I was listening to Blondie, becasue who doesn't need a little Rapture early on a Friday evening? And I started thinking about texture in a singing voice.
Side note: can we pause for a moment and appreciate that Debbie Harry raps and mentions hip hop in 1981?
Back to my topic, texture. I'm not talking about tone, or perhaps it's a subset of tone. But the texture I'm talking about is not, for example, the nasal quality (or preferably lack thereof) in a voice. It's more about whether the voice is thick or thin, smooth or raspy, what-have-you. Texture can make a voice interesting, and add to its appeal, but it can also make a voice grating. In the abstract it's neither good nor bad, but in real life I think it can have a major impact on a singer's appeal and longevity.
Debbie Harry prompted this post because she's one of the better singers at altering the texture of her voice. Sometimes it's light and bouyant, almost thin; other times it's thick and smooth; other times she adds a rasp to the thickness. As a result, there's a versatility to her singing style even while she remains recognizably Harry. Freddie Mercury could do the same thing, only he had even more of a powerhouse of a voice.
Someone like Bob Dylan or Joe Cocker, on the other hand, has one texture--here, raw and spikey. Not my favorite, but to each his own. Carla Bruni doesn't exactly rasp; she has a voice like velvet. It's not the slippery smoothness of satin, you hear the breath coming through, but it has a richness to its surface that's pleasing (and so French). That velvety texture is something many female singers seem to cultivate to a greater or lesser extent--from Melody Gardot to Mary J. Blige. Some other examples, off the top of my head, of singers with significant texture in their voices are Santigold, Tom Waits (also one of the most brilliant songwriters of the last 30 years), and Bruno Mars (a bit) (linking to an unofficial video because it's too adorable for words).
I think most singers today strive to avoid too much texture in their voices, and I'm not sure that's a positive development. It's a homogenization of sound that makes it harder and harder to distinguish voices. Who today do you think has a voice with lots of texture? Do any have a texture that's not just a rasp?