Observations of an ordinary man


Talent Shows

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I have a thing against the current crop of talent shows. There seems to be a set of criteria that defines what a singer should be and if you don’t fit that mold you “don’t have what it takes”. There is a sound that artists seem to be striving for and it’s got to the point that it’s no longer about the music. I mean how can it be? They all sound the same. I listen to songs on the radio and most of the singers that have come up through the Voidol path and they all sound the same. It’s become formulaic. It’s boring and it’s an abuse of music. I think Dave Grohl puts it nicely:

“When I think about kids watching a TV show like American Idol or The Voice, then they think, ‘Oh, OK, that’s how you become a musician, you stand in line for eight hours with 800 people at a convention center and… then you sing your heart out for someone and then they tell you it’s not good enough.’ Can you imagine?” he implores. “It’s destroying the next generation of musicians! Musicians should go to a yard sale and buy and old drum set and get in their garage and just suck. And get their friends to come in and they’ll suck, too. And then they’ll start playing and they’ll have the best time they’ve ever had in their lives and then all of a sudden they’ll become Nirvana. Because that’s exactly what happened with Nirvana. Just a bunch of guys that had some shitty old instruments and they got together and started playing some noisy-ass shit, and they became the biggest band in the world. That can happen again! You don’t need a computer or the internet or The Voice or American Idol.”
note: I’ve remove some of the swearing but otherwise left it intact.

Can you imagine what the current state of music would be if Lou Reed, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits had to go through auditions to make it? The Beatles, with sales of around 600 million records, were rejected by Decca because they “have no future in show business”! Why, because they didn’t fit the mold. Luckily for us, other people had better vision. Talent shows have nothing to do with unearthing great talent and everything to do with making a lot of money off the back of someone else’s talent.

In Australia, on of the first of the big talent shows, called Popstars, created a group called Bardot. Part of the winnings was a contract with Warner Music. They achieved good commercial success in Australia and Asia but despite several charting records, only made an average of less than $60,000 each. You see, the contract they were tied to saw all costs including travel, hotels and promotions come out of their share. Warner on the other hand made a few million out of them. This is what is in store for the next crop young hopefuls. Being flogged by a record company until they are spent and then ditched for the “next big thing”. Record companies, who sponsor these shows, are not in it to develop music, the are in it to make money and that means applying a formula. A formula that results in cash for them but very little in the way of a lasting career for the sheep led to the slaughter. The winners of these shows have 2 year whirlwind careers and then suddenly fade away. Why only 2 years? Simple, once the hype has died down and the record sales drop to a non-hysterical level, their contract is not renewed and there is another Voidol graduate taking their place. Very few make past this period because there just isn’t enough margin for the record company to keep them on.

This isn’t music, it’s formulaic drivel. Where are the bands and singer song writers that write from the heart and play with passion? Who is giving them a shot?How many of them are vanishing from our ears before they even get started because they don’t fit a mold that should never even exist? Why are we looking at our talent from the point of what their profitability is?

We need to turn off the talent shows and look for people that create music. It’s not about how you look in front of a camera or how your voice sounds through a sequencer. On Australian Idol, Ian Dickson (Dicko) told Paulini Curuenavuli that she was too fat to wear a particular dress. What has that got to do with the song? Imagine telling Mamma Cass that she was too fat to be successful or that Cindy Lauper wasn’t dressed appropriately.

Music is an amazing thing. It needs to be nurtured and those that have a passion for it need to be supported. They don’t need to be shown a round hole and told if you don’t fit through, you have no future.

Boys and girls, sing and play and suck at it. Just keep going. One day you’ll find you don’t suck and people are listening. Don’t listen to those that say you can’t, listen to the voice inside that says, “go for it”.

Oh, and turn off those vile talent shows.

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