“From my heart and my hand Why don't people understand My intentions? (Weird Science)” - Oingo Boingo
“Oh Nah, Nah, What's my name? Oh Nah, Nah, What's my name?” - Robyn Rihanna Fenty
Deep in the laboratory at the newly-formed Tone Def Recordings, LLC, the men toil.
“We have to find a niche music market that isn't fully-penetrated now.” Higgins paces the room. “This'll allow our Cyndi to grow a fanbase in that arena and vault her to dominate all mainstream pop.”
“Ha, remember when Taylor Swift sang country?” Pickering sucks a hit of THC from his bedazzled vape pen. THC is a psychoactive drug which humans ingested to create a sense of euphoria.
“Alexis, find the most important singers of the past 20 years, past ten years and past five years.” Higgins commands. The holowall buzzes to life and projects a pig pile of pop star faces.
“Alexis, separate each singer into the market which they are most closely identified: country, rock, EDM, hip-hop, electro-gospel, product-placement rap, etc. Create a line graph representing genre penetration on the y-axis and time on the x-axis.” The faces of these singers cluster into smaller groups as a set of different colored lines plots each market's saturation over the past twenty years.
“Pickering, do you see it? Do you see it!” Higgins runs to the holowall.
“What?” Pickering's glazed eyes attempt to focus.
“Bubblegum pop!” Higgins points to a line that has petered out in the past five years. “Country, hip-hop and rock are still fully saturated. But since the great Disney disaster, there hasn't been a single bubblegum pop star.”
“Holy shit!” Pickering perks up.
“Think about it, there's a whole generation of girls moving into their 'tween and teens who have no anthem, who are devoid of a role model, who need someone to guide them, show them how they should look, act and feel.”
“You're right! Young gay boys have no one they can pretend to be.”
“And think of all those adolescent boys without spank material.” Higgins tsks and shakes his head.
“Ha Ha!” Pickering enters this genre into the computer program. “Its settled, Cyndi will be a bubblegum pop star. Now her voice, what will she sound like?”
“Alexis, combine the vocal fry of Britney Spears with the buttery textures of Barbra Streisand and pepper in the power of Pat Benatar. You think that's enough?” Higgins commands.
“She's gotta have a distinct voice.” Pickering thinks. “We have the ability to construct the most perfect voice. Something that no human has ever heard! Alexis, mix in the grit of Janis Joplin, the aching soulfulness of Aretha Franklin, the bold, haunting tones of Patsy Cline and sprinkle it all with the Brooklyn affectations of Cyndi Lauper.”
A hologram of each of these singers appears around their perfect pop star. Higgins studies the faces of some of the most powerful singers of the 20 th century.
“Woof!” Higgins howls. “How in hell did these women ever become pop stars? Just look at them! Each more hideous than the last. Those terrible complexions! Those doughy bodies! Those big noses and asymmetrical faces. Who in the devil let these women out in public, not just on a stage! Janis Joplin looks like a draggle-tailed guttersnipe. And Aretha! Aretha Franklin looks like a black plastic bag, bloated, with a wig on top. And who is this poor chap?”
“Oh that's Freddie Mercury, lead singer of Queen, one of the best singers of all---”
“With those teeth?” Higgins points at his top teeth, which jut out from his jaw at odd angles. “Those teeth look like tetanus-filled nails busting out from a collapsed house.”
“Well I think it was a different time---” Pickering tries to explain.
“Never mind the past! It's dead! We have the future to perfect.” Higgins points to the hologram of Cyndi. “We don't need their bodies. Just give her their voices.”
Pickering types a few commands and hits enter.
The computer program plucks the voices of these women like a tentacled sea witch. These unique sounds that their owners had spent years practicing and perfecting, the deepest expression of their very uniqueness are snatched in seconds. Each note they've every sung, each intonation they've ever given, every vibrating growl, every breathy coo, every steely tone are thrown into a cauldron, melted together and refined.
“What about vocal range?” Pickering asks then answers. “Let's give her a five-octave range, but the power in the middle alto.”
“Alexis, name vocal composition Cyndi. Alexis, enable file Cyndi to respond to voice commands.” Higgins types a few musical notes. “Cyndi, sing these notes.”
The bobbing hologram of Cyndi stirs and looks at them. The image opens its mouth and a human woman's voice roars from the speakers, repeating these notes over and over again. This sound triggers the autonomous sensory meridian response for humans, which tickles from their scalps and rolls down their spines and spreads in quakes of glee.
“Remarkable! She's giving me chills.” Higgins hugs his chest.
“Me too! But something's missing. Alexis, turn up the sass by 25%. Cyndi, repeat the notes.”
Pickering and Higgins bob their heads with the beat.
“Almost there.” Pickering types a few more instructions. “Cyndi, sing!”
The speakers broadcast a beautiful female voice, but underneath a sublime rapture rumbles. Higgins's hands tremble as tears well in his eyes.
“Stop! Make it stop. Alexis! Turn off Cyndi!” Higgins wipes the first dew of tears welling in his eyes. “Damn, that's a dirty trick. What the hell was that?”
“Why should we limit ourselves to just a normal singing voice?” Pickering smiles with a cheshire grin. “I created a polyphonic overtone singing voice for Cyndi with a new invention, the undertone. Alexis, show the overtones and undertones for Cyndi's voice singing middle C.”
Cyndi holds a middle C. The board shows the vibration of Cyndi's middle C and then breaks this down into its component parts.
“When any human sings, you hear the main note, i.e. the fundamental tone, they sing and the hints of harmonic partials that are at equally spaced, higher frequencies. What I did was to raise the decibels of her first overtone slightly. Along with this, I created an undertone. This tone is at a harmonic lower frequency than the fundamental tone. I've created this undertone to be 40% Cyndi's voice and 60% a male voice. The rumbles you feel is this bass sound accompanying her.”
“Shit, it's all about that bass!”
“Cyndi, sing the Star-Spangled Banner.” Pickering turns to the hologram.
Higgins collapses in a chair and twirls, listening to their creation. He feels as if the cells in his body are vibrating, rejoicing with this sound. As the rockets red-glared and the bombs burst in air, goosebumps cover their arms. Their hearts beat faster, their eyes widen and their nipples stand erect. Hope, joy and excitement swell in them as Cyndi's voice crescendoes with “the Brave.”
A minute of silence follows. Pickering and Higgins stare at each other, trembling, unable to process the intense emotions their creation has caused in them.
“Oh god, this is good. Maybe too good. But we gotta be careful. That emotional power... that emotional power could be too much.” Pickering warns.