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I’m a big fan of singers who make a virtue of the more noise-like elements of their vocal tone, but for me there’s frequently a ‘sweetspot’ in any such vocalist’s discography after which these noise contributions start becoming too studied and consistent. We’re pretty used to the idea that too much dynamic-range reduction leads to flat-sounding mixes, and I think a similar principle also applies to a vocalist’s ‘emotional dynamic range’ — the fewer moments of emotional restraint there are, the less powerful the impact of the emotional high-points.

Unfortunately, one of my favourite singers, Paolo Nutini, appears to be succumbing to this ailment. Compare his 2007 song ‘New Shoes’ with this latest release, ‘Scream’. In the former, listen to the phrase “bye-bye blues” (1:28), for instance, which for my money makes a much bigger splash than anything in ‘Scream’, simply because it’s taken within the context of the much more restrained verse delivery. We hear that his voice can be soft and clean, so it’s a bigger deal when he lets rip. The more recent performance doesn’t lack expression or excitement (the third verse at 1:15-1:31 is particularly impressive, for instance), but it’s so consistently pedal-to-the-metal that I quickly become desensitised to it. Fortunately, the vocal arrangement of ‘Scream’ salvages some dynamics by virtue of the more chilled-out backing vocals and middle-section pseudo-rap (1:58-2:23), so it could have been worse, but I fear we may be on a downward spiral…