This is an additional “argument” about including the audience in the overall energy of the performance, regardless of what type of music one is singing. Each style has its own parameters of musical expression, vocal and emotional patterns and “code of behavior”. One of the interesting factors is clothing, both in audience and on the stage.
Opera, definitely, is about luxury and glamour, especially at the Met. At City Opera you see less of the fur coats and more of the sneakers, but still audiences do dress up a bit. Frequently, theater crowds are often not well dressed at all…..people think they are going to a Yankees game. I want to yell at them…….hey! This is Manhattan, not Manhasset! They wouldn’t get it or care. The nighttime crowds look a little nicer than those who make the matinees. Age is also a factor. Older people dress up more than younger ones, and Europeans outdress Americans every time, no matter what.
Obviously, rock performers look different than do those singing at a gospel performance. The rockers either want to look like freaks or failures, gangsters, street walkers or maniacs (both in the audience and on the stage). The audience might also look to mirror the band. The gospel folk are generally more dignified and can be either subdued or glamourous, which is true of cabaret performers, too. The other styles vary according to the music. Country/Western music performers often have a kind of “cowboy” attire (which might be reflected in the audience’s garb) but not always. Often the audience dresses along similar lines.
It seems that jazz has a wide range of attire but may also have something to do with both the age of the performers (vocalists and musicians alike) as well as the kind of jazz itself. The “coolness factor” of young performaners seems to have something to do with looking like they don’t care about clothing in any way. This might be OK for the men but it works against the young women who often end up dressed from head to toe in black — sometimes in clothes that don’t fit properly or are not flattering.
So being deliberately grubby or outrageous or glamorous or sexy or crazy is part of the entire overall package of the artist’s image. Who is this person up on the stage? Why are they there? The audience is taking in the attire and making some kind of judgment in their minds about what that attire says about the performer. Those who don’t care enough to pay attention to what they are going to wear make a choice that says I care about not caring.
If we go back to my post of the other day — that the audience matters and that all performers who appear live should remember that the people who paid to hear them deserve the best they can offer — then paying attention to the clothing you wear falls into this category. If you want to make an impression on the audience (or the potential agent, or booking company or record label), please look memorable. You can choose to look any way at all, but make a choice. Recognize that if you choose to dress down you are doing nothing to help yourself with the audience. Maybe that proves how valid you are as an artist. Maybe it shows the world you are above caring about such plebeian issues. Maybe you just want everyone to know you don’t have money to spend on clothing as you spend it all on your art.
If you are a beautiful young woman……remember that you want to be proud of your body. You want to use your youth and beauty to give a gift to the eyes of the audience members who can see you. You want to allow your body to be dressed in the best, nicest clothing you can afford and have professionally done makeup on your face. Why? Because it makes you seem more successful and conscious. If your particular brand of music is into “grubby” then be the best, most wonderful grubby the whole world has ever seen.
The whole package takes in not just how you sing, but how you look, how you dress, how you move, what you do when you are happy with how things are going (or not), what you present to the audience, especially if they don’t yet know you. Take the time to treat your physical appearance as being at least as important as your vocalist chops, and unless you want to make the audience feel that they are at a funeral, don’t dress all in black (men or women).