Dessa – Singer-Songwriter kicks ass at TED Talk. A great example of a speech

In the warmly lit hall you hear appreciative clapping and shallow “woo” shouts. Margret Wander, a lady in a simple dress with a touch of arm and ear jewellery, enters the stage’s spotlight.

After a sympathetic “Hello” Margret introduces herself with her stage name. On stage is Dessa, a member of the hip-hop collective “Doomtree” from Minneapolis, Minnesota. But she doesn’t perform. Instead, she speaks for 12 minutes almost perfectly on the topic “Can we Choose to Fall Out of Love?”

 Original German Version: Dessa - Rapper, Singer-Songwriter und Rednerin

The singer-songwriter Dessa is only known to experienced music nerds in my country, Germany. As with other outstanding musicians on, her songs are rarely being found in the charts. These musicians talent, however, easily outshines many greats in the music industry. I try to explain this phenomenon in this article why music is getting worse and worse. It is in German, though.

Who is Dessa?

Dessa’s from Minneapolis, Minnesota. In 2018 the female artist released her fourth solo album. It features a mix of hip-hop, rap and melody. She mainly writes her lyrics herself. From 2009 to 2018 she released five written works, four solo albums, two more with Doomtree and additional EPs. Before focusing on her solo career, Dessa was CEO of Doomtree. She also holds a B.A. in Philosophy.

About Dessa’s Music

Her albums are predominantly melancholic. Fascinating in their songs is often the flowing transition from rap to singing. It happens before you notice it – and then you rewind. Her songs are peppered with intelligent lyrics about fun, love and heartbreak. The American manages to convince on all levels. The lyrics are deep and make you think. Euphoric melancholic melodies make your heart cry, but often leave a feeling of optimism.

“You always make Music to bleed out to”

Dessa zitiert ihre Mutter

Does a singer-songwriter have any advantages in giving a lecture?

To get to the bottom of this question, we try to work out a connection between her affinity for lyrics, the lyrics themselves and also her experience as a musician on stage. The video of this truly entertaining speech is included below.

Let’s ignore 7% of the speech

According to Albert Mehrabian, the content of a speech accounts for only 7% of the effect. That’s why we only devote selective attention to this part of your TEDx appearance. With 55% body language accounts for the majority and 38% emphasis. So let’s pay special attention to the emphasis and the body language.

Baby, it’s beautiful. But why is it always so sad?

Dessa zitiert ihre Mutter

Experience through melancholic songs

Emotions play an important role in everything. Men, women and children have different approaches. I have to be careful here. While men are trimmed to control their emotions, children are more the sheep of their wolf emotions. You could almost say about the esteemed ladies that they make decisions based on emotional impulses. Sometimes very loving, but also very explosive.

Dessa has been writing melancholic lyrics and songs for over 10 years. As a singer it is also her task to breathe emotion into even emotionless words, which she has to transport with her voice. I can imagine that she therefore knows more about the verbal conveyance of feelings than many a poet. You can see very nicely in the lecture video how she uses it.

Dessa – The Chaconne

Dessa performs The Chaconne on 89.3 The Current

Transmitters and receivers

However, a speaker should not be guided by his emotions. He, in this case she, should convey emotions and transfer them to the audience so that the audience can feel the feelings of the front speaker. This is the only way to identify the guests with the speaker. They can put themselves in a better position in the situation conveyed.

Natural Movement

Body language is mostly subconscious. Therefore it is difficult to control. This makes natural movements on stage so difficult when you feel observed.

A good body language and a successful emphasis make the speech more witty and entertaining. It increases the empathy of the audience and the variety of the speech. Which is an extremely difficult task, as we found out.

Dessa appears like being at home

Dessa makes a very casual entrance. She almost looks like she’s telling a story to her closest friends. She smiles at important places, but also turns her eyes thoughtfully upwards. At any time, accentuating hand movements accompany her lyrics and her gaze wanders calmly back and forth across the entire audience. As if she were addressing every seated person personally. Even if she doesn’t really move her arms, she gestures with her head and sets further accents.

For a speaker, their movements seem unusually relaxed and extraordinarily natural. Nothing seems rehearsed or forced when she talks to the audience or reads funny tweets.

A Singer-Songwriter’s accentuation

Dessa uses the means of accentuation professionally in her lecture. If you don’t know her, she could easily pass for a stand-up comedian.

For example, she becomes calmer at the conclusion of thoughts, only to catch and pick up the audience in the following sentence with louder emphasis. The guest is offered no reason to switch off

As a singer-songwriter you do think a lot about the emphasis. That is to be regarded differentiated to the melody. Because a melody conveys feelings, while the emphasis sets accents and directs the listener’s attention to certain points. This can be compared to an image that gains in detail and depth through new colours. A little abstracted, I remember the timbre.

My little brother’s nearly twice my age, he taught me how to meditate. I taught him how to read

Dessa – Children’s Work

Being a bookworm – crucial for eloquence

Furthermore Dessa seems to have hung a lot about books in her life and has written books herself next to her lyrics. In both cases you have to think about the text and its design. With poems or rap lyrics you even have to plan it extraordinarily. The text comes after the melody. This results in a certain frame in which the text must be incorporated. It is an art not to neglect the message and the joy of interpreting the text.

Another great Example for a lyricist’s writing skillz: Eminems Killshot.

Dealing with defeats

Defeats as a speaker? What does that mean? For a healthy mix, you include jokes in a speech. Because laughter promotes sympathy. This is also the reason for the ominous speech break after a punch line. Unfortunately, recipients don’t laugh at every punch line. The old friend, the oppressive silence, greets you and manifests a knocking down feeling in the speaker. And you can already see his own speech going down the drain in front of your inner eye. The saving branch is then no longer so easy to grasp.

Even Dessa, a full-time musician, happens to be. But even before you sink into this oppressive silence for endless milliseconds, she grabs your attention with a new accent. There is no excitement or drift. As with her transitions from rap to song, the transition is barely noticeable.

Lots of practice or talent?

As already mentioned, she is thinking a lot about the design and, more importantly, the desired effect of her lyrics. The fact that she read a lot at a very early age is certainly only an advantage. Violence of words and a subconscious experience of text impact are certainly a part of it.

The text may be partly memorized and some jokes may be scripted. But you only notice this in two felt places.

All in all, I was thrilled how a musician makes a speech to a TED audience that couldn’t be more entertaining. So natural, funny and inclusive. Logically structured and also a little abstruse

Dessas releases

2008 – 2018

  • Solo
    • 4 Longplayer
    • 8 Singles
    • 2 EP’s
  • With Doomtree
    • 3 Longplayers
    • 4 Singles
    • 3 EP’s
  • 5 Text publications

Thanks for reading. As always:

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