Monday, September 02, 2013

Twenty Feet From Stardom

If you get a chance to see the movie, "Twenty Feet from Stardom" run don't walk.  It is a heartfelt documentary on the art and artistry of "backup singers".  It showcases the back bone of the music industry, the singers who make the "headliner" look and sound good.  A few made their way to the center spotlight to become headliners of their own.  And others with equal talent, backing and opportunities were not able to sustain a solo career. This is NOT a spoiler alert,  after you see the music industry from one backup singers eyes you will be very glad that Phil Specter is in jail. 

There seems to be no reason why some make it and some don't, some backup singers try for a solo career and others are happiest when they are in the supportive role. Although that phenomenon is discussed with heavy weight music stars from "The Boss" to Mick Jagger and Sting, no one can explain why some singers don't make the transition.
I attended the movie with two of my friends who were backup singers in their early careers. It was an emotional and enlightening film for them.  It is as much about the inner workings of show biz careers as an insight into the music industry. The struggles we all face when we fall in love with the stage produce the same fickle results with any art or craft one pursues and not just singing.
The saddest part of the movie, for me, was a statement by one of the current top music producers that there is now a line item in any recording budget for "tuning".  Digitally changing the recorded pitch to the proper note.  Before this digital ability, a singer had to actually sing on pitch and in key.  It becomes a strange statement on success and popularity... why do some singers become famous with digital tuning while other singers who actually can sing never become famous.
With social media and the Internet everyone will become famous for 10 minutes... I know that Andy Worhol said 15 minutes but that was back in the 60's when the attention span was longer.  I think the fact that talent is no longer part of the equation to celebrity upsets me. I come from a place where, hard work, commitment to an art, practice and more practice makes one successful in any venture.  That connection seems to have been severed by quick access to a fickle audience.  Social media sensations are gone and forgotten quickly as new sensations are "shared" all over the network. 
Go see the film before it goes away.  We may never see the likes of these lady singers again as real backup singers are replaced with the automatically tuned voice of the drummers' girlfriend. 
As you were,
Jay

1 comment:

Bill Matthews said...

Can we say, "Millie Vanillie?"