Signs of Sucky Singers

Let’s face it: some singers can’t sing. Like, really, they can’t carry a tune. If it weren’t for the auto-tuner, their 15-plus minutes of fame and flames would’ve been snuffed out long before a record was released. And yet, everyone treats singers with the same respect as an honest politician. Most people know what Lindsay Lohan was doing last night, but what was that national policy that passed for Americans?

If you know that Lindsay’s back with her girlfriend (or not) and you have no clue as to what a healthcare policy is, don’t worry, I’m talking about you. The real issue here isn’t whether you know anything about politics. It’s about these people that are so-called singers and who can make it while their fans pretend that their voices only make sounds, not music.

How would you know if a real singer came along, not just some poser? So far, the best singers aren’t pumping out records like a factory. The best singers take their time trying to make their studio albums little gems of music. Singer-songwriter John Mayer was in no rush to record his soulful songs when he took 2 years between each of his 4 studio albums. Songstress Alicia Keys also took 2 or more years to complete and release 4 successful albums. Even diva favorites, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, and Christina Aguilera had a few years between each chart-topping album.

Of course, the show here isn’t about the vocal royalty. It’s about the dunces playing dress up. Sucky singers use whatever fame and drama they have to release studio albums. Britney Spears churned out the albums when she was at the peak of controversy or tabloid publicity. Baby, Hit Me One More Time (1999) and the following two albums were all released within a 3-year period. That’s an album a year. Actress Lindsay Lohan released her only 2 studio albums consecutively, Speak (2004) and A Little More Personal (2005), when her booze days started making headlines. Ashanti, the former lap-girl to Murder Inc., reached the height of her career between 2002 and 2004 with 3 albums, but her 2008 album, The Declaration, was her lowest-charting release. Ashanti didn’t have any newsworthy stints in 2008. For crooners, it’s up to drama to keep them afloat.

The time it takes for an album to be released is more of a minor sign to finding a true artist. Talented singers are artists, and artists of all natures always experiment, using every opportunity to expand their art. They cross boundaries, and in music, those boundaries are language barriers and genres.

Many great singers have sung their songs or joined forces with a native singer in a different language. Celine Dion partnered with Japan’s aspiring pop star, Yuna Ito, on a ballad in Japanese. Alicia Keys was the female vocalist to her and Alejandro Sanz’s English-Spanish duet, “Looking for Paradise”. Former Destiny’s Child member, Kelly Rowland, was featured in Tiziano Ferro’s song, “Breathe Gentle” in Italian. Real talent can defy the boundaries in language. If you listen to international sensation Leona Lewis sing in accent-free English versus speak in her native British tongue, it’s quite surprising that her singing voice sounds like an American singer’s voice. The lesson? If a singer has vocal talent, that talent won’t deter in a different language.

Besides crossing languages, talented singers can easily jump between music genres. Kelly Clarkson, the first winner of American Idol, has gone between rock, pop, and punk within 3 studio albums. Her presence on American Idol did the best in showcasing her talent. Every week, the American Idol contestants sang songs in different genres. If the contestant could sing well in most genres, they were likely to progress in the singing competition. Though the contestants were better suited for a certain genre or two, the best singers were the ones with limitless possibilities in music. No boundaries equaled no genres.

As for posers, they stick to one genre, and it shows. Do you see Ashley Simpson rocking out in R&B or soul? Not really, but her sister, Jessica, can really lay down some vocals in the pop and country genre. I don’t see Avril Lavigne putting a punch into neo-soul or anything other than rock. However, some of Adam Levine’s stuff can get downright soulful, especially with his Alicia Keys team up for their “Wild Horses” duet.

The funniest–and probably, the most ironic–part of being a singer’s fan is just having a small part of your body working; the ears are an amazing anatomical structure. Now, if the person on stage isn’t singing very well live, it should be as clear as a bell that this person can’t sing! But some fans don’t demand for their money back–they buy their albums and get on a soapbox called Youtube to whine about why people say their idols can’t sing. The only thing I can say to fans of Paris Hilton, J.Lo and Heidi Montag is this: the ears are an amazing anatomical structure.

Are Black People the New Guidance Counselors?

I don’t know if Dave Chappelle kicked off the role for black people in Hollywood as Tom Hanks’ best friend in You’ve Got Mail, but it looks like black people are starting to get a voice in entertainment. Aside from Chappelle’s buddy-buddy role in the 1998 romantic comedy, other black actors have taken the role as the white man’s voice of reason. Neo had Morpheus. J.D. had Turk. And everyone had LeVar Burton.

In 2006, the third installment of Mission: Impossible had Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) enduring gut-wrenching burdens with his former partner, Luther Stickell (Ving Rhamses), asking the hard-hitting questions that everyone was thinking. The advice that Stickell gave his respected white friend wasn’t extraordinary or anything; it was with simplicity and conviction of the given advice that made Hunt think.

Before, the people who made characters and audiences think were the old white folks and parental figures giving out their humble opinions. Now in this McQuick generation, people need the wow-factor, and that little factor doesn’t cut it with friendly parents anymore. Most of the black people casted for the best friend roles have to deliver in an upfront, no-nonsense-but-I-see-your-point type of fashion. It’s enough to make the main character uncomfortable, but it gets the job done, which, in this society nowadays, says “Wow” by itself. If delivering lines of sensibility also calls for some great wardrobe styles, then so be it.

Still, Hollywood is the heart of Lalaland, and looks–and roles–can be deceiving. As much as Hollywood tries to give black people some power, typecasting colored folks as the funny counselor, entertainment still has a long way to go. Playing the black guidance counselor for white people means taking a backseat–and sometimes, a tuck-and-roll to the curb–when it comes down to the minority characters.

The vocal powerhouse Jennifer Hudson as Louise in the 2008 Sex and the City movie gave some L-O-V-E to Carrie Bradshaw, who was trying to rebuild her life after an embarrassing break up. In spite of coming to the big city to find some love, Louise helped Carrie through the rough patches, even when she took an absence from the New York scene in the latter part of the movie. Thanks, Louise, for convincing Carrie to reclaim some $500 pumps, but do you have to do it while you’re fitting for your wedding dress? It’s just another way of saying, “Hey, black people, you’re always working for the Yankees even when you’re not under their payroll!”

On the more recent channels, TV shows seem to follow suit in writing for black roles. Nickelodeon’s tween hit, Victorious!, has Victoria Justice’s partner in artistic crime as her dred-locked friend, Andre, played by Leon Thomas III. In most of the family-friendly episodes, Andre ends up being a trusty shoulder to lean on for all of his white and passing friends. Usually spot-on in asking the right questions or giving sound advice, Andre seems to be more of the guidance counselor than versatile music artist in a school of performing arts. Can Nickelodeon hand Andre a guitar without something sensible coming out of his mouth?

Even Disney’s Sonny with a Chance, has Brandon Michael Smith, a stylish, but once again, token minority character that’s the smarter of the Grady-Niko duo. Disney and Nickelodeon practically push the fact that being black is insignificant than being anything or anyone else, best friend or not.

So while Chappelle, Morpheus, and even Geordi La Forge buddy up with their white counterparts, handing out advice and truth-seeking questions, it doesn’t disguise the fact that black actors are still those guidance counselors–without the benefits.

Allegory of the Spider

I hate spiders. I don’t know if it’s a societal influence or a personal preference, but spiders seem to be a part of an earthly species meant to creep people. I normally kill the extra creepy-crawlers immediately. However, one special spider brought me to a strange moment of enlightenment.

The spider was a white spider–an oversized version of the dead albino spiders I found between my blinds–and it clung itself between the popcorn ceiling and the powder-white wall. There was no hope for me to fling a book at it, so I reluctantly sat at my desk and pretended it wasn’t there. No matter how long I pretended to ignore that the strange spider was, in fact, nestled into the awkward junction between my wall and ceiling, I felt uncomfortable. I wanted it dead; death meant no more thinking about it dislodging from the space and landing on me to bite me.

But as I reached for a nearby book, I realized the spider wasn’t that different from humans. Sure, it had 8 legs with the ability to make intricate webs of fate, but the spider was still a living organism. I thought, “If I’m so superior to this spider, why am I scared of it?” It wasn’t like the spider was dangerous. It was just a spider.

I looked at the spider, lowering the book in my hand, as the faces of every so-called minority flashed through my mind. I was no different from supremacists and racists and those white women who shouldered their purses in the presence of a black man. You would think that killing another person or thing was for self-preservation–really, we’re just evolved cave people–but in today’s world, is it about protecting our bodies or preserving a bunch of lies and phony ideals?

Bigots act so high and mighty, putting their ideals on a pedestal, yet they try to purge others who are different. Groups of people try to look all-important, hanging folks with helping hands, twisting politics with “lawful” townspeople, and packing into restaurants with apathetic stares to minorities. Suddenly placed individually into a diverse crowd, they fake their hatred in guises of silence and feigned sympathy, or risk the full rebuttal of this country’s history of racism and indoctrination.

And they kill people because they are scared of the truth. Why else would anyone be adamant about taking another person’s life? Animals kill to survive and so do racist “humans”.

So was I really that different, or am I just like other humans? Was I so superior to that 8-legged creature that it needed to die for being born a spider? Did it need to die just for me to feel comfortable?

The spider remained in the crevice of the wall, and the next morning, it disappeared. I don’t know where it went, but I learned a valuable lesson from the little critter I will be forever grateful to learn.

Cheat

I’ve seen people visibly show their disgust at people who cheat, but there’s a difference between being a cheater and cheating, never mind the fact that one is a noun and the other is a verb. Understanding the reason why attached women and men do what they want with another person that isn’t their loved one is really simple, actually. Everyone has voids, and even when a relationship is perfect–they have filled the gaps that traditionally is enough to carry a relationship–people realize the voids. Nobody wants to feel voids, so they fill it with somebody.

Let’s say that a woman doesn’t feel beautiful anymore with her husband. He doesn’t notice when she changes her hair (c’mon, guys, that’s a sure sign a woman wants something to be noticed or changed). Or say that a man wishes his girlfriend was around more often. Both the married woman and the boyfriend have needs to continue the relationship, whether it’s something as fleeting as asking, “Your hair looks good”, or having the person around more often so they can be in sight, not out of mind.

Filling the gaps with other people seems equal to cheating, but when you look at it as part of human nature, who is a cheater and who is just cheating? Is a cheater a person who needs something that her oblivious husband won’t give and she finds what she’s looking for in another man once? Or is it seen as cheating–even just flirting with another woman because she’s closer–make that person a seeker?

Or maybe it just depends on the gender? It’s societal, and not a card I want to play right now.

Looking at “cheat” as an individual word can make all the difference, forget the gender banter. To be a cheater, man or woman, means that the person was attached and went to another person for something, mostly sexual, but something nonetheless. The unfortunate circumstance of the term “cheater” is that there is no past nor present tense on the term. A person could have a one-night detour from their partner, and the term can be stuck to them for as long as they live. Cheating, however, has a tense: present-progressive. It means that a person who is cheating is currently cheating. No past tense. Instead, “cheating” can imply future cheating–let’s not forget the “progressive” part of “present-progressive”.

At the end of the day, when people say this man or that woman is a cheater, they must accept the fact that people make mistakes. Although we, as humans, try to fill the needs within every person born into this world, we can’t and I don’t think we want to. So, as long as we are human and we are imperfect, cheating will continue.

The Desire

I need to get away.

Not just, “Hey, how ya doing, Relatives I Only Contact So I Don’t Have to Pay for a Hotel.” I want to really just get up and get away.

I feel so burnt out right now, in the same old city doing the same old thing. The worst part? The city is practically yelling at me to get away! I’ve been on a job search since who-knows-when, and here I am, officially graduated with two majors, and nobody bites.

This bites!

I wasn’t planning on my life being like this. It just did–hey, thanks, Life–but what I need I can’t get. At least, not right now.

So how am I supposed to get away when my city rejects me? How am I supposed to get some miles underneath my feet when money is gone? I’m sure homeless people do it all of the time, but that’s not me. I plan. I execute. I peel onion layers of questions apart and donate them to an organic garden.

Even though I’m completely burnt out, I feel restless. I don’t know if something exciting will happen in the future. There’s something in the air and I want to grasp and understand it. Maybe it’s so fleeting now because I’m not ready to comprehend this different future?

For now, it doesn’t matter. I just hope my future holds some sort of getaway, free peanuts included.