“All the ladies if you feel me help me sing it out”…Okay, truth time. When you are alone—perhaps while cleaning the house or stuck in traffic, do you ever sing along to the radio like you are Beyoncé? I know I do. I’m often exploring my vocal range and gesticulating all up in this hiz-ouse. It’s the musical equivalent to opening your mouth when you apply mascara, I can’t not bob my head or wag my finger sassily in between breaths.
When you are alone, its fair game—who’s going to judge as you sing the chorus into a broom handle, or pointing at various houseplants and photo frames as if you are Jennifer Hudson in “Dreamgirls” singing “And I Am Telling You” in front of a packed house. (And you-and you—and you too Mr Fern, I’m looking at you –you’re gonna love meeeeee!)
Recently, my concern has grown from when I have to walk the fifteen minutes to pick up the car from Ben’s office. I take the I-Pod and enjoy a fast-paced stroll to the upbeat music, but what I am struggling with that involuntary ‘Beyoncé finger’, the urge to shake my rump and the impulsive need to burst out in song right on the sidewalk, like I was in my very own musical production. I struggle to squelch this natural talent of movement and melody, it is threatening to burst through my very being and cause traffic accidents wherever I go. But where my musical styling’s really shine is behind the wheel, out on the open road. One of my favourite moments was when I was living in New Zealand. I had just met Ben, but we were living in separate towns. I was driving to Hamilton to see him when I heard Michael Buble’s “Lost”, and when the climax of the song peaked, my voice rose up to meet it. Sobbing and singing, my snotty nose threatening to run as I tried to not run the borrowed vehicle off the road. It probably felt better than it sounded…or looked for that manner. But it isn’t always about being attractive, which is why it’s best to do it alone.
For a time in Australia I worked on a construction site. My husband worked there and got me a job cleaning the finished apartments. Besides the occasional visit from Ben for ‘work cuddles’, I was alone for many long hours, and it was the company of my I-Pod that kept me sane. I was often on empty floors, and to pass the time amongst the dust and filth, I would sing my little heart out to Adele, Florence and the Machine, Amy Winehouse, Feist, and of course, the incomparable Ms Knowles. Now before we go any further I want to make this clear: I am not an amazing singer, but I do love to sing. I love the power of a beautifully executed song, and I can only imagine how it must feel to truly hit those spectacular high notes, and be taken to a place that I like to call “Goosebump City”, a magical place that cannot be found on a map. It can be found in the most unexpected places.
One long ago evening I was watching “The Rose” with my friend Monica. How she had talked this movie up, and how horrible I thought it was. “I remember it being better”, she frowned looking at the back of the VHS case, as if for answers.
Bette Midler was fantastic at being the most horrible woman in a pre-Courtney Love era, but the movie was seriously killing me. But there was still wine in the bottle and so we pushed forth—eventually getting drunk enough to heckle the film screaming “JUST DIE ALREADY” to the television screen. In the final moments of the film though, she finally appears on stage and sings “Stay With Me”. Next stop: Goosebump City. My jaw dropped and my throat closed up a bit as she belted this track out, wild eyed and desperate begging her lover not to leave her. Oh my god, and then she died onstage and that was the end of the film. That scene is burned on my brain, which is good, because I can’t find it on You-Tube. But it was powerful. Trust me. It was breaking up and breaking down in the most dramatic possible fashion.
Once at a small concert in New Zealand, the singer, a friend who knew all about the broken heart that brought me there, asked me to come up and sing Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive”. For me singing had always belonged to solitary moments in the car or after six Jager-bombs, not after a whole evening of singing from an actual singer. But hey, it’s a hot summer night in a foreign country, I’m wearing the coral silk sundress that I bought in New York, everyone is clapping and I’ve got nothing to lose. Oh sweet musical release, I did that song what justice I could, and what delicious fun to sing an anthem of what happens after your lover walks out the door. When it hurts so bad that you don’t know what to do with yourself—that is when all you can do it sing, go ahead and clutch the microphone (or hair brush or broom handle, or blow dryer in lieu of a wind machine, whatever is on hand) get out that sassy, no nonsense pointer finger and just let it go…and hopefully don’t drop dead onstage while doing so. But where it is not acceptable is out on the streets, unless you have an open guitar case for the spare change of passers-by, because it makes you look like a crazy person, and that is just not how we divas like to do things in Goosebump City.