Wednesday, April 29, 2009

On Looking Like A Good Singer

Everyone has had a first reaction to the Susan Boyle appearance on the variety show "Britain's Got Talent." Whether it's disgust at Boyle herself, or laughing at her look, or being moved by her singing voice, or a combination of all kinds of emotions, no doubt you've got some kind of reaction. And obviously, to get almost 50,000,000 hits on YouTube, a reaction of some kind is being generated. Here's my reaction: This is all Madonna's fault.

Yes, Boyle can sing, and that's not up for debate. My problem is with everyone being so surprised that she can sing. The gasps and giggles from the audience when Boyle walked out on stage came from a place inside those folks in which they've been trained to think over the years that anyone not hot or attractive obviously can't sing. Even the damn judges on the panel, whose jobs, I thought, were to judge talent, not PREjudge talent, were stunned by her ability. And I couldn't have been angrier. See, all the pop tarts out there like Britney and Pink have contaminated the pool by becoming singing stars not because of their singing, but because of their ability to writhe around on a beach or on stage and look like porn stars while lip-synching to their mechanically-enhanced vocals. And it all started with Madonna. I say that because, before she and MTV came along in the early 1980s, I don't recall your looks having anything to do with how well you can sing. Of course, I wasn't around in the '70s, but I'm guessing that you still had to sound good to sell records back then, and I'm definitely going to assume that for before the '70s. But fast forward to today, where a judge of a talent show can actually have the temerity to say to a contestant, "I didn't think you could sing so well based on how you looked when you walked out here." What the fuck does that mean??? Someone please tell me how your looks are in any way connected to how well you can sing. Once Madonna showed how you can make it to the top of the music charts without the ability to hold a note, the floodgates opened, and Janet Jackson, Britney, and tons of others whose names I've since forgotten managed to hit our radios and make our ears bleed while horny teenage guys and insecure girls who wanted to be like those pop tarts pushed their popularity sky high. And hey, I was one of the horny guys; I wasn't a teenager when "Like A Virgin" came out, but I bought the extended version on vinyl, I still own it, and I never liked it for Madonna's vocal range, I liked it because hearing a hot chick cooing "Touched for the very 1st time" when I was nine years old make me feel tingly and warm, and I like the feeling, although I didn't understand it.

So I get that it's a marketing coup when you can make a singing star out of someone who cannot sing for shit. That's great, and congrats to everyone involved. But what's been created as a result is a situation where a woman can come out onstage looking not so hot, and people all around the world express shock and amazement when she sings well. No, my friends, that's not amazing. What's amazing is that we've allowed ourselves to judge vocal talent on how sexually charged the vocalist is. The only worse reflection on our society is the fact that I guarantee you, Susan Boyle, sometime soon, maybe this year or perhaps next summer, will get a full makeover by some marketing genius in an attempt to sell recordings of her voice, which, of course, have nothing at all to do with her appearance.