This is what happens to me: I am looking for a particular something, then find myself somewhere else and voila—a post creates itself. That's what happened here. I was at Youtube intent on listening to something completely different when Garland leapt out at me from the right-hand column. And what did I hear when I clicked on "Old Man River"?
All over the place. Everywhere. The piece was stuffed with them.
This lead me to listen to how Garland sang on her consonants, taking great care to give them time and emphasis. Do you hear singers do this today? I don't think so. This kind of emphasis is considered too fussy, too mannered, and old fashioned.
We laud this lady for singing in such a way as to blow us away; yet, do we hear the detail with which she does it? The technical stuff? I think not. Our brains soak in the big emotional arc Garland takes us on. It's quite the ride, starting quietly and then ending in a huge blaze of sound and feeling. Yet, if you listen carefully, Garland holds herself together with small things like N which are given real care.
We hear the same emphasis and care on her N's in the second cut. The third? We hear Garland do something very different: Instead of emphasising her vocal line, diction and presence, she lets Streisand take the lead. Her diction becomes soft, muted and subordinate. A big star being generous. Then comes the love-fest.
Small things can be very powerful. Small things like N.