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IDER 2019

IDER: The more personal, the more universal – the power of the singular voice

19 July 2019, 10:00

Megan Markwick and Lilly Somerville of IDER write a short essay on the importance of retaining personal voice in a musical landscape of bloated collaborations.

In his book On Becoming a Person: A Therapist’s View of Psychotherapy, therapist Carl R. Rogers wrote, “What is more personal is more universal.” As songwriters, we are firm believers in this.

More often than not, the songs and art that stand the test of time channel something deeply personal which, as human beings, we find ourselves connecting and relating to our own experiences.

We find this to be true of the poems by Rupi Kaur, Warsan Shire and Nayyirah Waheed: three poets who write in such an explicitly raw and honest manner, exploring subjects that are truly intimate and real. It's expression in its purest form and exemplifies the power of the singular voice.

However, according to Music Week’s annual survey, it currently takes an average of 5.34 writers (up from 4.84 in 2018; 4.53 in 2017) to write the UK’s "biggest hits". As a result, the personal story is becoming diluted. When you have five+ experts in one room working on one song and writing lyrics to a deadline, how intimate and personal can that song really be? There is so much power and heart in the imperfections lying within the singular voice, and since it's being diluted, we are hearing more and more perfect – but forgettable – pop songs.

It's the short attention span and the demand for quantity in our consumerist culture that's feeding this hit-making, songwriting factory. We’re getting the “hits", but are these songs actually going to make a difference and stand the test of time? Can the singular voice survive in this environment?

We are not opposed to collaboration in art. As co-writers in our own capacity as artists we understand the great importance of artistic collaboration and believe that a deeply personal story can be told through collaboration. In fact, from our experience with each other, it can facilitate and enhance it.

One of the albums that most inspired the writing of our own record is Beyonce’s Lemonade, which is home to a whole host of collaborations, namely the poet Warsan Shire mentioned above. However, the singular voice has not been compromised in this instance. Lemonade allows the space for Shire’s words to be heard and held.

So, yes, the singular voice can survive as long as it's protected and encouraged. Long live the art making a difference.

IDER's Emotional Education is out now via Glassnote Records.
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