Friday, 20 January 2006

Hayley's comet

I've never sat down and heard a whole Hayley Westenra album until a friend imprisoned me in a living room over the Christmas break and played a copy at me. I was stunned. Stunned at how little there was to hear: an uninspired choice of songs performed with even less inspiration than even these limp compositions deserved; unchallenging, immature singing; and all the passion of a wet dish-towel.

I headed for the door as soon as I was able, mystified how such a performance could sell so widely and so well. It was immature stuff to be sure -- and that is surely the point -- but could the whole world be in love with childish, passionless dreck such as this? If innocence is all that you want in your singing, surely there have been far more accomplished performances than this? While the teenage look and sound may appeal to some, it's not at all my cup of cold beer.

For those who haven't already heard, at least one Christchurch reviewer feels the same after hearing Hayley in concert on Wednesday night, and Christchurch is in an uproar:

There is no disputing that Hayley Westenra has a lovely natural voice. But whether in fact, or due to the levelling effect of the ever-present microphone, it is a voice of little musical character. In fact, there were three voices, regardless of what she sang – a girlish upper voice, a bland lower voice, and a few notes in between that were always harsh and piercing...

Fiona Pears is too big a musician to deliberately upstage Hayley Westenra, but it was only when she played that the concert came to life. Her powerful natural ability as a violinist and uninhibited musical expression provided an excitement that even a somewhat restrained audience could not resist.

I left the hall sadly, wondering whether Hayley Westenra could sing softly, loudly, fast or really slowly, with passion, not to mention adult musical technique, or whether she will move out of her teens in a little over a year's time, having musically already done all she is capable of.

Linked Article:
Lovely voice but is Odyssey at end of Hayley's musical road? - Press


  1. I wondered what all the fuss was about her until I heard her sing.
    Now I know..the fuss is manufactured bullshit to sell a third-rate product.
    Crusader Rabbit

  2. Oh thank Christ it's not just me. I've turned to the person next to me numerous times when entrapped by her singing and pointed out much the same things, although all I said was "There's no passion in this, she's singing, and even reaching the notes most of the time but she's not putting any effort in, there's no lungs behind it"

    If you want passion and register, then Bruce Dickinson is your man.

  3. Actually, I think you is suffering the fate of so many boy sopranos in the past.
    They young voice can have a certain bell like clarity which has an appeal ( the sound of innocence too perhaps) but as the boy matures and the voice changes those qualities disappear. People tend to forget that a girl's voice changes too - though not as markedly as a boys.
    What I hear with Hayley is a voice which through maturing has lost its charm. She may come back with quality after her voice fully matures (and so does she we hope) and after good coaching.
    There was some magic there - but no longer.

  4. Sorry, that first sentence was meant to read "I think young Hayley is suffering ...."

    I got a phone call at that point.

  5. Funny thing Owen, hearing the reviewer talk with with Lindsay Perigo this morning, he makes the point that her voice hasn't changed since he first heard her when she was 12. Her voice hasn't really matured and neither has her repetoire. But she's still got many years ahead of her she could turn it around yet. (excuse the syntax etc, I'm in a rush)

  6. I was quite disturbed when I heard she had done a cover of that Joni Mitchell song that I forget the name of - it's a song that requires the singer to have some life experience, to be able to empathise with the highs and lows of life, and love, and I just don't think Hayley (or any singer her age who hasn't had an incredibly rough childhood) can pull it off until she's much older. It's a song for a woman in her 40s (plus) really. I change the station every time her version comes on the radio.

  7. PC: Nooooooo! How dare you diss my lovely Hayley!!


    For the lady's honour it shall be pistols at dawn sah!

    Span: Could not agree more. It is my mission in life to endow sweet Hayley with "life experience" :oP

  8. PC you are soooooooo right to diss Hayley this way.

    An example is that she can't sing operatic songs at the correct speed due to poor breath control.

    She is crap, crap, crap and finally some are waking up to it! Yay!

  9. Ok, and another rant. I was in Wanaka a few years ago with the National Youth Choir.

    My best friend Rose (using a different name, who for the record, has a concert with Kiri next month) who was then studying singing in Dunedin with Isobel Cunningham (you probably know her) and I were billeted with the same family. Rose was winning competitions all over the place, but as is the case with the Opera game you don't really hit the big time until your voice has matured and you've studied and learned your craft.

    So, at dinner, the Wanaka billets asked Rose what she was studying, and then they pulled out Hayley Westenblah and played it over dinner. Ick.

    It is correct that voices have a natural quality, and the likes of Hayley will exploit this when they are young. Rose could have too and chose not to, and when she makes it big, lots of us will be laughing because she will make it on a much, much bigger scale. And with much less "tweaking" happening in her recordings! Oh and she won't need a microphone to be heard in a hall.

    Those of us in the Youth Choir who do and have bitched about her are often told that we're "jealous." NO. We're just insulted that the likes of Hayley get to do things like guest perform at the Napier singing competitions (which are a big deal - what a friggin joke).

    Yes, she's made it. But she'll get crappier and crappier - then she'll lose her looks and it will be all over. Haha.

  10. ERIC, your's is a post of two halves. Your first point is dead on. But the second? -- a failed airline pilot is our man?! ;^)

    OWEN, your points are well made, but I'm not sure that the voice had or has any charm. If that bell-like innocence is you rthing, surely it's been done better elswhere, and as SPAN suggests, it's difficult to take her 'mature' songs seriously without any life knowledge behind them.

    Now, BLAIR, you may well have plans to give her that necessary life knowledge -- clearly that teenage look and sound appeals to you, for the same reasons perhaps that your erstwhile blog-colleague once dissed a certain About-Towner? -- but unless you've already got yoru carnal hooks in, it's surely a little premature to call her "my" Hayley, n'est ce pas?

    Hayley Westenblah (great word, MARIA). Packaged blancmange. Why, why, why is such bland, passionless, unthreatening elevator music so bloody popular? Not a hint of raw power to speak of.

  11. It is a great word, but unfortunately I can't claim it as my own - it's from one of my friends.

    But I say we publicise it wide and far.

    Yeah, I'd love to hear her attempt some Wagner. Chuckle chuckle.


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