Music and appearance always had a symbiotic relationship. Clothes, appearance, attitude are used to accentuate the image projected on the stage, and the music played before the audience. A musician that performs in front of the crowd is, more or less, a character. By looking at performers, in most cases, it is easy to discern which genre of music they perform. Rock music, pop music, country music, classic music, and others, all have their own “uniforms.” Rock singers tend to wear dark clothes and have long hair, pop-singers are known for extravagance, and classic musicians are often dressed in formal suits and tuxedos. The purpose of this paper is to analyze the dynamic between the sound and the look of two representatives of the Soul Jazz music genre – Adele Laurie Blue Adkins and Amy Winehouse.
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Before comparing the two singers, their styles, and their music, let us review the genre both of them shared. Soul music originated in the United States, and initially reflected on the black experience in America. A lot of its leading singers were African-American. Its peak of popularity was immediately after its appearance, which was in the 1950s-1960s. Soul music used to be on the tops of every radio’s music lists. The genre itself is a combination of many techniques typical to other musical branches, namely African-American gospel music, jazz, and blues (Soul music 2017). The genre is characterized by its rhythmic melodies accentuated by claps, slaps against the musical instruments, and appropriate bodily motions. The genre itself influenced and intermingled with other genres, thus allowing for different branches and splinters. Eventually, it spread beyond the sea and became popular in other parts of the world – Great Britain in particular. Both Adele and Amy Winehouse were born around 20 years after the golden age of Soul music.
Adele’s image on the stage could be considered to be rather modest. It is not flashy as it is often expected by popular singers and musicians. She wears dresses of dark color, which is often accompanied by a scarf. It projects calmness, serenity, and warmth. This resonates with the way she sings and what she sings about. After breaking up with her significant other, the primary subjects in Adele’s songs are yearning, nostalgia, and melancholy (Adele biography 2016). She laments about the passage of time and about all the things that were not said and done. The music critics state that Adele’s voice resonates perfectly with what she sings about, as it is described to exude warmth, passion, and love. Adele has a contralto vocal range, which leaves its imprint on the way she sings. Her performance is known for its melodious vowel-stretching and the soulful lyrics that fit the genre (Adele biography 2016).
Amy Winehouse’s image and music serve as a great point of contrast and comparison to Adele. Amy Winehouse’s image was not modest, and much more extravagant. She was regarded as a very visually recognizable singer. The tabloids of the time stated that she was more known for her beehive hairstyle than she was for her singing. If we look at how she presented herself to the audience, the best words to describe it would be bold, extravagant, fiery, and fierce (Amy Winehouse biography 2016). She projected the image of a “bad girl,” which became even more prevalent in her later wardrobe, including short shorts, top tanks, and bright red lipstick. Not everyone approved of her sense of style; some fashion tabloids even described it as “poor.”
Her earlier image was greatly influenced by the Soul singers of the 60s (Amy Winehouse biography 2016). Amy Winehouse’s image left a big imprint on her music too, and in many ways reflected it. Her best pieces featured many sonic and stylistic fragments borrowed from other musical genres, particularly Motown, early hip-hop, Stax, and others, which were added to the traditional Soul genre mix. Thus, her musical and personal style could be called a collage – a mix of different styles that allows creating something completely new and different. Her voice and the way she sang was a strong point of hers. After her death, many accredited singers in the genre called her a true jazz singer and one of the few who could sing it “right.”
As we could see from these two examples, there is a direct correlation between the image of both singers and the music they produced. This is true even for such a genre as soul jazz, which never generated its lines of clothes and attributes, unlike rock music, rap music, and other later genres. Image and music are reflections of the inner self, therefore are interconnected. Amy Winehouse lived boldly, sang boldly, and dressed boldly. This trait is visible in all of her album names and her music. Adele’s image is modest because her music is focused on self-reflection, the discovery of self, nostalgia, and melancholy. Some musicians and singers do not follow this theme, but they are an exception rather than the norm.
Adele biography 2016, Web.
Amy Winehouse biography 2016, Web.
Soul music 2017, Web.