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The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions

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The trivial fervor that emerged earlier during the American Idol seasons when it was revealed that Carly Smithson previously had a record deal was interesting. Interesting in that so many people criticized the decision to keep her around and were saying she had an unfair advantage while seemingly overlooking the fact that despite the record label’s best efforts (or lack of), her album still failed to make her a superstar and she was now back at square one.

We already know Carly’s time on Idol did not result in her winning the grand prize claimed by the older of the two identically named final contestants but I do hope she does get to pursue new musical or related ventures from her Idol stint once the traveling karaoke bar show is over because obviously has a formidable voice.

Anyhow the point is to use Carly’s failed musical venture as an example of this pipe dream that many singers and bands envision and unfortunately fail at once they quickly notice how unforgiving major labels can be and how cutthroat the music industry is. Unless you’ve got genuine musical talent or something new to bring to the table, [long term] success is…we’ll say it’s iffy.

One thing I’ve never quite understood is why a lot of up and coming singers choose to stick with what the current trends are instead of taking some bolder risks and differentiating themselves. I witnessed the return of the late nineties teen pop boom when Britney Spears emerged to claim her throne only to see a huge influx of manufactured acts that employed the following:

These days the problem is more of a lack of variety than using silly gimmicks. I remember hearing a lot about Kat DeLuna and how she was going to be the next big thing. I heard her debut single “Whine Up” and while catchy, there was nothing particularly distinguishing about it.

I follow the music charts enough to where I can make an educated guess on how the subsequent album will fare when it’s released and after seeing that “Whine Up” had modest chart performance, I figured the album would be equally dismal or disappointing. Needless to say, Kat DeLuna’s debut “9 Lives” failed to make an impression.

Very few artists, especially those that aren’t already established can rely on just a catchy tune that sounds like everything else on popular radio if they want to establish a career out of music. From what I’ve seen as album sales have dwindled, you’ve got to bring the whole package and you have to stand out in some way. Why has Alicia Keys achieved substantial success with her third outing “As I Am”? She does her own thing, she can actually write lyrics and music and she takes unique approaches where possible with her music while still creating radio friendly tunes.

The moral of the story: unless you’ve got the resolve and the talent, expecting to become the next multiplatinum sensation and making a long term career out of music involves a lot more than just aligning yourself with professional songwriters, at least in this day and age anyway.

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Seek the Musical Truth

After wasting two hours of my life watching the insipid popularity contest that was the MTV Video Music Awards, I remembered why it is I’m slowly bit surely becoming more and more disillusioned with the state of popular music these days and the drivel they’ve been playing on the radio as of late.

Having been a member of eMusic for a week or so now, I’ve come to notice how much stuff gets overlooked in favor of such nonsense like “Fergalicious” or “Buy U a Drank”. Mind you, I too can appreciate popular catchy tunes like “Makes Me Wonder” and “The Way I Are”. It seems to me however, that even the tune with the most ridiculous lyrics still gets tons of attention when there are artists out there who can in fact write catchy tunes that actually have something to say.

Unfortunately, it’s these artists that are poorly marketed and thus fall under the radar and release an album that fails to sell as well as it should, like M.I.A. for example. Instead, the Billboard charts remain dominated by what’s on popular radio and the latest tune that keeps getting played over and over incessantly (I’m looking at you “Big Girls Don’t Cry”).

I wonder if perhaps this so-called sales slump the industry is currently in doesn’t have something at least partially to do with the fact that popular music in general well, it sucks. I do honestly think these labels need to go out and hunt down some good independent talent.

But there boys and girls lies another issue. For one, I’ve kept tabs on the music industry long enough to know that major labels are mostly manipulative money hungry corporations who dictate what you can and can’t release and thus stifle creativity. And that’s why so many artists who were once on major labels and had talent have gone the way of doing things on their own terms, even if that means sacrificing exposure and large sales (Aimee Mann for example).

Thus, I implore you to seek out the hundreds of musicians and singers out there who are doing their thing not necessarily for the sake of worldwide fame and money, but because they actually have a passion for music and have something to say. Just like many major label artists, I’m sure you’ll come across some indie band or something that well, they make it obvious why they remain an obscure act but for every “dud”, there’s a gem among the others that have lost (or never had) their luster.

And by all means keep supporting the major labels. Oftentimes talented artists do come along that manage to gain the acceptance of radio (Alicia Keys, Outkast) while not being some manufactured garbage. I say find a happy balance, you’ll be amazed at what you’ll come across.

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