Stans for performers with powerhouse voices always whip out what they think is their trump card: in Lady Gaga’s not-so-modest phrasing — “the bitch can sing.” Stans for Beyonce, Christina Aguilera, and Lady Gaga are most frequently seen deploying this argument, which is no surprise: it’s easy to instantly appreciate a singer who can belt out an intimidating soul ballad with ease. The implication is clear: Britney Spears, in the final analysis, simply cannot sing very well.
As usual, the Little Monsters have it all wrong. They and their stan allies — and, alas, many music critics — erroneously conflate having a powerhouse voice with having a quality voice. This unfortunate mixing is meant to undercut singers who can’t belt out the soulful ballads: women like Kylie Minogue, Ke$ha, and, yes — Britney Spears.
I happen to prefer the latter three to the former three. It’s not that their voices aren’t as good — they’re simply different. While someone like Britney would surely struggle to match the spin that Lady Gaga can put on a rock ballad like “Speechless,” it’s well-nigh impossible to imagine Lady Gaga being able to match Britney’s performance on “Breathe On Me” — or Kylie Minogue’s on “Chocolate.” Rock ballads are well-suited to powerhouse voices like Gaga’s — but when a sensual, subtle performance is called for, the likes of Lady Gaga simply can’t match a voice like Britney’s.
Different songs call for different interpretations — and hence for different voices. Whether a person “can sing” depends on the kind of material they’re tackling — and all of the performers I listed work with people who help them cater to their strengths. Lady Gaga won’t be caught dead trying to take on a sensual, sexy song like “Chocolate” or “Breathe On Me,” while Britney will surely never attempt a rock ballad like “Speechless” or a soulful song like Christina’s “Bound to You.” It’s not that one is necessarily “better”: they’re simply different. With that in mind, we can view this truth in a very positive light: all of the women I listed are good singers, and no clear-headed stan has anything to be at another’s throat for.