Thursday, June 19, 2014

So I found a Sarah Brightman CD that I bought when I was 17

I never listened to it. I bought it because I was a huge Phantom of the Opera fangirl and I saw it at the Media Play and thought "Sarah Brightman!" and bought it. Fun side-note: I had to do a Google search because I couldn't remember the name of Media Play. "CD stores" auto-completes with "from the 90s". Bless you internet.

So here we go. A CD that was made in the 90s by a former Broadway singer who did not age gracefully. Let's run this shit into the ground.

First song: Sarah Brightman whispering behind vague ambient sounds and something that I think is meant to sound like the mission control for a space shuttle. What's the name of it? La Lune. Bloody fantastic. The booklet tells me that she's saying actual words and not just muttering, but I'll choose to assume that someone caught her trying to read a recipe she didn't quite understand.

Everyone does that, right? When they can't understand a recipe, they kind of stand there in the kitchen, muttering the instructions over and over again. Right?


I should have mentioned this earlier, because it's important. Sarah Brightman played the very first Christine in the Phantom of the Opera musical, which was written by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Andrew Lloyd Webber is this charming motherfucker:

What's even more important about this is the fact that his wife at the time was... Sarah Brightman. In fact, he wrote the role of Christine specifically for her to sing, which is why Christine is a soprano. Sarah Brightman was a soprano. 

Well, is.

Sort of.

See, I always thought that Sarah Brightman made a great Christine because she had a really breathy quality to her voice, which fit in with the character. Young shy girl who is very talented but with no self-esteem, being pushed along by a hidden father figure who turns out to be a creep. She sounds a bit out of her league. Totally made sense. 

According to track number two here, Sarah Brightman's whispery, breathy singing is a goddamn feature. Whatever, let's continue.

TRACK FUCKING TWO: Sarah sings far too quietly as the background music overwhelms her. It sounds a bit like she's trying to seduce a track from one of those world fusion CDs. She gains some energy towards the end of the track but it's only after a long musical interlude has me concerned that someone clubbed her over the head with a pan flute. I'd complain about the pretentious lyrics but I can barely hear them so that's all right.

Third song: Scarborough Fair! We're starting off good here, since I love this Sarah Brightman what are you doing with that high note please no please stop no

Okay, she stopped. Wait, no. I guess I'm getting that lovely high note every time she says 'sage'.  Good. Otherwise not a terrible song, and she managed to capture the floaty quality that I assume she's going for when she's breathy. 

Literally as I was typing that out the music suddenly swelled and overwhelmed her so much that I could not tell she was still singing. Excellent. I want to have a chat with the sound editor.

Fourth song: Figlio Perduto, written by Beethoven. The instrumental is still playing as I'm writing this, so hope


I would say that this is the best track so far but I cannot tell what's going on here. Is she... okay, it sounds like she's singing, okay, and then they overlaid her singing with a robot version of her singing. Is... is that autotune? Was autotune around in 2000? Hold on. 

Auto-tune, initial release 1997. Hmm. I'm hesitant to call it, but something really weird is going on for the first 30 seconds of her singing. After that we have Sarah Brightman singing overlaid with Sarah Brightman humming so that's all right. At least this time she's being drowned out by herself. 

In the last couple of stanzas she switches to full operatic mode and it would be very lovely if I COULD HEAR HER OVER THE BACKGROUND MUSIC TURN THE SOUND LEVELS DOWN 



Okay, let's be fair. I'm going to listen to the original Whiter Shade of Pale and then I'm going to listen to Annie Lennox's version of it because why the fuck not, and then I will judge Sarah Brightman because maybe I'm just being unfair.

Hm. See, yes, there's a fundamental quality that's lacking in Sarah Brightman's version of this song and it's the fact that SHE'S DROWNING IN HER OWN BACKING MUSIC. I know it seems like I'm harping on this a lot but holy hell, it's terrible. She's somewhat anemic anyway, but even when she gets some power in her voice, suddenly the music swells to compensate. It might as well be "Angel Records' Studio Musicians, featuring Sarah Brightman."

I don't think it's actually the studio musicians, for the record. I can't be bothered to look it up. 

Annie Lennox's version of Whiter Shade of Pale is also pretty terrible.

Sixth song: Nothing new going on here. Loud backing music, anemic singing, unnecessary high notes. I will say this though, I desperately want to tell her to cheer the fuck up. 

hahahahahaha I thought I was done with this track but she just did a little pop music trill and that's so stupid it's fucking adorable. 

Seventh song: How many songs are on this CD? 15? Fuck me. Song number 7 is just an instrumental. Now I feel bad for already blowing my load on that "Studio musicians featuring Sarah Brightman" joke.

Eighth song: A song called How Fair This Place that she is singing in what appears to be Russian. Full on operatic mode and very beautiful. I am willing to forgive the slightly less overwhelming background music.

Ninth song: A quick preview of the booklet and this song is really, really long. Like, two pages long. Maybe it'll be a good one!

...she sounds like a Japanese schoolgirl singing in Spanish.

Tenth song: My husband's playing God of War right now, and I had forgotten about all of the completely unnecessary breasts in this game. Greece must be the number one supplier of diaphanous material.

Oh, song number ten is Here With Me and it's mostly terrible. Someone poked her with a stick and she sang a bit louder for a minute or two. That's something.

Eleventh song: I feel like Sarah Brightman is a teenager who's had a few voice classes and just downloaded Audacity, but with an opera singer as a headmate. Opera singer got to front for this song, and it's just beautiful. Also, when Brightman's using her operatic voice her high notes are so strong and pure. It really makes her anemic pop music high notes all the sadder. 

Twelfth song: fuck you I'm skipping this piece of shit

Thirteenth song: Hell yeah, opera singer got to front again! 

Fourteenth song: Hey, apparently what I have here is the Barnes and Noble Exclusive Edition! I didn't buy this at Media Play at all! Man, I bet I got shafted hard, Barnes and Noble CDs were expensive as hell.

Song number 14 is Gloomy Sunday and someone needs to tell Brightman that only Ella Fitzgerald can be Ella Fitzgerald.

LAST SONG ON THE DISC: So anemic pop singer and booming opera singer are having an argument and opera singer is winning. I am suffering through the thin, reedy singing because the more powerful moments are absolutely stunning. Even the background music is at an appropriate level! Someone learned how to operate Audacity just in time for the last song. 

In a way this is the most disappointing song because about half of it is just hauntingly beautiful.

CEE DEE ROUND-UP: I've watched Repo: A Genetic Opera, and I'm happy to report that Sarah Brightman did eventually scrap any idea that she would make a good pop singer. I'm throwing this CD away now.

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