Friend wants to know why they don't all use hand held microphones. Isn't that better? My answer:
I think different mike techniques are for different situations. Situations:
Performer plays the piano and mike is right there in front of them. Elton John, Norah Jones. Stevie Wonder, Roberta Flack. These people can manipulate their performance to every bit the extent that someone holding it in their hands can. These two categories of people can usually actually sing.
When I used to teach pop singers, I would try to explain the idea of projection--a classical singer must project their voice to the back of a room. You, pathetic miked singer, still have to project your voice all the way over to the microphone. Josh Groban, perish the thought that I should actually mention him at all, moves the mike away from his mouth when he's getting loud. In short they are singing.
Another category of performer want their hands free. These people fall into two categories: The Beatles, people playing instruments, shit like that who sing into mikes on stands. They are the same as the above category.
And performers, dancers, actors. These people want their hands free so they can do things with them. There may also be a vanity factor here--maybe they don't want to look like they're using a mike. Aha!! I think we are getting at it. They think they look cuter. In Broadway shows like Les Miz, Beach Blanket Babylon, they don't want you to see the mike. It's attached to their clothes with a broadcast mechanism on their costume somewhere. These people can't manipulate the mike effect but still have to project their voices to wherever the thing is on their clothes. They still have to sing. Because of the fixed positioning of the mike, they have to control their voices more than any of the above people.
Laurie Anderson was mentioned. How cool!! I have always wanted a tie like Laurie Anderson had where it looked like a keyboard and you could play music on it. I wondered she didn't market that. I have a video of her. I should get it out and watch it again. She does any number of very cool things and is very technologically sophisticated. She reamplifies the voice after putting it through a distortion device, much like they do on SG1.
Which brings us back to the Madonna, Britney Spears category who use a microphone attached to their head, like people who do user support. These people don't want to actually sing. They are there to make money. Look cute. Stuff like that. It's just not about singing.
I guess Madonna is a special case. She manages to actually be musically interesting once in a while. When the movie "Truth or Dare" came out, I immersed myself in Madonna for an entire weekend. Not enough of what she's doing is about music for me. However, I love the movie "Desperately seeking Susan." Is that too big of a leap?