I recently became very aware of a curious singing style that I had never really given much thought to before, namely grown women who for some reason choose to sing with extremely childlike voices.
Upon looking into this style of singing in some depth, I discovered that it even has an official name, which is, wait for it…. Faux Naif (false childlike) and is both a carefully nurtured way of singing for some singers, and for others, simply because they have never had their voices trained in any fashion. A good example of this last sort of childish voiced singer is the girl who sang in the French ’60s band, Il Etait Une Fois. This young woman, Joëlle Mogensen, had a truly childlike voice as you will hear in the following video.
She only joins in in the second chorus, so be patient, it is worth it!
I first heard this song on the car radio as I drove around in France, and for a long time had assumed that it was a kid singing, so I was really surprised many years later when i discovered that it was actually a grown woman. Shut your eyes, and listen to it again and you will see what I mean.
Anyhow, that is a very good example of the untrained voice type of Faux Naif singing, and whilst it is actually rather forced and ugly I have become very fond of this track over the years – no idea why though.
Blossom Dearie (what a name!) is, or was, a very different type of Faux Naif singer. This good soul was a piano playing jazz singer. She also sang in a curiously childlike voice, but in her case it seems to have been as a result of a considered choice, as she sings very well, and obviously has trained her voice and knew how to use it properly, as this video will demonstrate I hope.
See what I mean? A beautifully modulated voice. She obviously knew exactly what she was doing with her voice, and adjusted it exactly to the differing songs she sang. But still childlike.
Another type of childlike voice is obviously one that belongs to a girl who is only just out of her childhood, and i have found a rather splendid example of this highly unskilled and amateurish style of singing.
This is a group (?) of Canadian kids, who go under the name of CUB. Musically about as good as a cement mixer, but the singer (?) does demonstrate a real kid’s voice, for the very simple reason that she is a kid…
So, pin back your ears and sit back and watch what seems to be a family video of a bunch of siblings doing their best to make some music..
About as dire as it gets I feel… But I enjoyed their cheerfulness and sort of County Fair way of going about making their particular sort of music.
On another level, my next example of the Voix Naif is the following song by the fully grown Swedish singer, Lisa Ekdahl, who has raised it to an art form in my view. Not sure if I like her version of the childish voice or not, but she is at least highly competent in how she sings and interprets her material.
Have a listen and let me know what you think about her approach..
Next I have a very extreme type of this style of singing, almost up there with Nina Hagen (she will be along soon, don’t worry). This is Joanna Newsom who is a sort of cross between Kate Bush and a real 8 year old girl. A very strange voice. Not sure what I feel about it to be honest.
I really can’t make up my mind about this singer….. Is that voice a pleasure to listen to or not? Does she interpret the song well or is it simply self-indulgent rubbish? Damned if I know..
And now, as promised, the extraordinary Nina Hagen. Tie back your ears and hold tight. This is yet another version of the childlike voice I reckon, but in her case it is the vice of a 16 year old girl who has set out to upset and offend her elders…. Truly strange.
In passing I would mention that I have also worked in that theatre, the Olympia in Paris. Did the lights for a concert by Traffic there in about 1975. Nice intimate little 19th century theatre.
Next I offer you Annie Little another fully grown woman who sings with the voice of a reasonably well trained 16 year old for some reason. Here she is actually singing a song that was used in an advertisement for a Kindle ereader, odd…
Makes me want to go our and buy yet another Kindle ereader. Hmmmmmmmm……… Her version of the Faux Naif I actually find quite acceptable, neither too extreme, such as is the case with Joanna Newsom, nor as slightly irritatingly “sweet” as with Blossom Dearie, but has a pleasing edge to it of naivety which I find quite attractive.
Share with us:
Anyway, these were simply a few examples of the various levels of this type of voice, with a few gentle reflections on them variously. I would be interested to hear what, if any, thoughts you might have on the subject, and if there are any shining examples of the style that you particularly enjoy.