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Posts Tagged ‘voice’

I don’t keep up with many recording artists. The pool of popular people changes too rapidly for me to notice even half of them, and most of the half I do notice have little to offer. But there are, of course, exceptions.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last decade or so, you’ve heard of Pink and listened to her songs on the radio. From her 2000 debut song “There You Go” to her latest and biggest hit yet, “So What,” Pink has belted out noteworthy songs across five albums. In 2001, with Missundaztood, arguably her most well-known album, and a slice of the global hit “Lady Marmalade” in her pocket, she seemed to find her voice and hit her stride. Between 2002 and 2007 two more albums came out and she was married in 2006 to motocross racer Carey Hart. (They separated in 2008 and are “trying to work it out”). And then last fall came her latest album, Funhouse, producing her biggest hit to date (also the first of her albums I actually bought).

[Please note: the unedited album contains some explicit lyrics; the edited version does not but is still not suitable for children or “tweens.”]

Pink has gathered quite a following with her pull-no-punches attitude and songs to match. Perhaps more interesting are the chinks in her armor where she displays surprising vulnerability without drifting into the maudlin. Funhouse is a great mix of the two, a step up I believe, while retaining all the bite that appealed in her previous albums.

“So… So what! I’m still a rock star. I got my rock moves, And I don’t need you. And guess what? I’m having more fun… And you’re a tool…”

her wonderfully rough voice announces in track #1, “So What.” If you haven’t seen the music video, you’re missing a good thing.

As for the album tracks that follow “So What,” well they certainly don’t disappoint.

“I don’t wanna be the girl that has to fill the silence. The quiet scares me ’cause it screams the truth.” [Sober]

“I’m drinking wine and thinking bliss Is on the other side of this… I’ve had my chances and I’ve taken them all, Just to end up right back here on the floor…” [Crystal Ball]

“If the darkest hour comes before the light, Where is the light? Where is the light?” [Ave Mary A]

“Have you ever wished for an endless night? …Have you ever held your breath and asked yourself will it ever get better than tonight?” [Glitter In the Air]

It’s a good mix of fun and serious and is, I think, by far her best album. There you go.

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Very few people haven’t heard of S. E. Hinton, a young adult genre author who makes the required reading list in most if not all English classrooms. She is famous for having penned the new-classic short novel The Outsiders as well as Tex, Rumble Fish, and That Was Then This Is Now. All were written from the perspective of young adults and were/are very popular among that crowd.

Now that the history lesson is covered, I’ll get down to business. Hinton didn’t publish anything for many years after Taming the Star Runner and rumors circulated that she had essentially retired after her short but glorious run. (Dropping off the page for 16 years can do that.) Then in 2005 came the dark and wholly unexpected Hawke’s Harbor, the newest spine on my bookshelf.

I’ll make no bones about it, I loved S. E. Hinton and, as a child and young adult, read everything of her hand I could find. I scanned the pages of The Outsiders more times than I can remember and even voluntarily wrote an essay on the book in middle school. But then came Hawke’s Harbor, and I was unsure. I passed it by on Amazon and in the local bookstore, wary of her new work, suspicious that it would be yet another dreadful “comeback novel” and could never live up to my old favorites. But like nearly every book published, a few copies of it eventually wound up in the bookstore’s bargain bin. And I, desperate for new reading material (as usual), could not resist the temptation of a bargain.

My worries firmly in place, I began to read … and found out that I could not have been more wrong. Hawke’s Harbor is a gorgeous, touching story. It quickly found its way into my cubby of favorites on the bookshelf and slid its hooks deftly into my heart. But it is totally unlike her earlier works. Had I not known, her name would never have entered my mind on a list of possible authors. Perhaps the greatest shock was the inclusion of a vampire in the plot, which could not be more removed from what she wrote about in the 1970’s and 1980’s. This bit of supernatural did not sit well with many of her former fans but, in all honesty, it was so well wrought I didn’t mind. That’s not to say I wasn’t surprised, and still a bit disappointed; and I seriously questioned whether or not I’d made a mistake picking this dark story from the bargain bin. Apparently this also threw a lot of other readers who were expecting another Tex or Rumble Fish. Because serious readers – we minority of dedicated, avid consumers of words, we Constant Readers – treasure our books like great friends, and treasure the authors of those books like loved ones. So when someone drops off the publishing map for a decade and a half and re-emerges with a totally different and unexpected voice, it can be very personal.

Think of it as if a loved one were in a bad accident and fell into a coma. And at first the doctors were very optimistic for a full recovery … but as the months and then years wore on, a darker prognosis appeared. And you resigned yourself to losing this loved one. You wanted the coma to break and for that person to open their eyes and be every bit the person they were before … but you understood the chances of that were infintesimal. Then one fine day that loved one stirred and opened their eyes. And the doctors cried, “Come quick!” And you rushed to their bedside with a great wild hope galloping through your veins … only to find that this loved one didn’t remember you. Or themselves. And watching them recover is like watching a stranger, and that it is somehow worse than losing them to a coma, or even to death. Because there they are, right there, you can reach out and touch them … but it isn’t the person you knew.

That probably sounds ridiculous. And of course not everyone is so effected, but many are. And it is so personal to them that it feels like a betrayal, willful or not. Authors who publish fairly regularly and whose voices change slowly over time have a much greater advantage. S. E. Hinton did most certainly not have that advantage and the reviews of this book prove it. So, just for the record, let me state that this is nothing like her earlier work … except that it is still a striking, moving story. Despite my misgivings, I loved it. It is hard to explain but the vampire thread did not discredit the story or the characters, who practically breathe and move on the page (and this from a reader who has avoided every other vampire story I have ever come across because I simply detest them). I loved it.

In closing, I offer a word of advice: If you pick this book up expecting it to be anything like her other books, you will be disappointed. Because Hinton has a new voice. It is still unerringly beautiful and wrenching but in a very different way. She has changed, as have we all.

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