In a rare moment of self-effacement, Bono has admitted that he hates his own singing voice and cringes when he hears U2’s songs on the radio.

Yet he is far from alone in disliking his own voice. John Lennon and Jimi Hendrix hated how they sounded on records. Indeed, musicians’ insecurities about their voices stretch back to the dawn of recorded sound. In 1904, London-based opera singer Nellie Melba would agree to release records only once she’d received the thumbs-up from her old father back in Australia after he’d heard a test pressing of an aria from La Traviata.

Experts say there’s a simple reason why we dislike the sound of our own voice: it’s not what we expect.

“The voice we hear when we talk isn’t the one everyone else hears,” explains Dean Burnett, a neuroscientist and author. “Obviously, we hear through our ears and the sound is processed through our brain. But the acoustic stimulus that we’re getting is coming from inside our own skull: our voice travels through the bones in our head, meaning the voice we’re convinced we have is never the one we hear when it’s played back.”

This means that our self-image is challenged when we hear our voice. “Having your assumptions challenged is uncomfortable,” adds Burnett.

Bono also told the podcast that he has only learnt to sing ‘recently’. This satisfaction with his older voice stems, he suggested, from having listened to US punk band the Ramones and finding peace. In fact, many singers have found their ‘sound’ in their older voice. Marianne Faithfull’s delivery has deepened as the decades have progressed.

On last year’s album, She Walks in Beauty, her weathered voice makes the record what it is, as though it’s imbued and weighed down with all her experiences.

There’s also the issue of distance. Bono was 20 when U2’s first album, Boy, came out. And who, in their 60s, is proud of everything they did when they were a headstrong youngster?

“As we get older, we’re more distanced from our teenage self. We look back at what we were like then and, because we’re so different now, we think, ‘Ugh, can you believe what I was like back then? If I met myself when I was younger, I’d give myself a stiff talking to’,” says Burnett.

Those who were there at the very beginning with U2 say no one, Bono included, had any qualms about his voice. Nick Stewart signed U2 to Island Records back in 1980. He tells me that he signed U2 because they had unbelievable passion and drive, which extended to Bono’s “extremely powerful voice”.

In one respect, Bono is ahead of the curve. Voice-hating is likely to become an even bigger problem in the decades ahead. Due to social media platforms such as Facebook and TikTok, it won’t be too long before people’s entire lives – including videos and voice messages – are stored online or up in a cloud somewhere. “Modern-day teens, when they’re in their 30s, 40s and 50s, will probably have their whole teenage years online as an archive,” says Burnett.

In years to come, listening back to your voice from previous decades won’t just be the preserve of rock stars with a catalogue of old albums to draw from.

We’ll all be able to hear our every strain, every inflection and every macho youthful utterance. And that really will be cringeworthy.

The Daily Telegraph

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