(Originally published 1/20/2011)
I can’t stand Andrea Bocelli’s voice. When I’m out shopping and I hear it fouling the air inside a store I’m about to enter, I stop in my tracks as though I’ve caught a whiff of poisonous gas, and then wrack my brains for things I might have left in the car, or for other stores where I might run the errand in question. If I’m already trapped inside a store when it assails me, I become possessed with visions of grabbing my merchandise and bolting for the door like a shoplifter, or, if the door’s too far away, diving through a window. I don’t give a second thought to the legal consequences, or to what my wife might think when I call her to come get me out of jail. I’d be free, gloriously free of the wooden bleating so many people seem to worship.
Please know that, most often, despite the name of my blog, I’m an extremely optimistic person who sees the best in people and what they have to offer. (I don’t hesitate to call out problems I see around me, though, which isn’t really complaining in the bitching-and-moaning sense of the word; rather it’s an effort to raise awareness of matters that I think need attention.) But while I’m sure that Bocelli is a very nice man, and while I do find it inspiring that he defied the odds stacked against him by his blindness to become a singer, his success drives me absolutely insane. Why? Not because I hate opera (I love it, actually) or because I secretly wish I’d been born a tenor so that I could sing all the pop songs that I, as a bass-baritone, am forever unable to render without singing them in a Leonard Cohen-esque range or an absurd falsetto (this one is true, by the way); it’s because he’s musically and vocally not very good. Though he repulsed me from the first, the more I hear of him, the more forced, constrained, and bereft of breath energy his voice sounds. Any singer (and many non-singers) will correctly tell you that these are not positive attributes in a vocalist of any sort, except perhaps Bob Dylan, and even he barely gets away with it—mostly because his lyrics and tunes are so good.
That Bocelli has infected record stores and sales charts for so many years says to me more than just that record executives and business owners have at best bad taste and at worst extremely low standards: it says that consumers are way too gullible and that they don’t get enough exposure to real operatic tenors of quality. We could chalk this fact up to the poor state of public music education and appreciation in the United States, the increasing difficulty classical music seems to face in these trying economic times, or any number of other troubling causes. Whatever the reason, when I consider that there are quite a few excellent tenors out there today, it irks me that broadcasters cheat listeners and that listeners cheat themselves by wasting time with Bocelli. Why on earth would anyone bother with a Snickers bar, say, when there are flourless double chocolate ganache cakes on hand? One gives you easy calories and a quick fix; the other replenishes your soul, provides a much more meaningful experience, and makes you savor every bite. One makes you want to jump out a window; the other makes you wish you never had to leave.