"Speak now or forever hold your peace in pieces."
Here’s one thing aspiring musicians tend to forget: You either make music that the mainstream accepts, or you promote yourself to the right crowd.
A few weeks ago, my boyfriend’s band, Brightstar, came over to my place to talk to my dad about collaborations and potential projects. My dad used to have Sweet Charity as his back-up band during his glory days in the 80s, but he mentioned that this time he needs “new faces”, thus he has decided to choose Brightstar as his new back-up band. My dad is one of the most supportive people I know who has a lot of faith in how far Brightstar is going to go. He gave a few tips and words of advice for this new and upcoming band.
“To get to the public, break the ice first. Don’t make music that people will find hard to accept. Learn to accommodate to their taste, grow a fanbase and finally, show them what you’re all about. For now, it’s not about you. It’s about what the people want.”
Whatever he said struck me as very true, especially when wanting to approach likes of mainstream media. My dad said that after listening to the band’s 2nd single, “Titanium”, which he mentioned could be “a little too heavy for mainstream radio”. My dad also mentioned, “There are many broke talented people out there.” And why are they broke? It’s because they make music that the public don’t easily accept or they don’t promote their music to the right crowd.
There’s a reason why Lady Gaga started her mainstream career looking very innocent with dancey pop tunes which everybody loved (I mean admit it, at least once in our lives we have chanted “P-p-p-poker face, p-p-poker face”) and slowly changed her persona to that of an eccentric woman making songs with a thousand subliminal messages. Pushing all that “Queen of Illuminati” controversy aside, let’s just imagine if Lady Gaga were to walk down the red carpet for the first time in her infamous meat dress, people would think she’s a psychopath. If she debuted into the music industry like that, would as much people accept her as compared to now? I highly doubt so. As she slowly became “crazier”, the public begin to think that whatever she did was normal. Crazy and weird is normal for Lady Gaga, because she took it slow and easy. It’s who she is right now. I guess she was “Born This Way”.
Another example I could give would be Adam Lambert. If he came out as gay and flaunted his flamboyance from the beginning of American Idol Season 8, would he have made it as far to the finals? The pretty face of Season 7, Danny Noriega, was eliminated much earlier in the competition for very obvious reasons. His soft side showed through right from the start, especially with the way he spoke and moved. Despite having acceptable and fairly melodic vocals, America didn’t want him. Why? Because he was gay.
Which was why Adam Lambert maintained his masculinity in the during his run on American Idol (at least he tried to until his personal photos were leaked). Refusing to comment on anything until after American Idol, Adam Lambert only concentrated on winning the nation’s heart with his beautiful voice. Everything we see on American Idol of Adam Lambert was nothing but him belting out ballads with that incredible voice. It was only during the finals did he go all out “Glam”, and he finally broke free when he started his music career. You don’t see him with leather and feather boas and kissing men when he was in American Idol. He did all that after he no longer needed the public’s votes. But of course, the country knew he was gay (and he is proud of it). He wasn’t the winner of American Idol Season 8, mainly because America “didn’t want a gay winner”. Oops, do I hear “21st Century Boy”… George?
My dad also said, “You can take my opinion into consideration, or you don’t have to. But either way, I’m still at the listening end, and I’m part of the public, so what I think still counts, doesn’t it?” That also reminded me of many independent songs I know that didn’t make it big mainly because it wasn’t the public’s cup of tea. I may listen to it. I may like it. But does that necessarily mean everyone else likes it too?
We tend to get more feedback from friends and family, but sometimes, we might never know if they’re saying “Oh my god, this is wonderful!” just for the sake of not breaking our hearts. Getting too used to compliments could also make you feel threatened when someone criticizes your work. “Who do you think you are to tell me my music is bad?” I find it’s always best to receive criticism from a professional, someone who has been doing what you have just started to do since the start of his life, or most preferably, a stranger. What many people fail to realize is that every criticism (don’t get it confused with insult) should be taken seriously and as an advice to become better. Not to fight back. People’s opinions do matter, especially if you plan to make it big.
There are so many talented people out there who are more deserving of fame instead of the likes of Nicki Minaj (I like her, but if she wasn’t famous, I probably wouldn’t), but unfortunately they all started on the wrong foot. Nicki blasted to fame with her ever so catchy song “Superbass”, which was a good step for her. But for people who have never succeeded, it’s never wrong to keep trying. Perhaps you just chose the wrong song to debut with. Your best song might not be the best song to others, which is why it is important to ask for input from other people.
And although my dad said it’s always best to cater to what the public want first, it is never wrong to experiment too. I mean, that is how lessons are learned, right? Like Maroon 5’s “Payphone”, people who knew the band beforehand would listen to the song and say “Wow, this is so much different from the rest of the songs they have ever made.” Which is true. “Payphone” sounds nothing like “She Will Be Loved” or “Sunday Morning”. But then again, for every fan gained, there is also a hater. Whilst my boyfriend is telling me “This is the best Maroon 5 song ever!”, his friend is in the backseat saying “This is the worst Maroon 5 song ever.” Maroon 5 experimented with something different, and lucky for them the world took it well. Just like how Justin Bieber’s “Boyfriend” is not his best song (I still prefer pre-pubescent Bieber) and sounds absolutely different from every other song he has ever made, one can’t help but to belt out “I’d like to be everything you want” whenever it comes to the chorus. It is that catchy. Not his best song, but still catchy as hell.
Tunes and melodies play a huge part in winning the public’s heart too. Even if it isn’t a good song, give them something to hum first thing in the morning when they wake up, brush their teeth, shower and while on their way to work. No matter how bad a song is, if it’s catchy, it has achieved its purpose. What’s the point of making a song if it isn’t pleasant to the ears, and neither is it catchy? There’s no point. It just contributes to noise pollution. Remember the whole fuss about how “Friday” by Rebecca Black was the worst song ever? Up till now, when I ask someone what day it is today, someone will definitely sing “It’s Friday, Friday!” Everyone used to hate that song, and right now, the world uses it almost on a daily basis.
One of the hardest things to fame is also maintaining your success. There is absolutely no point in releasing one song that dominates the charts, only to have you vanish and disappear after that. This is the reason why it is important to start slow. So what if you start off with a so-so song? Just as long as you slowly get better, everything’s fine. It’s much better than having a chart-topping single but everything else you have produced sounds like a cat giving birth. Unless of course if you’re aiming to be a one-hit wonder, then why not?
The things I have learned from my dad are:
I may have had dreams of becoming a successful singer when I was younger, but as I grew up, I realize that it was not what I really wanted. But although I’m not planning on becoming a celebrity, it doesn’t mean I am not involved in music at all. I may not be using what my dad said as a lesson because it has nothing to do with my goals and dreams, but it is something I will need to keep in mind because the man I am going to marry is heavily involved in music, just like how my own father used to be too. If this is where the money used to feed my children will come from, I might as well take it very seriously as well.
I want to be a graphic designer. I was born to cater to people’s needs. What they want, I do. But when it comes to being a musician, it’s a whole different ball game altogether. It’s sort of a trial-and-error which needs a lot of studying, surveying, experimenting and observing as well. When you’re playing a certain genre, like screamo/hardcore for example, there are only so few people you can relate and reach out to because it is not music that everyone listens to. I know for sure my grandmother won’t appreciate me blasting Bring Me The Horizon while she’s sleeping in my room. However, when it comes to trying to reach out to everyone, to the whole world, to the masses, it’s a tough job.
Even if you don’t wish to cater to the majority’s taste, at least promote yourself to the right crowd. That way, your music would be more easily accepted instead of you constantly complaining that people don’t appreciate your sound. Lets not forget the likes of Black Sabbath, Metallica, Megadeth and many more metal bands who are extremely famous worldwide. Here’s one thing people tend to forget: You don’t need to be mainstream to be famous. These metal bands have followers of millions all over the world, but they’re not featured on mainstream media simply because they’re different and out of the norm. I’m sure mainstream award shows like AMA wouldn’t appreciate having Ozzy Osbourne biting a bay’s head on stage. Imagine how many dismayed viewers and complaints there will be (even Adam Lambert made a mistake by making out with his bassist and that cause a lot of down ratings).
Which is why I am keeping Brightstar forever in my prayers. With the support they’re getting from friends, family and the media, I really hope things go well for them in the future. I pray they’ll be on the right path, meet the right people and will do the right things. My dad has put a lot of faith into these boys, and my dad is always saying “This is the beginning” whenever he meets my boyfriend. It gets awkward sometimes when he says that, because it can be completely out of context.
Just yesterday, the band was in Harian Metro. Their 2-page article was found in Rap, a section in the newspaper dedicated to entertainment. It was surprising, because no one knew when it was going to be published. I was there during the day of the interview and photoshoot, located at NSTP, Bangsar. As usual, I was Rangga’s “makeup artist”. Only God knows how proud I am of them, and how excited I am too. I really pray that one day, they will be as big as they are working hard to be.
It’s a shame Putera could not join us on that day, due to an inevitable emergency. But of course the band made sure that his name would still be mentioned in the papers. Do follow their updates and be sure to have a go at their singles, “Justify” and “Titanium”. More and better stuff are coming your way, guaranteed. I’m not saying this because I am biased, or neither is it because it’s my boyfriend’s band, but because I know they will never stop trying to become better.
Special thanks to Junjun of Madratts for getting Brightstar a slot at Harian Metro and also to Esme Jo, for being a very sporting interviewer.
As quoted from my dad, “This is only the beginning.”