At nightclubs, I get the feeling 80 percent of vocal songs that DJs spin feature female singers. Wait, here’s proof:
On this week’s Billboard magazine list of the Top 10 Dance/Club songs, a female is singing lead vocals in every hit. That is 10 out of 10, my friends.
Why is this tsunami of lady voices happening? DJ-producer Morgan Page has good theories.
“It’s harder to be seduced by a male vocal,” Page says. “I think the male vocal is a harder sell, even if it’s really good, like Dirty Vegas and ‘Days Gone By’ and other examples.”
But Page also submits his more “nerdy and scientific” hypothesis.
“It might be a mothering thing. The female voice has a natural effect on people — guys and girls,” he says.
DJ-producer Stefan Bossems, who lives in Vegas and performs in the duo Cosmic Gate (playing at Marquee on May 4), says it could be the result of music theory.
That is, maybe women’s high voices often sound better than men’s when contrasting with electronic music’s deep bass.
One thing’s for sure. These female voices don’t normally sound like they’re coming from a place of heavy vulnerability. They seem strong, in control and sexy.
“Absolutely,” Bossems confirms. “There are some voices where you say this is a perfect trance voice — Emma Hewitt, for example.”
Oh, I’m glad he brought up Hewitt. She is, in my mind, the queen of guest vocalists in electronic dance music.
Hewitt sang on big singles with Cosmic Gate (“Be Your Sound” and “Not Enough Time”); Chris Lake (“Carry Me Away”); Dash Berlin (“Waiting”); Serge Devant (“Take Me With You”) and other star DJ-producers.
When I ask Hewitt (who is looking at a May performance date at Marquee) about this female trend, she doesn’t provide an answer.
But Hewitt — a classically trained pianist from Australia — does have insight into how her vocal methodology succeeds. She doesn’t just sing. She and her brother co-write lyrics and rework chords on guitar. So she’s invested in the hook, chorus and emotion of each song.
“I like to have a little vulnerability in there, but I don’t like to make songs too lovey-dovey. I like to have a strong message,” says Hewitt, who finally just released her own solo singles, “Colours” and “Miss You Paradise.”
“It’s quite easy, when you’re writing, to take on a victim role. I try to stay away from that. I’ve tried to make sure that doesn’t come across in any of the songs.”
One of Hewitt’s collaborators, Devant, says he picked Hewitt — and other female and male singers — for a simple reason. Their voices stood out.
“Just because they can hit the notes doesn’t mean there’s anything special about them,” says Devant, who spins at Marquee on April 13.
“I look for a texture, the way they sing with emotion. You can’t fabricate that,” Devant says.
Just to be clear, DJ-producers do record male vocalists on their songs, as well as spin them in clubs. It’s just that female voices are ruling right now.
Devant says he can’t explain why so many DJ-producers (a very male-dominated field) gravitate to female voices.
“It’s mostly girls singing, but I don’t know why, actually. Maybe producers can’t find any good guys they like. Or maybe they don’t think male vocalists will be a hit? I don’t know.”
But he does say there’s “some copycatting going on, a follow-the-leader thing.” If women make hits for some DJ-producers, other producers jump on the bandwagon.
Meanwhile, the DJ-producer field is (slowly) starting to get infused by women who are not just singing and writing but producing.
The identical twins of Liv and Mim Nervo — who were also classically trained on piano as kids in Australia — entered the music field years ago as writers, penning songs for pop acts (Pussycat Dolls, Ke$ha), then for DJs (David Guetta, Armin Van Buuren).
But one day, they wrote and recorded a song, and realized it was harder to find the right guest-vocalist for the tune than to just keep their own vocals on it.
So now, the Nervo twins write, produce, sing and DJ their own songs, including the hit “We’re All No One,” which also features producers Afrojack and Steve Aoki. (The Nervo twins DJ at Tryst in June.)
Liv Nervo tells me she has noticed all the “sweet”-sounding “pop girls” in electronic music, from Beyonce to Skylar Grey to … Emma Hewitt.
Nervo gives me no rationale for all the female voices. But she and Hewitt say DJ-producers are incredibly supportive of women in their field.
Nervo says it’s only the occasional music listener at DJ gigs who sees their sex as either an obstacle or an advantage.
“Sometimes we can get people (at shows) who say, ‘They’re just girls.’ But we also get people who say, ‘Oh look, girls!’ ”
Doug Elfman’s column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.