Vocal Rating: Singer-Vocalist
Analysis: Since she first broke onto the music scene in her early twenties as half of the duo Chairlift, Caroline Polachek has enraptured Indie and Pop fans alike with her ethereal and dynamic vocals. Polachek studied her voice intensely, with classical voice lessons as a child and an adult, as well as in acapella groups in college,Caroline Polachek – Handel with clear results. She demonstrates numerous classical vocal qualities, with a wide vocal range and an array of musical tools that exceed the standards of Indie singing.
Polachek can easily be identified as a soprano given her vocal weight and timbre. While Polachek possesses an impressive lower register – one more powerful and expansive than most pop sopranos – her voice has no “womanly” timbre to it but is rather bright and girlish. She also can handle soprano Cs in her head voice with her final passagio lying above that point, another indication of a soprano fach.Miller, Training Soprano Voices, p. 25. The final passagio for a mezzo-soprano is C6 while for a soprano it’s D6. Polachek’s lies above C6, see below. She would best be classified as a light lyric soprano given her vocal weight and output, although her upper extension would be more akin to a coloratura soprano in opera.
Polachek has several callsigns as a vocalist, the first being persistent flips between her head and chest voice. By applying minimal pressure, she can flip between the two registers with well-controlled breaks. Polachek’s voice is also quite often vibratoless – while she has of course displayed a quick vibrato at various points, most of her vocals are straight-toned, adding a pseudo-metallic quality to her voice. This vibratoless delivery, her consistent register flips, and combination of rapid crescendos and diminuendos create a dreamy, siren-like vocal.
As a classically trained singer, Polachek displays bel canto-esque clarity of her voice. Its slightly nasal placement furthers her aforementioned metallic timbre, which pairs exceptionally with her electronic production. Polachek also plays with numerous avant-garde vocal effects, screeching wildly on her appearance on Charli XCX‘s “Tears.” This intricate vocal work requires stamina and focus, which sometimes detracts from her intonation in live performances.
The highlight of her voice is inarguably her upper extension. The clarity found throughout her range shines brightest here, with Polachek soaring up to F6 in her flageolet with freedom. Polachek also demonstrates strong control of her passagi, easily navigating leaps between these and other registers of her voice.Chairlift, “Get Real (Live).” The change in volume between the lower head voice passages and the high one peaking at E6 indicates a register transition from her head voice and into her … Continue reading Singing in this part of Polachek’s voice is understandably demanding, and again makes some performances inconsistent.
Overall Polachek is an impressive vocalist whose skillset vastly exceeds those of her contemporaries. While she has areas for improvement like most, her synthesis of classical and pop vocal aesthetics is something to be admired by all.
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Caroline Polachek’s vocal range spans three octaves and a major sixth, from G#2 – G5 – F6.
Caroline Polachek is a light lyric soprano.
|↑1||The Range Planet – Caroline Polachek|
|↑2||Caroline Polachek – Handel|
|↑3||Miller, Training Soprano Voices, p. 25. The final passagio for a mezzo-soprano is C6 while for a soprano it’s D6. Polachek’s lies above C6, see below.|
|↑4||Chairlift, “Get Real (Live).” The change in volume between the lower head voice passages and the high one peaking at E6 indicates a register transition from her head voice and into her flageolet or whistle register.|