Singing Competition Shows


Before I begin, I would like to address what my focus on Nihilist Temple will be. I intend to examine music as a whole, and its effects on both past and present times. I want to explore the current music industry, the younger generation of up and coming musicians, the younger generation as a whole, music’s direct correlation with the dawn of the internet age, and much more. I have never been a very political or religious person, for reasons that I will not explain here in this forum, so therefore I do not intend to express any of my own political or religious views here (of which there are few). If you have any questions or comments about what I am writing, please either write them in the comments section, or directly email Nihilist Temple on the contact tab. I hope that this will be a helpful blog for all of us, not just as music appreciators, musicians, or artists, but as society as a whole.

The Singing Shows

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s approach my first subject, the current “Singing Show” craze. Now I’m fairly sure that most of us are familiar with such shows as American Idol, The Voice, X-Factor et al. I must admit that I have a lot of mixed feelings about these types of shows. On the one hand, it’s nice to see that a music based television show is at the forefront of American media at times. It signifies to me that music is still relevant and needed by many. These shows also drive high music sales, which in turn pumps money back into the music industry.

These shows can also remind us musicians that we have a gift. Now I do not mean to “humble-brag” here about my own talents, or gloat at the lack of talent in others, but merely to step back and appreciate that the gift of musical talent truly is a wonderful gift. It actually pains me to watch some of these failed auditions, because those souls wanted their music to shine, and for it to come out in the most glorious fashion, but they did not have the elusive “it” factor. These humiliations truly make me step back and re-examine my own talents, and how I really should be utilizing them better. It’s actually an inspiration for me to know that I should work all that much harder because I am blessed with a talent that so many others yearn for. I hope that all those eager applicants who auditioned and were humiliated on these shows find a voice of their own, even if they do not have “it”. For those who do display some talent on these shows, yet do not make it, I want to implore them to keep up the good fight. Music is a lifelong reward that is inestimable in so many ways.

Before I delve into the downside of the “singing shows” I would like to post a statement from venerable rocker Dave Grohl. Whether you like his music or not is beside the point, he makes an extremely concise statement about the effect that these shows have on the younger generation.

“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 fucking 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 fuckin’ good enough. Can you imagine?” He implores. “It’s destroying the next generation of musicians! Musicians should go to a yard sale and buy an old fucking 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 fucking 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 fucking computer or the internet or The Voice or American Idol.”

How Do You Get To Carnegie Hall

Dave brings up a lot of good points here, and I whole-heartedly agree with him. I started playing the violin when I was 8, and shortly thereafter at the age of 12, I picked up the guitar. I sucked at both instruments when I started, and I sucked for a very long time, and today I still think that I suck on certain days, but I’ve worked at it. Reflecting on my own musical history, I could have done A LOT more up until this point, but I’ve still worked at it. There was no TV show when I was growing up that would have turned me into a star overnight, all we had was MTV and some fellow middle and high school friends who wanted to play music. We’d collect our gear, and play together in whatever basement or garage was available, and we’d make the best of it until either our parents pulled us away or our fingers hurt. I listened to those tapes from my early years recently, and yeah, I sucked. Music is a learning and maturation process. It does not happen overnight or at 9pm ET on network television. You grow personally, and the instrument comes with it. Am I enjoying success on the level of Nirvana or the Foo Fighters these days, no, but I am enjoying that I made the personal journey required to get to that level.

What I fear is, that the younger generation watches these shows and gets the feeling of instant gratification that is ever-present these days, and equates that to becoming a musician. I don’t want to angrily shake my fist at the younger generation for having a shorter attention span, but I do want them all to realize that a lot of things can take time and personal growth. Patience, inspiration, creativity, and maturation are all things that happen over time, and are a by-product of learning music. If I would have quit music at a younger age, I’m not sure where I would be now, but I can say with the utmost certainty that I probably would not be as fulfilled and as happy. All of this is important for the younger generation to learn. Get your ass out there and suck at music in your parents’ basement. Write shitty songs about coat hangers. Go suck at writing blogs. Go suck at drawing your friend’s portrait. But dammit, try. Be patient and learn something about yourself. Present yourself with the challenge. Agonize over that brush stroke. Bang your head on your keyboard. But do it, and work at it, and you’ll be better for it no matter the outcome.

Singing Is But One Part

The last point I want to bring up about these shows is the absurdity of the fact that they make it only about singing. They all usually claim that it’s a “singing competition”, and that’s all fine and well, but take a minute and imagine Jimi Hendrix singing “Summertime” on one of these shows. Envision Bob Dylan singing “Heartbreak Hotel” in front of Simon. Think about Kurt Cobain singing “Bohemian Rhapsody”, and Christina’s reaction to it.

I’ll take a minute here to examine Jimi and Kurt’s vocal style, because it’s my fucking blog and I want to talk about music. First, Jimi had a great voice. He did not have a soaring high range, or the ability to hold out long Celine Dionesque notes, but as his former producer Chas Chandler said, “he had such a rhythm in his voice”. Go listen to the “Burning Of the Midnight Lamp” and hear how he flows through the alliteration effortlessly. It’s all so laid back and perfectly…… Jimi. We’ve all heard Jimi’s songs covered by everyone from U2 to some cats in a pool hall, and they all certainly don’t have Jimi’s guitar playing, but they usually don’t have his vocal rhythm either. It’s a large part of the delivery and the feeling you get from his music.

Kurt (AB is going to hate me for this section but what the hell) had a very Lennonesque quality to his singing. Both singers seemingly had a rip in the back of their throat that came out at the right time, and conveyed a desperation, a reality, a familiar warmth, and a yearn that is heartfelt. Were they both pitch perfect all the time, hell no. However, Kurt’s voice became the vehicle for some of the best rock songs ever written in a whole generation.

But back to my point here, these shows may end up crushing some of these singers’ hopes of being a musician, and that is a shame. What would the world be like if a big-shot music industry type pulled up in his limo and told Bob Dylan on national television “you’re singing sucks, don’t quit your day job”, and he retreated back to the small town in Minnesota to manage a general store. Who would have written “I Shall Be Released”, “Tangled Up In Blue”, “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door”, and so many others? I’m sure many people along the way probably told Dylan “you suck at singing”, but not on a national television show with a heaping amount of public embarrassment. Think about any other singer who may not be the best vocalist of all time, but changed your life with their performance or songs. How would you cope with some hard days, or celebrate the best days without their music?

In Conclusion

I could go on for a while about how these shows warp younger musician’s minds, via multi-million dollar productions which saves performances and charisma, and hide flaws. Or the effects of Auto-Tune and many other production attributes, but I’ll save it for another article.

I’m not really sure how to sum up what I’ve said in a concise manner. I wanted to write “in conclusion” here, and give it the nice college essay feel, and wrap it in a nice shiny bow, but this is my first blog. It might’ve sucked, but I sat down and did it…..then it got posted on the internet for the whole world to view and criticize.

© 2014 by LA Rob, All Rights Reserved


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