Differences, Continued

Yesterday, I wrote about our human ability to notice differences more easily than similarities. I used an example of Shakira, who in her early years sounded much more like Britney Spears than I recognized at the time.

I wish human brains were better equipped to note similarities as well as differences, but now consider the value of recognizing differences.

Shakira, as a singer and artist, sounds more like herself now than she did 15 years ago. Her own growth has led away from her influences and more to her own ideas.

From that perspective, the voice we heard 15 years ago stood out because of where it was headed, not because of where it was. It’s only in comparison to her later albums that her influences are more evident.

The same is true of Sinatra, who sounded a lot like Bing on his early sides. Ella did a mean Connee Boswell before she became herself, Mark Murphy was a generic crooner before he was a hipster. Kurt Elling was a Mark Murphy soundalike at first.

Ray Charles sounded exactly like Nat “King” Cole. Like scary.

It’s the 1% that’s you at the start that is worth chasing down.

And as a listener, it’s worthwhile to focus on that 1%. With any luck, that’s a big clue as to who an artist is going to become.