Tuesday, June 20, 2006
Big Break? Um...in what way?
Monique entered a singing contest. It's called "Bar 1's Big Break". It's basically a local American Idol type copycat. Except for a few major differences. One, there are a lot less contestants. This contest has about 400 entrants. Two, this contest is all held at a bar. With food, booze, and smoking. A perfect set up for a singing competition. Three, this contest has a grand prize of $10,000. Not a bad sum for the winner, but certainly a far-cry from the huge payoff/free car/endorsement deals/record deal/etc. that you get from winning American Idol. Four, this contest is only being held in this one location in Chicago, and not in multiple stops throughout America and televised worldwide.
Did those differences stop many people at last night's First Round of competition from acting as if this was American Idol? Of course not. Our world has become "American Idol-ized". The popularity of that show has changed the way people act at competitions, karaoke nights, open-mic's etc. Now don't get me wrong, Monique sounded great and I completely encouraged her to enter this thing. The $10k payoff is incentive alone. It's free to enter, there's nothing to lose. And if Mo makes it past the first few rounds and it starts getting serious, I have no problem changing my whole tune on this thing. (See what I did there? Change my tune. That's great.)
Last night was pretty ridiculous. They break the first rounds up into seperate days of competition. About 60 people sing each night. Last night Mo was #10. Now keep in mind, this is not karaoke. Lord no, the contestants sing a capella the first rounds. Much more difficult, but certainly seperates the haves from the have-nots. Of the 20 or so we witnessed last night, about 3 were "have's". The females way outnumbered the males in the competition. And of the men, only 2 of th 5 we saw sang songs by men. One dude sang Tracy Chapman's "Gimme One Reason (To Stay Here)". I saw no reason. Certainly not the nasal stylings reminiscent of a Junior High School production of "West Side Story". Another guy sang some Fiona Apple song. Not even a well-known one. Seriously, a big guy singing Fiona Apple. Next!
99% of the contestants fell into one of two categories. Category One was the Zero Stage Presence group. It was like I was attending "Zombie Idol". Just stand there and sing. Don't smile. Don't engage your audience. And for the love of everything holy, don't move! Category Two was the I'm Taking This Thing Way Too Seriously group. These people were acting as if this thing was televised, that the judges were celebrities (who, by the way could have been. I'll never know. There were three - a la American Idol, with 1 female judge between 2 male ones - sitting with their backs to the crowd, and were NEVER INTRODUCED. And their credentials for being the judges are...?) , and that this was the most important thing they had ever done. People, it's ROUND ONE! Even if you make it through, there are like 5 more rounds to go! You don't need to bring your whole family tonight. There's no audience voting yet. You didn't get SELECTED to perform tonight...you SIGNED UP! So your friends can stop holding back the tears of pride and enough with the overdramatic hugs once you've finished your poor rendition of a boring Sarah McLachlan song. And please, girl who sang her hello's to the judges, you're not on TV. There are no record producers here, certainly not tonight, one of several Round 1 nights. So singing your original song that you wrote a few weeks ago was not impressive, it only came off as pretentious and smug. For that crap alone you should be eliminated. Thankfully, Monique has been on stage enough to know to just have fun and not take things too seriously. After all, this is really just good audition practice, especially if you have the right attitude going into it.
Speaking of no record producers there, why is this competition called "Big Break"? Read the contest info. The winner gets cash. A nice chunk of cheese, sure, but how is that considered a "Big Break"? There's not promise of a recording contract or of radio play or even a meeting with a producer or anything. It should be called "Chicago Idol" or "Big Money Sing-Off" or "10 Grand Talent Show". Maybe a name that's a little less misleading, no?
That said, I'm obviously biased, and I make no bones about that, but Monique did great. She sang "Killing Me Softly" in the style of The Fugees. She was smiling and warm and got the crowd into it with the "one time, one time" stuff. It was fun to watch. She finds out if she made it to Round 2 on Thursday or Friday. I'll keep you posted. If she makes it to the rounds where audience voting starts happening, you'll definitely know so you can come help. At that point, it's like the real American Idol and it's just a popularity contest. However, that close to $10,000 and this becomes the most important contest ever.