The Battle Round (Rooets)

Roo-ets is a new series I'm very excited to start posting on RooMcGoo every Tuesday starting September 8th. Each installment will feature a different singer/musician doing a duet, or discussing music, with Roo...duh. While I'm still pulling together odds and ends to start posting Roo-ets regularly, I figured now would be the opportune time to explore why, exactly, it felt important to me to have a series of covers focused on collaborating with different musicians. 

To me, musically speaking, nothing is more satisfying than two (or more) voices singing in harmony. When two voices finally lock in to create a whole sound greater than the some of its parts, the physical vibrations created are twice (or more) as powerful, twice (or more) as distinct.

So, besides my excitement at the idea of having an excuse to make some of my favorite singers perform a song with me (let's be honest), I was also excited by the idea of an ongoing series of duets as an effort to stand out from the currently competitive approach to making music threaded through our culture.

Of course, singing in a competitive setting is nothing new, Star Search and vaudeville coming to mind as very chronologically dispersed pre-reality television examples. However, in the new millennium, it seems to me singing competitively has built a lot more muscle.

My first favorite demonstration of this has always been anytime the finalists on American Idol perform a group number (see the above rock medley). In between singing the choruses of the song together, the verses are broken up into solo lines- one for each contestant. This makes complete sense in theory, however an entire verse of separate solos with each soloist continually one-upping the previous one makes the song nearly unintelligible.

Or, as my Mom always reacted (in the early years when we watched “American Idol” as a family):

“Just sing the damn song.”

The Voice took this concept one step further, adding even more muscle, with “The Battle Round,” during which two contestants FROM THE SAME TEAM have to split a song (calling and responding on alternate lines) and essentially sing for their life. As if this wouldn’t make any performer crap themselves to begin with,  just for added measure, the battle takes place in a BOXING RING.

Of course, this makes for fantastic trainwreck television – I can’t sit here and pretend I haven’t watched many a battle round with my mouth hanging open. But, musically, its best witnessed without ears. This is why I feel like more than ever, now is a great time to be making harmony. Because our culture is a competitive one, and it ultimately runs deeper than any arrangements heard on “American Idol” and “The Voice.”

With our intense focus on our differences, I realize singing some songs with other people may not fix everything, but it feels like a step in the right direction. Because, honestly, we could all use some practice finding and locking into harmony.