, and later in the Victorious theme song (‘Make it Shine’ by Dr. Luke and Michael Corcoran), “me” turns into “may”, but for once it’s not the fault of the writers. It’s just a poorly trained singer trying to sound like her vowel-mangling Idols:

Not a fantasay
Just remember May
When it turns out right …

… In my victoray
Just remember May …

I have been dutifully remembering this chick called May, but she has yet to turn up in the series.

We should give TV singers and writers a break, because they never have training, and they rarely have talent. We should be tough – very tough – on any guilty music theatre writers. Like Andrew Lloyd Webber and Amy Powers/Don Black/Christopher Hampton, the writers of Norma Desmond’s big ballad “With One Look”, from Sunset Boulevard. They give this, right on the break, to a woman of a certain age:

This time I am staying, I’m staying for good
I’ll be back to where I was born to be
With one look I’ll be me!

I hate this song. I really hate this song, and for all sorts of reasons. It has bullshit lines like “silent music starts to play”, which isn’t true of seeing a silent movie. You can hear the music, but not the movie: that’s the point.

But look at that last line. Two “eeee” vowels, back to back! And what does “With one look I’ll be me” even mean? Does Norma mean “Once again, I’ll be the great silent screen star Norma Desmond”? Then she should sing “Norma Desmond”. And it need not rhyme.

Anyway, here, around 2:59,  is Glenn Close singing “With one look, I’ll be May”:

Fine, you might say, Glenn Close can sing, but she’s not one of the great belters. Betty Buckley is one of the great belters, and here she is, in a live performance, around 8:22, having to preserve her belt voice by singing both “where I was born to bay” and “With one look, I’ll bear Maaaay”.

Bad writing. Pure and simple.

2 thoughts on “Who Is This Chick Called “May”?

  1. You are so right – love this post! I will say that Betty Buckley eventually stopped doing that when she realized it sounded ridiculous and that she could sing the “e” vowel up there.
    I also love your reference to “silent music starts to play” – how would you know, if it’s silent? He could have used so many other words –
    “r” drives me crazy – singers either sit on it (errrrr) or they turn it into a lousy British accent (uh). I tell my singers to just lighten up and don’t spend twenty minutes on that lousy consonant!

    • Bless you and all teachers like you, Bev. I, as an Aussie, am in the fortunate position of almost never pronouncing a terminal “r”. Or, indeed, any consonants at all.

      In concert and on CD, I have heard Buckley, LuPone and other great belters pull off the “eeee” without apparent difficulty, but a concert or a CD is not a 3 hour performance, eight or so times a week (and this song, as we know, comes early in the night).

      Which only makes the songwriters’ laziness more egregious: if it’s within a theatre score, the writing needs to take all of that into account.

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