One Voice or Another: The Re­recording of Blondie’s Hits #arp2015

Tiffany Naiman, UCLA, USA

Abstract: This talk considers the nuances of Debbie Harry’s aging vocal identity on the re­recordings of Blondie’s works “Atomic,” “Rapture,” and “Heart of Glass” that the band recorded for their 2014 box set, Blondie 4(0)­Ever: Greatest Hits Deluxe Redux/Ghosts of Download. Chris Stein, guitarist and co­founder of Blondie, stated that the band re­recorded eleven of their best­known hits, “partially as an exercise, but also for sync rights.” The band was not working to add something creatively new to their songs, aiming to maintain a close fidelity to the originals so that when film and commercial producers approached them for their classic music, the band could offer new recordings for which they owned both the publishing and sync rights.

At the age of 69, Debbie Harry’s voice has changed since her early recordings in the late 70s and early 80s and the listener can hear her physical limitations. Though there are aesthetic choices made both musically and in the studio in order to manage Harry’s voice, her aging voice is not always consistent or coherent and these inconsistencies, these failures, open the door for my analysis of Harry’s vocality on these new recordings as compared to the originals. Questions surrounding the organization of musical sounds and the presentation of vocal identities provide an opportunity to consider structures of value within the vocal performances of aging popular music artists such as Debbie Harry. By analyzing Harry’s vocals and examining the journalistic and audience receptions of the new re­recorded tracks, I attend to the ways in which the aging female voice is situated within structures of value and authenticity in popular music.