Tonawanda News

September 29, 2013


The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Recently, I purchased an Ariana Grande CD as a birthday present for a young lady’s 16th birthday. I had never heard of the singer, but this young lady went to a sold-out performance of Grande’s in Toronto before her debut album came out.

Grande first entered the spotlight as a teen actor on a number of Nickelodeon shows. The 20 year-old television star turned pop singer released the single “The Way,” back in March of this year, and released her first solo album, “Yours Truly,” earlier this month. It debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts.

Just when it looked like Grande was going to be able to capitalize on her success, it was reported that she suffered a vocal chord hemorrhage at her album release party. It looks like a temporary setback for the young singer who has been touted as “the anti-Miley Cyrus” and the next Mariah Carey. Neither label is a bad one.

Nevertheless, this isn’t an examination of the next pop sensation, or another examination of Miley’s transformation from role model to every parents nightmare, it is about those precious vocal chords.

Even in my amateur career singing at happy hours and in bar bands, I have experienced the toll of vocal chord strains. After a day of lecturing high school kids, belting out AC/DC’s “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap,” was not easy, and on one occasion I blew out my voice for three days when I tried to finish a set while my throat was killing me.

Over the years I have seen many artists deal with some form of vocal issues. The most memorable being when Tea Party singer Jeff Martin had nothing left of his voice for the band’s encore at a Lockport show a few years back. It was a reunion tour, and I speculate Martin got caught up in the emotion of the event, and he was singing material he hadn’t sang in awhile.

Some classic rockers vocals have clearly diminished over the years, but they manage to work around the issues. Geddy Lee of Rush can’t sing in the shrieking high pitch he did in the band’s early years. Listening to the progression of his vocal style over the years is fascinating.

Other artists have fewer issues, like Paul McCartney, who I once heard has a strict throat regimen when he is on tour, although that runs contrary to reports that he smoked pot for years McCartney has had his share of vocal issues, but when you hear him sing for three hours without a break it’s downright amazing.

Vocal issues have sidelined other singers; Julie Andrews lost her ability to sing in 1997 after an operation to remove growths on her vocal chords. Keith Urban, Adele and John Mayer have all dealt with vocal chord problems that sidelined them in recent years. Surgery has been successful with them.

Even though it may appear natural, it’s important for artists to realize their vocal limitations and take care of their precious vocal chords in the same way an athlete keeps their body conditioned.

Being on the road, and doing too many interviews can result in the type of damage Grande sustained to her vocal chords. Thankfully, in her case it doesn’t seem like it will be permanent and it may be a valuable lesson for her and other young singers.

Thom Jennings writes a weekly column on the music scene for Sunday Lifestyle. Email him at