Tuesday, May 14, 2013

TV Singing Contests

I think that there will be almost universal agreement that singing contests on television are stupid.  I'm not saying that there isn't some entertainment to be had, but really, it's just dumb to suggest that this is a good way to find people who deserve to have record contracts and populated concerts.

I seem to recall that ABBA won a version of a singing contest that lead directly to their international fame and stardom, but does that really contradict my point?  ABBA is some entertainment, but they are generally quite stupid, right?

One of the things that is silliest about singing contests on television, and I'm not naming all the names just because there are too many of them when you include all of the minor ones after American Idle and The Voice (although that Adam Levine is so damn adorable . . .), is that not one of the judges on those shows would win the show on which they judge.  Their voices are too distinctive or don't have enough range or they can't jump from genre to genre and sound just as good, but then again, we don't want them to.  If Garth Brookes can't make it as Chris Gaines, then do we really need every wanna-be singer to move smoothly from pop to rock to country to ballads to hip-hop to standards to reggae to R&B to whatever?  I would say, no.  I don't want Michael Buble singing Led Zeppelin.  Actually, I don't want Michael Buble singing anything, but you get my point.

As a result, these contests do find "singers" that generally have very good voices, flexibility in their genres, are good looking and that appeal to 14 year-old girls (the demographic most likely to vote and vote and vote as if it means a god-damned thing in the world), but they don't actually find people that you want to listen to.

But, and you may find this shocking, that is not my only beef about them.  No, here is my beef of the day with singing contests on television.  The contestants are usually self-absorbed, vapid caricatures of actual singers and they consistently show no sense about the songs they are singing.  I do think that in order to succeed, these contestants have to appear to be having "fun", be "fun" and in the George Bush election trope - be the one you most want to have a beer with.  That, however, means that they should always and every time sing something from the K.C. and the Sunshine Band line-up of party rock fun-time happy songs (look it up, kids).  But if, god forbid, they have to sing something with some more emotion, could they just take a moment and look at the lyrics?

Several days ago, I saw a performance of Amy Winehouse's song "Back to Black".  I guess this person was confusing AC/DC's version of Back in Black with Amy Winehouse's song, or they just weren't bright, but in any case, she sang Back to Black with a shit-eating grin across her face the whole time.  I have also seen Winehouse's hit "Rehab" sung the same way.  Isn't it enough to even know the chorus and Amy Winehouse's tragic end to know that maybe this song involves a bit more pathos than party attitude?  Rehab is not a song about the joys of drinking.  They are several hundred of those on the country charts if that's what you want, but Rehab is a much more honest song about the trouble with drinking and trying to hide from the consequences.  It is a great, great song, but it was, at most, a darkly humorous song before Winehouse's death and now is just bittersweet at best.

So please, if you are going to sing a song, particularly on television for the benefit of several million people, try to, as the judges admonish, "connect to the song" or "emote" the song, or even just give a crap about the words, please.

And to prove my point - the two Amy Winehouse songs with a proper interpretation of what they express.



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