Pop music is awash with crystalline tenor and alto voices. These are the voices that soar through the middle and upper registers like acrobats on a high wire. They sit atop the sound spectrum and are easily deciphered against the din of your automobile or the noise and haste of a city sidewalk and thus are perfectly suited for music on your car radio and in your headphones. These are not the voices we are discussing. Today we celebrate the baritone voice in all it’s subharmonic grandeur.
What is so pleasing about deep voices? Why, for instance, do film advertisements use low-throated actors when they begin “In a world…?” It’s because low voices soothe and calm. They command authority and convey dignity and poise. To illustrate we created a playlist of tracks by some of the most solemn voices in popular music. You’ll hear the spastic disco of Calvin Johnson’s Dub Narcotic Sound System, the classic strains of Jim Morrison and rock’s poet laureate, Leonard Cohen. Isaac Hayes, Barry White and Johnny Cash are here as are Tom Waits and Elvis. The lone female voice here belongs to Patti Smith. See if her powerful baritone plea, in the chorus of “Summer Cannibals,” to “eat, eat” doesn’t move you. Daddy sing bass indeed!