Congratulations to the mould-breaking, failure embracing Adele for her Grammy last night. Not just by eschewing a catwalk physique, but by shunning vocal perfection as explored by Sophie Herdman in her Sunday Times piece “Losing its edge”…

  • Modern pop can be too polished for its own good. Let’s turn off the Auto-Tune – Listen to a current chart-topping track. Pick any one. Isn’t it amazing how perfect they are? Not a note off key or a single dropped beat. ‘Wow,’ you might think. ‘Technology is the best. We really can create totally flawless music.’ You’d be right: technology has changed music dramatically recently — it has given us the ability to create ­perfection. But here’s a question: is perfection really perfect, or is imperfect music better? Do we actually prefer music that is a little raw, a little flawed? Recent research found that pop music is, wait for it, becoming blander. A team led by Joan Serra at the Spanish National Research Council studied pop songs from 1955 to 2010 and discovered that the chords and melodies have become less varied. It seems that in our quest for perfection, we’ve over-­produced and smoothed out the rough edges that make music interesting. It’s nothing new to point out that overproduced music — the type that’s flat, Auto-Tuned beyond recognition, and with 90% of the original emotion sucked out of it — is both everywhere and unappealing. But what’s being ignored is the fact that we listeners love what many producers perceive to be a flawed sound. We crave the quiver of an emotional voice, the mischievous ­comment caught at the close of a track, even the moments where artists mess up. So how has overproduced music become so popular? Ian Grimble is a producer at Communion, a label that champions a more human soundGrimble is captivated by the human voice. ‘The more beautiful, broken, joyful or fragile a voice is, the more we want to hear the words they sing,’ he says. This is true of some recent ­successes — Adele, Gotye, Alabama Shakes. They’ve been produced for popland, sure, but those intense emotions can be heard loud and clear. In fact, it was her highly charged, but very simple, ‘one gal and a piano’ Brits performance that many would say kick-started the world’s obsession with Adele. It’s not only emotions that are tampered with when music is overproduced, though; it’s also those little flaws that fans love. Sting and the Police have their famous piano incident in Roxanne that made the final edit. Ian Brown is famed for his off-tune vocals, which haven’t dampened the Stone Roses’ appeal… ‘Live versions of tracks give us a personal connection to the performer that we find rewarding. We can be moved by the apparent imperfections in the performance,’ says Vicky Williamson, a music psychologist at Goldsmiths, University of London. Wouldn’t it be great to see just a little more humanity and a little less robotics in the pop world? The industry might be surprised by how a little imperfection goes a long way.”

It’s not just the lyrics, but the producing of music themselves that merit a little embrace of failure. Many audiophiles prefer their vinyl collections to the remastered CDs, crystal clear CDs.

Finally, Grammy time is a good opportunity to update the ‘Embracing Failure’ playlist with the latest suggestions…

  • Cat Stevens, Moonshadow – “If I ever lose my legs, Oh if…. I won’t have to walk no more. / And if I ever lose my mouth, all my teeth, north and south, / Yes if I ever lose my mouth, Oh if…. I won’t have to talk.”
  • Eagles, Get Over It – “You don’t want to work; you want to live like a king / But the big, bad world doesn’t owe you a thing / Get over it.”
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