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by Rachel Devitt

June 26, 2012


Pop's Greatest Falsettos

by Rachel Devitt  |  June 26, 2012

Sure, everyone loves a man with a low, gravelly bass or a rich baritone or a sweet, pure (or screaming, rock 'n' roll) tenor. Anyone with a Y chromosome or two can pull off at least one of those. But there's something special about a falsetto.

Well, first of all, that whole term is a misnomer: A "falsetto" is really nothing more than just a regular old head voice or high voice, which every singer (male or female) has. It's called a falsetto because men are expected to speak and sing predominantly in the lower registers they acquire with puberty. So although it shouldn't be a big deal, the historically gendered context of the voice makes it all the more interesting when a male artist not only chooses to sing in his upper register, but chooses to cultivate it into something soulful or rock 'n' roll-ful.

The falsetto appears in almost every genre of pop music: Gospel and, by extension, R&B and soul have long been appreciative of its charms, an appreciation that carried over tenfold to disco (a little group called The Bee Gees, anyone?) and decades of funk-inflected dance-pop (MJ? Usher? Justins Timberlake and Bieber?). But rock has its own high-voiced tradition that stretches from Frankie Valli to The Beach Boys to Freddie Mercury to The Darkness. Even country's gotten in on the game -- arguably, it's always had a hand in it, thanks to yodeling.

You see what we're getting at here, right? A male voice crooning in the sweet spot of its upper register has been part of a whole lot of really good music, including a certain payphone-dialing band named Maroon 5. Don't believe us? Listen to our fierce, falsetto-fied playlist.



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