Sing Your Heart Out
By: Josh O'Shea, Young Adult Librarian
Some of us sing and want no one to ever, ever — not in a million years — hear us. Dogs start howling. Cats scream and run. Chickens cluck like they’re possessed. Nearby babies wail. Fish swim deeper. Sounds terrible, eh? (Pun intended!) But what happens to us when we sing is, well, oh so wonderful.
When we sing our heart out, belting out at the top of our lungs, we’re putting our whole self to work. It takes our whole body to make sounds — our lungs, throat, diaphragm, and all the rest. Our heart rate increases, too. The capillaries swell, and blood pressure goes up a touch. The up and down sense can be good for us. When our body is kicking into high gear after being in low gear, our metabolism increases, and our hearts must work a little harder. In a sense, we come alive just a bit more than before.
Singing our heart out means we pump our emotions into the words and melody. We give the lyrics depth when we give it volume. None of us like to hear a lifeless singer. For example, Sia is an artist known for her unconventional style. She doesn’t follow traditional singing rules, partly because no one taught her how to sing properly. Even if her style is a matter of taste (I love her, some people can’t stand her), I think everyone should agree that all the emotion she puts into her songs could make sand come alive.
Part of coming alive is forgetting yourself. Part of being able to sing your heart out is to ignore the “me” who’s singing. When we think about how we look when we sing, we tend to concentrate on the bad. It takes confidence and practice to have stage presence and be deliberate about how we look on stage or when people are watching. There’s a point in every performance where we must ignore what we look like. We must ignore what people see and not focus on what the audience is gazing at. We must give ourselves to the song. That’s why it’s easiest to sing in the shower — no one is looking, so we lose ourselves to the emotion in our minds, which lets us express that emotion in reality.
Letting go of our self-perception for even a moment can be difficult. We can get distracted by how others think we dress, how we sit, how we talk, what books we like, which people we love, how we look, and on an on. At the same time, we should be aware of how others hear us; we should listen to our own tones to see if it meets what we’re trying to convey with our words. We want to act in ways that will affect the people around us in the best way possible. We’re always trying to be more compassionate and hospitable. But it’s hard to shuck self-consciousness. Often, only when we’re alone can we do that.
That’s one reason we need to take every opportunity to break out of our comfort zones and do something that might be embarrassing or silly. People might not know how to react to what we just did. If we can be real, if we can be authentic, and if we can do it by dancing like a dork or flapping our wings like a chicken out of nowhere, we’ll get better at breaking out of molds that hold us back from expressing our emotions or kicking our body into high gear. When we break out, we find a new part of ourselves that we barely knew was there.
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