It is winter 2016 and I just got home from an event…
By the time you read this the [event thing] will probably have folded and the “singer” in question will have probably been long forgotten in the collective consciousness of our nation… or she won and now have a christmas number one and a record contract.
I have written before about why I’m not going on the X factor/britians got talent/some other rehash of this idea. But I would like to share this experience because it was so beautifully fulfilling of everything I now know to be true about the “singers” these “talent” competitions attract.
So, I was booked to play at this launch for an hour set during their drinks reception, which was lovely, I played they did some talking and I did some networking and mingling (because I’m a social butterfly business woman).
Anyway, I got approached by the photographer at the event who said ‘[suchandsuch] from the x factor is hear and wants to sing, would you mind accompanying her?’ (I’m not omitting a name because of legal reasons I just can’t remember…)
Anyway, I agree because I’m a sadistic masochist who loves watching people and I’m also always game for accompanying others because I like to practice that skill. So I’m introduced to this girl, I’m guessing 18 years old, blonde, thin (honestly, the only difference between me and taylor swift right now is dress size), and we are ‘talking’ which is basically me shouting at her in this loud room and her whispering back… like she was literally whispering…I would later find out that she’s not even on the show anymore… so she was just whispering to be annoying or cute (honestly, probably both she was about 12 years old)… so, I’m suggesting pieces she might like to sing like that ed sherran song ‘Thinking out loud’ and she whispers some nonsense back, then she suggests ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’.
Now, I do this completely straight normally, with the occasional embellishment on the second time round, I do it in a sensible key that is not too high or too low and is actually perfect for belting… This girl was a ‘pop’ singer, and by that I mean a ‘crap’ singer. When you aren’t warmed up to sing and you’re a singer then you aren’t ready to work. Unfortunately this girl was about 10 years old and hadn’t developed a ‘showbiz backbone’ to be able to say ‘no, I’m not doing that’ or ‘I need to rehearsal real quick and warm up’ like a real musician would have, or at the very VERY least had a great sense of humour about not being warmed up… or prepared to sing a C… it’s not a hard song, my 9 year old student manages it with a million times more grace than this gal.
I had rushed to put my harp in key and had acidentally put my D lever up in my bass instead of my Eb lever… that was the only issue with my performance, which I realised 3 seconds in and corrected… That poor girl just had to keep going… she was apparently ‘shy’ or something.. she kept sort of clasping her hands together at her chest like she was shielding them from the cold…
There are two things I do not accept from performers:
- Unprepared (if you’re not warmed up and practiced, don’t do it! winging it is not a good idea in front of a room full of people…) if you’re warmed up then wing it, if you’re unrehearsed and cold you will probably fail… that’s why I start most sets with ‘Blue skies’ because it’s an easy enough warm up even when I’ve been sat in a car for an hour
- Not selling it. If you are a performer, and that is your job, you can not afford to be shy or coy. If you aren’t there belting your face off to nonsense words in a completely different key then you AREN’T. DOING. IT. RIGHT! It’s so simple, just bluff your way through! Especially if you only have to sing… if you don’t have to worry about anything else and you are free to walk about and stretch out your hands you can distract people from your great ineptitude of talent and they will say things like ‘weren’t her hands enthusiastic’
So this poor girl had been roped into this and seemed fairly optimistic about it. I started the introduction and said ‘I will just follow you’. She started in the wrong key.
I do it in C, you start on a C and do the octave up C, it is suitable for all voice types because it is not high or difficult. This girl pitched an A from that…. I even played a C to make sure she knew what note she was starting on….
She was not warmed up at all. It was almost 9pm, if you’re just talking, you’re ready to sing because your voice has naturally warmed up throughout the day. try it. try pitching a C and singing the opening, if it’s past around 1pm you should be able to do it quite easily giving it enough ‘umph’. Now remember, you’re not a professional singer, you’re job isn’t ‘Being a singer’ the description of your job isn’t ‘TO SING’, this girls job was TO SING!
I am warmed up everyday because I sing everyday, I might not go to work but I sing everyday, even if it is just warming up in the morning and then not doing anything for the rest of the day I can’t start my day without being just a little warmed up… if you’re a singer chances are you sing every day, that’s your job, unless you are on vocal rest you are probably singing. This girl was a ‘Singer’.
However, this girl was not a ‘trained singer’. The reason you spend money on your child learning to sing is so that they know how their voice works. They know that if they over sing it hurts, they know what good singing ‘feels’ like, they know how to properly phrase things and most importantly they know how to pitch things and sing in key even given adverse circumstances… like singing as the cruise ship you’re on sinks for example…. This girl was not trained, it was like listening to Christina Aguilera giving birth to a whale. Why a whale? well, she was not expecting it to be in a normal key, she was expecting a pop-star A to A ‘somewhere Over the rainbow’ not a C-C ‘Somewhere Over the rainbow’. She had not been taught how to sing properly and it showed, it painfully showed. It was wailing and then faux belting (because, again, this girl had not been taught how to belt properly) she tried to ad-lib during the B section but didn’t sell it enough to make it more than a one second phrase. And at the end everyone cheered, and I got lots of lovely compliments on my voice and harp because I am a professional and it is my job to be good at those things.
To that girl, I know/hope you’re reading this and thinking ‘What can I do to avoid another embarrassment like this’ here are some tips:
- It’s ok to say ‘No’, ‘No’ is a full sentence. You do not need to put on a strapless ballgown (yes she was wearing a strapless ballgown to a semi/casual ‘everyone came from the office’ event).You do not need to sing when you are not warmed up (she wasn’t sick she was just crap)
- get some training. It just works.
- You don’t have to be shy. You’re a god damn performer, act like it.
- Fake it, till you convince others you’re good at your job. easy, I did it with my career and look at me now! I’ve practiced enough to be really good at it!
- Loose the PA.
Afterwards, her PA came to basically excuse her for being bad at her job… he said ‘oh there wasn’t a microphone and she was singing accapella which is really hard’, I looked at a woman who was stood next to me at this point and we both rolled our eyes. I sing un-amplified every day, If you can’t belt over a crowded room you’re not worth listening to amplified. Making the sound louder doesn’t make the noise any better it just makes it louder.
If I ever have a small man following me around making excuses for why I’m bad at my job (which is what this man did) please slap me. better yet, slap him and tell him to leave. Because if you worked in an office job and your assistant was going into meetings after you and saying ‘Oh, you know this room and this conference table, they aren’t glass, we’re used to glass conference tables’, then you are bad at your job and you need to either work harder or quit. honestly, think about that for a second. This man was literally apologising for a singer being bad at singing… sure it was a spur of the moment thing with no rehearsal but I’m not doing anything crazy, it’s very easy to follow if you know the tune!
Ham it up! If you are a performer you LOVE to perform that’s the point! Beyonce doesn’t play with her hands and panic when she’s unprepared she’s BEYONCÉ! she runs the world!
And so, I will leave you with this. If you can’t do your job, get out the way and let someone better do it instead.
Follow up, She is in fact 25. She should know better.