I travel a lot in my job. As a consequence, I spend a lot of my time in cars, whizzing from airports to offices, to hotels, to airports. (Business travel is in reality rather boring; it’s not as if there’s a lot of time to do sightseeing…) Most cars will have the radio on. Most such radios will be set on stations that send a combination of local music and global hits. All of those radiostations have one thing in common; the Voice.
In general, there are cultural differences as to what is considered beautiful/attractive. Dark skinned ladies in saris sets hearts on fire in India while having no impact on the men in Canada. Brighteyed girls with an outdoorsey look and tall, healthy bodies have the Norwegians going “aaaah” while the French raise an eyebrow. The handsome Chinese dude in leather jacket that decorates the Shanghai billboards probably does something to most women (oh yes!), but perhaps more to Chinese women than to Turkish ladies.
Same thing with interior decorating; the bare, utilitarian look so favoured by the Scandinavians make Spanish people shudder – this is not a home, it’s a clinic. The dark panelled walls, matching furniture and gilded lamps that may make the Portuguese housewife swoon with joy will make the UK woman shake her head.
I can list many more examples, but I think the above proves my point; taste is as diverse as language. Except for the Voice. No matter if the radio emanates Chinese or Turkish, Spanish or English, the voices that speak to us – all over the world – are scarily similar. They are low pitched, dark almost. They are soothing and musical, voices that are easy to listen to, that are distinct and precise without ever losing an element of warmth. Apparently, what is considered an attractive voice is more or less the same all over the world.
I think this is to some extent due to preconditioning. Radio voices are a relatively new thing, and the first radio voices probably set the standard. Confidence-inspiring male voices dominated the first few decades of radio (well, they still do) and future radio announcers were modeled on these pioneers. I also believe that there IS a common take on what is an attractive voice. Picture the hullabaloo caused in Hollywood when the movie industry moved from silent movies to sound movies – movie stars were extinguished overnight because their voices weren’t up to scratch. (Male stars mustn’t squeak. Actually, male voices should never, ever squeak. Most offputting… Come to think of it, squeaky female voices aren’t that fun either)
I hear these radio voices, and I picture the women as being long-limbed with manes of dark, lustrous hair. Like a modern day Carmen, complete with a bright red dress and matching lipstick, she leans towards the microphone (no she doesn’t; nowadays it’s all headsets, but I prefer the image of her and a microphone) and speaks directly to us – to me – that voice of hers assuring me things are okay, that somehow we’ll muddle through yet another day.
The male speakers I also imagine as dark. Strong guys with shoulders to cry on, some with beards, some not. They don’t lean towards the mike (okay, okay; there are no mikes), they lean away from it, arms crossed over their chests, sure that their voices will carry anyway. And they do.
I guess I’d be very disappointed – or surprised – should I happen upon the real life radio announcers. They might be short and round, bald and skinny. They might look tired and haggard, incapable of ever carrying load heavier than a carton of milk. They might squint, have a limp, have bad teeth and flaky skin – heck, they might even be blond! Or they may be dropdead gorgeous. Whatever the case, whenever I hear their voices – no matter in what language – I feel reassured and seduced. Things will be alright, there is someone to watch over us and he/she works for the radio.