​In Defense of Soft Voices | Dust on WordPress.com

Solange performs on SNL.
Janet Jackson on her ‘Unbreakable’ World Tour.

I remember the first and last time I ever sang for another human being.

It was a balmy night in Bay County, Florida. I was in my room with the only other Black person in the Honors/AP track in HS, Nicole (real name witheld). I sang her a bit of my favorite SWV song at the time, Always on my Mind.

She was not impressed.

‘Your voice isn’t powerful enough to get anywhere professionally.’

I don’t remember ever asking her that bit whatever. The damage was done. From then on, the only singing I did was in my room, shower or car.

Nothing against those among us who can really belt out a tune. I know when I’ve had a rough day, I seek out the Aretha’s, Chaka’s Whitney’s, and Mariah’s for a little bit of scream therapy. It helps.

But there’s nothing wrong with the softer voices. I believe there’s a place for them as well. Nobody wants to scream or be screamed at all the time, surely.

Yet musicians like Janet Jackson, Aaliyah, Ciara, Solange, and FKA Twigs are maligned for not having the same kind of range as the belters of the world. And where does that leave the altos and contraltos that I love so much? Does anyone care how much power lies in their voices when they sing so low?

We need to make room for all kinds of voices in our musical diet. There’s space for Jazmine Sullivan and Ledisi and Jhene Aiko and Brandy and Tinashe.

Originally published at dustdaughter.com on December 1, 2016.