I haven’t seen this week’s rerun of Making the Band 4 yet, but the scene in which the girls from Danity Kane sing solo for the vocal coach is still running through my mind. The girls are so present in their vocal expression, and it reminded me of how far I’ve come in my own musical journey.
When I first decided that I wanted to be a singer, I kept it to myself – don’t ask me why. When friends (and strangers) learned that I sang, they would usually ask me to sing something on the spot. I’d hem and haw to try to get out of it, but I’d finally give in if it was dark outside, and they allowed me to turn the lights off – and sing in the bathroom.
Even after I first started singing on stage, singing to one person a capella was also difficult. Even if I was singing to describe a song I’d heard on the radio, I used this funny high-pitched voice which drove my boyfriend at the time crazy. He was an accomplished musician, and I felt very self-conscious singing around him.
Finally, the week before I moved to New York from Miami (with the accomplished musician boyfriend), I decided to practice introducing myself as a singer. I figured that most of the people I’d be meeting in NYC would be strangers, so I should get used to calling myself a singer. By the way, if you’ve ever moved to another city, it’s amazing how many new people you meet right before you leave, so I definitely got lots of practice.
So during this week, I meet a guy in Miami and tell him I’m a singer. He says, “That’s great. Show me what you got!” And I immediately went back to my hemming and hawing mode. I didn’t get too far before he finally said something I’ll never forget: “Singers sing! If you want to be a singer, you have to be able to sing at the drop of a dime, with no hesitation.” And as much as that message stung at the time, I knew he was right. So I sang for him – right there on the sidewalk, in broad daylight. And since that day 13 years ago, I sing for anyone who wants to hear, no hesitation. And I also sing for myself, around the house, in the subway, and of course, on stage. Now I won’t shut up! And this is how I finally found my voice.
Any other singers out there want to chime in on your journey to free vocal expression??
Okay, so I did watch Making the Band again, and one of the various storylines that caught my attention this time was Danity Kane’s Dawn dealing with her emotions. Girlfriend has a voice, and she also has a story. She’s from New Orleans, and was displaced by Hurricane Katrina. She has a painful past, but doesn’t like to talk about it.
When the vocal coach asked to hear each of the girls sing, Dawn had mad skills. The vocal coach still wanted more emotion from her, and told her that singing had to be about the listeners, not just what she wanted to give them. As Dawn got connected more with her emotions, tears started to fall down her face. The vocal coach demanded that she sing through her tears, although I’m not totally sure if he wanted to teach her how to get past her tears while she was singing, or if he just wanted more emotion from her.
If anybody saw this episode and has some insight, please let me know. I’m gonna have to watch this again…
Returned this morning from my hometown of Miami, FL after celebrating my Godmother’s 78th birthday. It was a nice and hot 89 degrees, which was a lovely change from last week’s 21 degrees in NYC. I even have mosquito bites in the strangest places, but I digress…
On the way to Miami on JetBlue Airlines, I caught my first episode ever of Making the Band 4. I admit that consciously resist watching music business reality shows since I often disagree with a TV show producer’s idea of reality, but hey, I was on a plane, and needed a distraction from a fellow passenger with foul coffee breath (OMG!).
Anyway, I found myself intrigued by the antics going on with the recording artists on the show, who were handpicked by P. Diddy to make their records: a girl group from the last season, Danity Kane, a male urban group, and a male “blue-eyed soul” solo artist.
So tonight back at home in NYC, the next episode of Making the Band 4 is on, and again, I watch the whole thing. Among the other story lines going on was the one in which the girls of Danity Kane were unhappy with the tracks that they had been given to sing. Diddy had assembled a team of serious producers and songwriters to write tracks for the artists, and while the guy groups were loving the tracks being written for them, the Danity Kane girls hated theirs.
The girls felt that they were receiving too many slow tempo romantic songs, while what they really wanted was some uptempo songs that were about empowerment. They explained their vision to the A&R guy and the producers, but their words pretty much fell on deaf ears. They knew exactly what they wanted, but they weren’t getting it. I was soooo relating to their frustration! At one point, the A&R guy asked them if they thought they could do a better job, and the girls, led by the outspoken Aubrey, said yes.
The A&R guy then went on to say how many artists have thought the same thing, and have ruined their careers. That really burned me up!!! I can acknowledge that not all artists can write music, produce or run their business, but that doesn’t mean that no artist can. This kind of “create a machine-insert any singer-release a record” thinking is why I have a problem with the old school/traditional music business. And if you ask me, that kind of thinking is what has them losing money today.
Danity Kane went platinum on their first record, and I’d bet money that it wasn’t just because P. Diddy was behind them. The good thing about music reality shows is that they allow the artists to build a fanbase and a STORY. When you have viewers tuning in every week, they often become emotionally invested in the artists. In other words, they become fans. And if a record release is timed correctly, the artists will have fans ready to buy.
In the new school way of thinking, artists also need to get their own online presence going. This establishes a bond with a fanbase that is not tied to a TV show, producer, or record label. Just look at the American Idols who have already been dropped from their record label deals. When the show that pushed them into stardom ends, they quickly fade into obscurity.
I’d suggest building an online fanbase to keep their star warm. It’s not the job of the record label to build an enduring fanbase – it’s yours. The recording artist’s job is to make the world fall in love with them. A record label’s job is to sell records. If you no longer have a fanbase of your own (not attached to the current reality tv show), your records won’t sell, and you’ll get dropped like a hot potato. When you have your own solid base of listeners that love your music, they will support your art for years. It’s not an overnight process, but once you get your breakthrough, don’t leave it to chance.
Back to Making the Band 4 – The girls finally got to tell Diddy to his face how they saw themselves and their music. Surprisingly enough, he actually apologized for not sitting down with them earlier to discuss their vision for their sophomore record. Diddy’s temper is legendary, so I didn’t expect this (neither did the girls!). He agreed to give them more uptempo tracks, and the scene ended with him hugging them. I wasn’t sure if he was going to follow through, but he then hooked the girls up with songwriter Mary Brown. Miz Brown hooked them up with a HAWT track about being a bad girl, and the girls were on Cloud 9. Impressive!
Can’t promise that I’ll continue with commentary on Making the Band 4, but damn, that was good TV!