Boyzone, Westlife, Viva, S5, the list goes on. The music industry has decided that there is a formula to creating successful bands. Music is no longer an art, but a science. The music channels have taken the concept of masala movies and decided to try it on the music industry. A masala movie is made up of one hero, two heroines, five songs (two sad songs, two love songs, one dance number), three fights, eight tear-jerking scenes, and all this liberally sprinkled with loud (preferably raunchy) comedy.
The music industry has decided that the same is applicable to a music band. Four members (any ratio of women to men is ok, but preferably 50-50), good but differing looks (helps a wider audience identify with it), soft easy to sing numbers in the first couple of albums, and viola! a band is born.
No more having to find the right sounds, no more having to play in seedy nightclubs, no more having to fight with the family to pursue a vocation.
Unfortunately for us viewers of music channels, the entire competition is now brought into our living rooms. So instead of listening to S.P. Balasubramaniam or Kishore, we are forced to listen to the hopefuls sing us their versions. If that isn’t bad enough, we are given a sneak peek into their lives – the wonderfully loving parents, the fabulous friends, and the supportive wife.
So what talents do these hopefuls have to possess in order to make the final cut?
Basically, they need to be able to hold a tune, look good, act (emote), and have dancing skills.
On the surface the demands seem fair enough. So let’s take a list of some of the most successful musical performers and see how they would fare in our contests.
Bob Dylan is arguably one of the most influential figures in music today. Be it the Beatles, Rolling Stones or Paul Simon, no singer worth his salt has been able to escape this influence. But with his scruffy looks, almost grating voice, and zero dancing skills we can be reasonably sure that he would never have made the final cut.
Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin, Tracy Chapman would all have been turned away by the watchman at the premises gate.
Michael Jackson proclaimed himself the “King of Pop”, and not surprisingly nobody contradicted him. Off the Wall, Thriller, Bad, and Dangerous remain some of the best work in the last three decades of music. With his squeaky voice, and skinny frame, he is a virtual shoo-out at a competition.
Freddie Mercury who redefined what a bad rocker should be like would have been thrown out by the watchman for his attitude.
Stevie Wonder, Bono, Roger Waters, Mark Knopfler, Eric Clapton, Ben E- King, Little Richard, the list just goes on.
Back here in India, Mohd. Rafi, Hemant Kumar, Manna Dey, Lata Mangeshkar would all have certainly been thrown out in the first round at any of the competitions. Talent is no longer sufficient; you need the looks to go with it.
Any art that takes on the form of a career instead of being a vocation is ringing out its death knell.