Yeah, Yeah, k.d. Has A Good Voice But…
It is no secret that k.d. lang has her fan base like any artist. But the point I want to underscore is that her magnetic aura is based on elements that are much more difficult to maintain than shock value or gratuitous sexual endeavors. She is a mover and a shaker who also happens to have a phenomenal voice. If I were to tell this to her in person, she may not agree. In fact, she might even take serious issue with me. But hear me out. I want to try to convince you that k.d.’s voice comes second, brought forth by a risk taking personality and soul.
When I say that k.d. lang is a mover and a shaker, I not only mean the political moves she has made in her career, but the more subtle ones that include less obvious risks. The risks I am talking about are risks about coming to know her true identity; existential “putting-all-in”. I want to be clear and say that all of this is conjecture on my part. I am merely extrapolating from what I see in the part of her that the public can access. But in this small venue, I believe there is enough for us to note that the reason k.d. is so mesmerizing is found in that special something, the “je ne sais quois” (for lack of a better foreign phrase) that comes up from the earth, through her bare feet and out that I-won’t-be-ignored voice. One component I want to talk about here is that of the soul’s confrontation with fear.
k.d is Fine with Fear
A consistent character in k.d. songs, whether they are originals or covers, is that moment when identity stands before fear. This character is found in Ingenue (nearly every song) and in a large portion of every other album she has cranked out. (As an aside, I would like to note that k.d. lang has managed to create over 13 albums, and tour, and do charity stuff, and take time to work with a lama, and on and on. Pretty impressive!). Somehow k.d. just understands that fear is temporary or that is is not even real. To give an example (perhaps one that is too obvious to be clever), I have in mind “You’re OK” from All You Can Eat. In this song, she pursues a relationship even though she is essentially riddled with fear; fear so intense she can hardly function: “I am wrought with paranoia, for I have brought myself before you nakedly awaiting your OK”.
Musically, k.d. shows fear by using a kind of sing-song melody here; one that mimics a shaky voice or a voice that is struggling to make a sound. Yet, in spite of it, she moves onward. As the song continues, the intensity of her voice begins to show a release of fear. This is shown especially in the line But I’m all right if you’re OK. As this line is sung, k.d.’s voice becomes more forceful and the harmony is very tight. This shows that her attitude toward fear is natural, in the sense that she feels it, but that she is comfortable with it because she knows that it can be managed. I believe that she manages fear so well because she has a deep understanding that fear is indeed her own construction. k.d, may or may not have had this in mind when writing this song. But it is a good example of how more than lyrics are expressed with that “something” she channels when she sings. Moving and shaking fear are two things that k.d’s voice is able to convey to us, whether we are able to hear the message or not.
k.d.’s confrontation of fear in her work is just one of several confrontations with difficult “life stuff” I could drone on and on about (and knowing me, I probably will in future posts). What is important to me for others to see is that k.d.’s voice is so good, not only because of all the technical stuff she does perfectly, but because she lives a meaningful and authentic life and then shares it with her fans. k.d. truly lives a human life with everything experienced in full. She takes no short cuts, does not suffer from self-deception and understands Truth when she sees it. In my view, this is what makes her voice “pop”; what makes each note so full with nirvana-like intonation. k.d. is a mover and a shaker with respect to coming to know her own self. She may indeed be a midnight Toker too, but that is “need to know” info only!