Child Singers: Are They Adorable or Unbearable?

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Are child singers adorable or unbearable?

Does a singer, regardless of age, have to have certain life experience in order to make songs they sing believable?

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Comedian WC Fields once said “A child should never be heard from or seen-ever again”. The quip was a part of his comedic routine. It’s easy to see why people would reel from the horror of him saying it. The critique of children can be a very touchy subject. Despite the love and affection many adults have for children, there is one area that may of us have little patience for: CHILD SINGERS. 

Some people, including doting mothers, may love watching their own children sing. They may also enjoy watching other people’s children singing and performing. Others find child singers incredibly grating on the nerves, painful to the eyes, and unbearable to the ears.

One of the first and most famous child singers was Shirley Temple. With her signature blonde curls and cute smile she charmed her way through films in the 30s and 40s. Her signature tune was “On the Good Ship Lolly Pop”. Perhaps this is the same reason why some people couldn’t stand watching her. Temple was a syrupy, sweet, and wholesome little girl happily singing and dancing to bubble gum tunes. Was Temple adorable or stomach churning? At least the material she was given  suited her age.

Modern times have seen the epic rise of Justin Bieber and One Direction. They are all adults now, however lets examine their work as children/teenagers. Justin Bieber,was the first artist to have seven songs from a debut album to chart in the Billboard Hot 100. He rose to stardom at the age of fifteen, selling over 25 million albums worldwide.  His hit singles include “Boyfriend”, Somebody to Love” and “One Time”. “Baby” is the most disliked video in YouTube history.

Teenage boy band One Direction were discovered  on UK  X Factor and become the second highest earning celebrities under 30. They had chart topping hits such as “What Makes You Beautiful” and “Steal My Girl”.

Australia’s Got Talent’s fifth season winner was 14 year old Jack Vidgen. He won the judges and audience over with his rendition of I Have Nothing. Vidgen has displayed a fondness for R&B soul diva tunes and can often be heard singing tunes from the vaults of Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner, and Whitney Houston. Watch Jack Vidgen sing below.

What made Bieber,Vidgen, and One Direction more cringe worthy than Shirley Temple was the subjects that they sung about . It was almost always about love. A competent voice is often not enough to satisfy the musical tastes of an adult. The interpretation of a song is of utmost important. When a singer sings they must feel and portray what they are singing in order to be believable. This consists of the accumulation of life experiences in order to breathe life into the character a singer takes on whilst performing. Emotional recall is often vital in making your audience believe you.

Therefore, 14 year old Jack Vidgen singing a torch song like  I Have Nothing, has no merit or nobility.  What does a 14 year old know about burning desire, unrequited love and boiling passion?

There are a few expectations, including Michael Jackson.  He had his share of bubble gum tracks with The Jacksons such as ABC and solo efforts including Rockin Robin. Michael took on a cover of Bill Wither’s Aint No Sunshine, and managed to pull off a rousing rendition. Jackson succeeded in capturing the heart ache, desire, and longing of the song. He was only 14 years old.

Judy Garland sang Somewhere Over The Rainbow in the 1939 film The Wizard Of Oz. Considered to be her signature song and the best song to ever come out of a film, Garland received praise for her delivery, interpretation, and ability to wear her personal demons as sub text whilst performing the track. She was 17 years old.

Both Garland and Jackson had traumatic and volatile child hoods. They had heart ache and tragedy and perhaps the artist within them knew how to channel those experiences into their work. They certainly were not empty vessels simply singing words and phrases they knew nothing about.

Is real life experience the only way to deliver a convincing musical performance?

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