Once I’m in I own your heart – the Addictive Angel

Important note: I’ve commissioned two new pieces of fanart for this blog entry, from my lovely friends @IamjustMissy and AMB.  Please don’t share them elsewhere without acknowledging their work, or cropping off their signatures.

Pic credit: fanart by @IamjustMissy and AMB - with thanks! :)

Pic credit: fanart by @IamjustMissy and AMB – with thanks! 🙂

I often get my writing ideas when I’m either driving or walking; I think it must be something to do with movement helping my little brain work faster. Anyhow, I was musing on a comment that I’ve seen all over the internet about Adam’s voice – that he “transports” people, or “takes them to another place” when he sings, and also that once they’ve heard him, they simply can’t get enough.  So, is this because he has the voice of an angel?

(video from istaykool’s YouTube uploads)

Adam’s voice often has a pure, beguiling and angelic quality; when he performed Mad World for American Idol he used a slender head voice for most of the song, giving it a silver tone throughout. Although there were added stage effects from the lighting and dry ice, there was little movement and the whole picture was still and ethereal. I’m aware that throughout his journey on AI, there was criticism of him being theatrical (including for his interpretation of this song), which I struggle with.  Music should be theatrical – it’s about giving the audience an experience that moves them!

Sometimes voices are truly unworldly – readers who have seen the sci-fi movie The Fifth Element (I’m sorry, I’m a sci-fi nerd for my sins!) may remember the Diva Song, a combination of opera and dance music sung by a blue alien.  The song is actually a combination of a nineteenth century operatic aria by Donizetti and a specially composed section by Eric Serra. This version of it was taken from a live performance by the music theatre Evgenia Laguna.  It’s all sung by a real human voice, except for two very short sections where the voice is digitised; the first is at 4’21” where it wasn’t possible for a human voice to produce Eric Serra’s notes at that speed, and another at around 4’31”, but I think this was to get a specific sound effect rather than because it wasn’t possible for the voice to do it.

(video from Evgenia Laguna’s YouTube uploads)

Then at the other end of the spectrum, we have people who have voices that can do the entire colour spectrum, who are both the archetypal angel and the dark angel.

When Adam uses the dark side of his voice, like for Whole Lotta Love, this doesn’t engage only the “beautiful angel” aspects of it; this is the whole instrument with hormone-provoking cutting edge added.  Interesting also for this performance at the Kradison his jacket has angel wings on the back of it!

(video from All things we love’s YouTube uploads)

The crowd reaction speaks for itself; sometimes it’s difficult to pick out the voice from the screaming, but I’m sure you get the overall picture.  We can get an adrenaline rush and chills from both types of music, but it’s the reactions that are incredibly interesting.

The music we truly love can have magical, even spiritual effects on us.  It can lift mood, give us solace, make us calm and induce strong physical sensations. Centuries ago William Congreve (not Shakespeare!) decided that music had the power to “soothe the savage breast”.

Now for the scientific part; all of these reactions – and more – are the result of a sneaky substance called dopamine that is produced in our brains.

Dopamine is responsible for a lot of things; it provokes feelings of ecstasy, it focuses our attention and it is a very real contributor to romantic love.  When you even look at a photograph of the object of your desire, it lights up the part of the brain that releases dopamine.

Pic credit: @IamjustMissy

Pic credit: @IamjustMissy

Dopamine provides the energy, arousal and focus that are a part of love.  It is also a major player in addiction; dopamine levels rise on exposure to cocaine, nicotine, morphine and pretty much all other addictive substances.  It seems fairly logical that this is how we can get hooked on one particular type of music – or one voice.

You may or may not be surprised to know that this same “reward” reaction is triggered by music; the rush of dopamine through our bodies give us those all-too-familiar chills when we hear music that we love.  If it’s a piece of music that we know, we get them in anticipation.  We can even get them when we think about a piece of music that gives us chills.  If it’s a piece of music that we don’t know, the chills can overtake us really abruptly and be a genuine shock – that sudden, crashing glory note can send us into ecstasy and dopamine overload.

Lots of us (as many as 90% at times) get chills when listening to music, which puts music on the same level in our brains as love and addiction.  And this is a real, visceral reaction.  I can sit here now and think about the introduction to One Vision, and because of the way memory works, the chills explode instantly.

Oddly, sad music is more likely to give us this sort of reaction, and that then turns the experience of listening to sad music into an uplifting one in that odd way that pain and pleasure can mix.  This must be why so many of us have loved sad songs for decades as ultimately the music itself is a reward.

Another interesting thing is that people who are more open to new experiences are more likely to get chills when listening to music. There might be a correlation coming here for the people who have thrown themselves into the QAL experiences and loved it – they decided that they were open to hearing something different and so made themselves more receptive to the brain’s pleasure mechanisms.  That’s some reward.

Pic credit: fan art by NoSkerdykat

Pic credit: fan art by NoSkerdykat

When that voice – the one that triggers that sensory overload seems to provide an infinitesimal range of experiences, then it can truly become addictive.  You want that Original High again and again, so you will seek out the music any way you can; at least in the age of YouTube there are plenty of options available for those desperate for a fix.  The reaction is always more intense with a live performance, so it’s easy to work out why there are fans who will be desperate to go to several concerts in a tour, and then become quite depressed when they can’t get that hit again.

The good news is that on the whole music addiction doesn’t seem to have the destructive effects of substance addiction.  It doesn’t tend to put people into rehab (unless of course, you know differently!) and it’s freely available, courtesy of the world wide web.

But there are other elements that add to the basic reaction the voice; for Adam’s fans, it’s his constantly-changing image, the androgynous elements to it – he will wear leather with lace, eyeliner, he’s emo boy, rock boy, the camp Killer Queen and the elegant rock god who slays us with WWTLF.

Pic credit: fan art by @IamjustMissy and AMB - with thanks! :)

Pic credit: fan art by @IamjustMissy and AMB – with thanks! 🙂

The final garnish is the unpredictability of his behaviour.  Even though I’m a late starter, it didn’t take me long to figure out that there is Angelic Adam and Wicked Adam – hence the angel images which have popped up in today’s blog.

We’ve seen that Angelic Adam sings flawlessly, looks beautiful and is effortlessly elegant.  But Wicked Adam is something else; Wicked Adam is the one that kisses Tommy, gets off the stage in Sydney to kiss a perfect stranger in the audience, licks fans’ phone screens, smiles sweetly at his fans and then twerks them into a frenzy.  At the Nottingham QAL gig, it’s caught forever on YouTube that he spots a cute guy in the audience who is treated to a special dance:

(video from Glamberlicious’ YouTube uploads)

It’s completely outrageous – and Adam knows it, as he wheels away to giggle to himself about it and get smirked at by Brian.  Don’t forget that Freddie’s 92-year old mom was in the audience on this occasion!

Wicked Adam is most definitely part of the addiction – for anyone open-minded, there’s always an extra rush at the performance that pushes the boundaries.  This is the thing that pushes the fan to want more, to hear more, to see more – and definitely to need the cataclysmic rush of live performance.

I suspect it’s incurable…

 

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21 thoughts on “Once I’m in I own your heart – the Addictive Angel

  1. Is it weird that I’m also hooked on the sound of Adam’s speaking voice? It’s usually quite gentle (peppered with giggles) and I find it soothing.

    Sometimes when I have trouble falling asleep I’ll find a longer interview on YouTube and listen to it as I drift off.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. YES!! I finally found the comment link!

    I’m sure you know by now Kym that I absolutely adore these pieces you write. You are so insightful! As I read, I often find myself thinking “Yes–that’s me! She gets it!”

    Now here’s something to ponder: What is going on in Brian’s head? It’s obvious that both Roger and Brian love Adam’s voice and stage presence. But do you think, as I do, that Brian seems particularly smitten? I’d love the read your thoughts on that.

    A bit of trivia for you: Kradison is a combination of the names KRis (allen) + ADam + al ISON (Iraheta). The 3 of them were contestants together on American Idol (coming in 1st, 2nd and 4th respectively) and became good friends. Sometimes you might just see KRADAM (KRis + ADAM). The three of them did that show together that was captured in the WLL clip in your blog.

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  3. Another great post. For those of us who fell down the rabbit hole 6 years ago with his audition to BoRhap, we have often spoken about the addiction of his voice, and not wanting a cure. It hits on pleasure centers that we have referred to as causing “eargasms.”

    But, I also think you have hit on another part of being his fan, he has so many alternate sides, he is camp, he is funny, he is charming, articulate, silly, f*cking gorgeous, generous, loyal, wildly outrageous rock star, self-deprecating, and simply fierce on stage, with an unmatched vocal prowess the likes of which most of us have never heard before. His stage presence and energy hit you full force when live, it doesn’t matter where you are in an arena or up close in a smaller venue.

    Meeting him is sublime. He is simply sweet and gives great eye contact, engages you in every possible way. Every single person I know who has met him says the same thing.

    Yes, his voice is a drug, I am addicted, I do not want to be cured.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The words “soothe the savage breast” – have you seen Adam’s tattoo? On his left forearm? Here it is: http://wac.450f.edgecastcdn.net/80450F/popcrush.com/files/2012/08/AdamLambertTattoo.jpg
    He knows it very well. 8^)
    I remember the video from Notingham, this is perfect. And Brian and Roger? I think they love it. They probably experienced so much with Freddie so that they are used for all the fun and jokes and so on. So they love it to have it back. He’s just PERSON.

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  5. I have long called Adams voice my aural crack lolol having no idea why or how. Great info as always love the details on the opera performance. yes the duality in Adam has always been fun …. Venus is teh chart ruler and Mars is in the first house, its like they take turns being on the surface, pretty sweet venus then sexy aggressive Mars.

    as for great accoustic versions well Im sure maybe someone recommended this already but Adam did a slowed down accoustic whole lotta love that was quite a vocal performance

    anyways good stuff as always thanks

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  6. Your thoughtful musings hit a definite chord with me. Dopamine must be it — mixed with equal amounts of adrenalin. The fascination and wonderment only grow stronger. Shall we begin meetings with 12 steps? The art work is insane! Kudos to your talented friends. Keep your musings coming since they help some us understand a wee bit, what has happened to us & why sleep can’t be reached without a song or interview.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Ahh, I finally found the comment box. I, just like others, truly love your blog and all the professional insight you share with us. Thank you so much!

    This may sound a bit odd but ever since the now-extinct castrato voice started gaining new interest among the opera world some years ago, I couldn’t help but find a few similarities between Adam’s voice and the castrato voice. Disclaimer: I’m well aware he’s very much not a castrato 😉 First of all, the body build: broad chest and big pipes which help produce an amazing breath control. Secondly, the quality of the voice: both have been described as angelic, uncanny and otherworldly. The most successful castrati were the rock stars of their time. I’d be very interested in hearing your thoughts and opinions about this 🙂 Am I just making things up here or is there something in common with Adam’s voice and the castrato voice?

    Liked by 1 person

    • There is a similarity! Castrati were indeed the Rick stars of their time and commanded huge performing fees. My teacher is an expert on the castrato voice; he’s written a book on Moreschi, who was one of the greats, and he also presented a BBC4 documentary called Castrato in 2006 (this might be on YouTube somewhere). He was also in charge of an exhibition about castrati at the Handel House Museum. The film Farinelli us also worth a watch, the star was a real bad boy!

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      • Thanks for your reply! And holy… everything; he’s your teacher?! You lucky lass! I did see the movie and the BBC4 documentary and I just vacuumed all the information I could get about the castrati. That documentary is golden. I’d love to hear what your teacher thought of Adam’s voice but of course, it’s a long shot 🙂 The lady singing on the Fifth Element video you posted is what reminded me of my musings about the castrato voice since her voice is just so utterly pure and gorgeous.

        As a very very non-athletic person, I’ve always been wondering what was so special about exercising but then pretty recently, I read about a study about the effects of music on the brain and bam! It’s music that’s giving me all the dopamine, endorphin and adrenalin rush! So I totally agree with your post and happily confess of being an addict to Adam’s voice, Queen’s music, classical music…. you just name it.

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      • So glad you’ve managed to see that documentary – it’s really informative. And you’re right about the effects of music on the brain; it does all the things that exercise do. Singing has also been proved to be a useful cardiovascular exercise as of course, you’re working out your heart and lungs when you do it!

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  8. Thank you for your great blogs… Adam is a singer unique in this industry and one of the most gracious men I’ve ever met in my life. Love your insights….

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  9. Another incredible post. Now I understand what happened to me. 🙂 I was hooked from the time I first heard Adam’s voice during his American Idol audition. Every week was like an eternity until I could hear him sing again. At that time I knew hardly anything about electronic media but I learned fast in order to feed my Adam addiction. It’s been six years now and my dedication hasn’t waned. I’m sure my family thinks I need an intervention.

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  10. Thank you for yet another thoughtful, enlightening post. When you wrote, “Sometimes voices are truly unworldly….” I felt myself nodding, “Yes, yes!” That’s what Adam’s voice seems like to me, unworldly. It’s so unique, so beguiling and captivating, even yes, addictive, that ordinary adjectives don’t seem superlative enough! I well remember that first moment I heard his voice and how the hairs stood up on the back of my neck and the chills went down my spine. I get irritated and impatient with these people who carry on about the *man* and not the voice. I couldn’t care less what he wears or eats, who he dates or what his house looks like or anything other extraneous stuff like that. For me, Adam is and will always be about that VOICE. Sure, he’s a good looking man and, from all accounts seems like a nice guy. But the world is full of good-looking nice guys. What the world isn’t full of is voices like Adam’s. THAT is where he stands alone. And I love your writing because I’m learning to begin at least to understand a bit of why. I have more thoughts on this, but I think I’d better keep them to myself for now, lest I be thought a total nutcase. But, thanks again!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I will avoid further explanation of the evolutionary psychology, cognitive neuroscience and limbic resonance but suffice it to say there is much more physiology behind the phenomena described herein. You can reference “Evolution of Human Music through Sexual Selection” or “Sex at Dawn” for more details from the science perspective.

    More fascinating is the lived experience of humans expressing how the musical voice makes them feel. Great read here from Dr. May about Doris Day from Sept 2007: http://www.sheilaomalley.com/?p=87789

    Like

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