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My Favourite Mimic-able Celebrities - Confessions Of A Voice Geek

27/07/2017 14:20

Cheryl Cole has got the most gorgeous face in the world. Fact. She's got shiny hair and cheeky dimples and twinkly eyes and she's all slim and glamorous. But that's not what makes me adore her, or any celebrity for that matter...

The way I judge if a celebrity is 'worth it', is not by how beautiful or even how talented they are (talent seems to be less of a prerequisite these days any way). Nope, the way I evaluate their worth is by measuring their mimicability. Thank you, yes, I did make that word up. But you know what I mean by 'mimicability', by how mimicable someone is. (Again, new word. My pleasure).

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My most favourite thing about Cheryl is her voice. It's SO distinctive; mellow, smooth and warm with that lilting, rhythmic Tyneside dialect - which has gently eroded over the years due to celebrity circles and time spent in London and America.

The best thing though, is her lack of vocal expression. There's hardly any rise or fall in pitch. We've no idea if there's anything going on in her head, because she hardly shows any emotion in her voice (or face)... It doesn't matter if she's over the moon because she's seen a lovely puppy, or sad, because she's seen a frowny face drawn on an egg... she always sounds exactly the same. Cheryl's voice makes her seem mysterious... she's a bit like a siamese cat - measured, sleek and unable to use a spoon without help from a human.

By the way, if you don't like impressions, now might be a good time to stop reading.

I love doing voices. I am a voice nerd. Sharon Osborne is another firm favourite. She's a 'gift' that keeps on giving and, like Trump, the jokes just write themselves. I like how she has that little girly voice that she puts on - all sugary and pouty and staccato, interspersed with those dramatic outbursts of her super-camp Hollywood catchphrase, 'Fabulous!', which often descends into that 'signature' laugh she has. You know the one, it sounds like a cross between an ape and a seagull.

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Try it. Do Sharon. Go on! Here's the script.
(Stage directions in italics)

MRS O:
(In your best butter-wouldn't-melt saccharine voice with added helium):

"You know what Missus? You. Are..." (now go full on drag queen), "FAB-U-LOUS!!"
(Now do your best baby chimp laugh) "OOOH AH AH AHAHHHH!!!"

That my friend, is your basic Shazza. Congratulations.

This is my life - I watch TV and absorb the characters. Most people watch Strictly on a Saturday night and switch their brains off. I watch it, and I can't stop observing Darcey Bussell.

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I can't help but notice the way she constantly smiles with her upper teeth, how her voice goes up in pitch at the end of every sentence so each phrase sounds like a question? and that she uses loads of technical words that no one understands until the very last bit, where she slags you off (and her voice finally goes down). Have a try...

Here's another script for you:

MS BUSSELL: (Posh. With your mouth in a constant, unmoving toothy smile and raising the of pitch your voice as if asking a question on every word that lands before a comma. Spoken with speed)

"Uhhhh - your Arabesque was acceptable(?), although you need to be more allongé when the standing leg is in plié(?); your pas de bourrée was problematic(?), you need to pay attention to your changements and if your front leg is going to be in developpé then you want a pas de chat not a grand jêtée(?), also(?), your arms looked (lower voice) shit."

How did you get on?

I love breaking these 'larger than life' characters down and analysing the way they communicate. Don't even get me started on Janet Street Porter...

I was thinking about Julie Andrews the other day, (I often do actually), and it struck me that Julie's voice is almost the same as Mary Berry's, if you make it a bit lower in pitch and volume, imagine you've got some crumbs in the back of your throat, and add a bit of sibilance because you've burned your tongue on some insufficiently-cooled rock cakes.

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Then I discovered if you reset and go back to normal Julie Andrews and then take the pitch it even higher and make her a little sing songy, you become Fern Britten formerly of This Morning, (but these days... formerly of This Morning...)

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I'm a total vocal geek. And because I adore music, I'm even more turned on by celebs that score highly on the mimicalator - one of my many imaginary impression-measuring inventions.

You see, many singing stars only reach phase 1 in their level of mimicicity...(watch out Colin's English Dictionary - someone is gonna have to work overtime to get all these new technical terms in).

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Let's take good ol' Julie Andrews again. Jules has such a crisp, starched, "Do take your medicine, dear - doctor's orders" sort of a voice that when she sings, it's no shock to hear that her singing voice also has those very clean, clear qualities. It's the same with Britney Spears. She speaks in this slightly whispery, croaky, baby voice so, again, it's no surprise that when she sings, her singing voice reflects this.

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But the celebs that really blow my sad little one track mind, and are some of the hardest impressions to master, are the ones where you basically have to learn two voices for one person, because the way they speak and the way sing are completely different. . . Like Adele - she's a fab example. Adele has got be the world's most loved voice at the moment. She has a singing voice that can melt hearts... And a speaking voice that could sell you a sausage roll in a pub.

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I think my favourite 'split-voicenality' (again, you're welcome guys), of all time though, is Paloma Faith. The way she speaks the way she sings are like two completely different, but equally odd people. Good ol' Paloma is yet another fully grown adult female who speaks like a little girl, (what is it with these ladies?), though in this case, one who's accidentally taken LSD. She spouts crazy nonsense like "I love it when you're on an oil rig full of racoons and your hair can see the moon". But when Paloma sings, she's like a screaming, passionate foghorn. You couldn't get more of a contrast between two voices if your tried. . . And she's not even taking the piss. Two voices for the price of one?

Now that's a gift for a mimic.

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Jess Robinson's show 'Unravelled' is at The Edinburgh Festival from 2-27th August 2017. http://www.underbellyedinburgh.co.uk/whats-on/jess-robinson-unravelled

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