YouTube’s Undiscovered – Maria Z
As The Script’s most recent single ‘Hall of Fame’ soars to No.1 in the Charts and graces everyone’s mp3 devices with its powerful, unyielding presence, cover versions of the song began pouring out from the corners of YouTube. In fact, this song pointed me in the direction of one of those corners, to Maria Zouroudis, a ‘singer/songwriter/arranger/producer’ who enjoys nothing more than uploading quality cover versions of the latest hits, as well as sharing her original music with the online community.
Maria’s first video on her channel shows the YouTube artist teaming up with Alejandro Manzano (of Boyce Avenue fame), performing an acoustic rendition of Rihanna’s ‘Please Don’t Stop The Music’. She has consistently and closely followed the latest chart releases, reflected in her covers of Miley Cyrus’ ‘The Climb’, Ke$ha’s ‘Tik Tok’ and Katy Perry’s ‘California Gurls’. Her vocal style is very pure, adding a sense of innocence to the melodic line, whilst also ornamenting ends of phrases and experimenting with subtle but effective melodic changes. ‘Tik Tok’ brings out a certain edge to her voice and the tuneful quality of the opening (and originally spoken) phrase shows that Maria has carefully considered where her individuality lies in cover songs. The a capella moments exude self-confidence which make her harmonies ear-catching.
From 5 years ago to her present videos, Maria has also explored her talent for song writing. Her original song ‘Driving For Freedom’ was actually conceived as part of a Honda Campaign, in which she was asked to write a song to be used as part of the company’s campaign ‘The Sounds of Civic’. Her vocal edge is once again very pronounced in this soft rock, up-tempo number. Nothing could be as different, however, as the acoustic version of her original song ‘When Your Heart Stops Beating’. Reduced to vocals, piano and guitar to ‘make it more “romantic” for you’, her impressive range is clearly audible (especially during the soaring line ‘I’m gonna be the reason‘) and her descent from these passages emulate a sigh of relief, pouring further emotion into the lyrics. The end of the song reminds me somewhat of Jessie J’s vocal improvisation, particularly when Maria reiterates ‘b-b-beating’, which also emphasises the importance of the title phrase.
So, whilst new hit singles are released every week and measured hierarchically based on the quantity of records purchased, take a moment to enter the world of the YouTube cover artist. Although an original song is, by definition, an original song, it doesn’t reduce the impeccable quality of some of the cover renditions online. Maria Z proves how effective subtle melodic and instrumentation changes can be, in both her covers and her own original music. Here’s to the continuation of musical experimentation and individuality – and may we all be able to seek out a small but significant gem in the corners of YouTube.