I don't know if you've noticed, but there are a lot of "reality" shows on TV – people are watching them a lot at the moment. So a lot of people are getting on TV without being talented or anything. In fact, I've heard some people say, "Anyone can get on TV these days and be famous for fifteen minutes." Well, I've never been on TV, so when's my turn? Thinking these thoughts, I wandered down to Channel Seven Studio last Saturday to audition for Popstars.
There were a lot of singers on the scene, queueing up outside the entrance to the studio. Popstars is another reality programme, and this one is a kind of game show – to win it, you have to be really, really popular. I found myself in a crowd of people who aspire to be famous entertainers. There were hundreds of them. They wanted to warm their voices up for the big audition, so they were singing, and singing, and singing.
The guy behind me in the queue had brought along a trumpet. The reason for this was not immediately obvious, because it's a singing competition, not a trumpet-playing competition. But he had brought it for the purposes of showing off for the cameras and jamming along with other musicians who had brought guitars. The camera crew was roving about among the crowd, filming anything vaguely interesting that they could include in their TV show. They saw this guy with his trumpet, and they went up to him and asked him to play a tune, so he did. I thought to myself, "This is a guy who knows how to attract the camera's attention – he's done this sort of thing before."
the man behind me
the girl in front of me
There was a girl just in front of me in the queue who was singing with her friends – she had a sweet angelic voice and a pop-star attitude. I thought "If this is an example of the kind of singing talent that I'm up against, then I don't have any hope of winning." But that was okay, because I didn't really expect to win, or even make it through the first round. I was just there to have a fun and entertaining day. God knows, I could never be a pop-star – I despise the whole concept. It's like selling your soul to a big corporation so that they can exploit you. "If I were to win," I thought, "my life would become absolute hell. So it's a good thing I don't have much singing talent."
By and by, all the auditioners were let into the television studio. They didn't all fit at once, of course, so there was a long queue outside even after the auditions began. But I was early enough in the queue that I was able to witness the start of it. What happens is, the singers stand up five at a time and sing for the judges. The first one sings for a few seconds, then the judge says "thankyou", and then the second one sings, and the judge says "thankyou", and then the third one sings, and so on. The result is, each singer only gets to sing for about fifteen seconds – or ten seconds, or twenty seconds, depending on the judge's whim. Then, after the fifth person has sung, the judges make a quick decision about who will make it through to the next round. Only the best singers can succeed – I think only about twenty percent of the crowd make it through.
The master of ceremonies said, "The best thing to do is choose a short fragment of song which shows off your best singing abilities straight away. Please understand – the judges aren't trying to be rude when they cut you off – we just have a lot to get through today."
The procedure was repeated over, and over, and over as the worth of each singer was measured. Some of them were so excellent, the audience broke into spontaneous applause. Some of them were so awful, we had to restrain ourselves from unkind laughter. Sometimes good singers were rejected by the judges and we thought "Oh no, it's not fair." Most of the singers were just half-way good and not very interesting, but some of them had little gimmicks to make them stand out – like the guy who ripped open his shirt to reveal a superman outfit. Or, the guy who went up to the female judge and held her hand while he sang. Or, the guy who sang aggressively and ran right up to the audience. Every now and then we'd see a person so nervous that their mind would go blank at the crucial moment and they'd have to ask a friend "How does the song go again?" There was one girl who only got to sing the first line of the song "I like that old time rock and roll," before the judge cut her off. That didn't seem very fair – she only got to sing for about three seconds. I guess the judge didn't like that song.
There was one contestant who put on a bit of a show for us during the lunch-break – he played guitar and sang an improvised medley of songs, whilst other singers joined in and sang with him – even that trumpet guy got in on the jam-session. Everyone was having a good time. I was trying to figure out what I was going to do, in order to stand out from the hundreds of others. A lot of people were trying wacky stunts, to make them seem different. But one thing I noticed people were not doing was singing original songs that they'd written specially for the occasion. "So if I do that," I thought, "I'll be the only one to sing an original song." Actually there was one guy who did a rap that was his own composition – it was a rap about Popstars and how it was better than that other similar programme Australian Idol. He managed to find a rhyme for "Guy Sebastian", if I remember correctly. But that was a rap, not a song. So I decided to figure out something original and sing it.
Flash game – move your mouse over it and
try to let the popstars contestant fall
through the holes.
I worked out a few appropriate rhymes about the popstars experience. Like:
There's a whole big audience watching me
I hope I get to be on TV."
"Everybody is trying to win,
But only a few can get in."
One of the judges was named Christine Anu, so I figured, if she was judging me, I could rhyme "Christine Anu" with "camera crew". And, if they didn't cut me off, I could sing something like "I can't believe you haven't cut me off – I must be doing well."
But when my turn came, what I actually sang was this:
"It's three thirty-eight and I'm singing in Channel 7 studio.
I'm just one man – but we've all got to sing the best we can."
When the time came for the judges to pick the best in the group, I wasn't picked. So that was the end of it. But I was pleased with the way I'd diverged from the norm – the audience reacted with amusement when they heard my song. Of course, since I hadn't practised it, the tune came out a little different from how I planned – I sang the second line in a completely different key, which was probably my worst mistake. But the overall experience was a positive one. I wonder if I'll get to be on television, as a passing novelty? I wish I could do it again – I could do it better, and funnier, and more in tune. Click here to listen to an mp3 (15 seconds, 242k) of another clever tactic that I might have used.
I departed from Channel Seven Studio and walked up the street. As I walked, I noticed a girl beside the footpath, singing. And as I walked further, there was another, on the other side of the footpath. And another, leaning against a pole further along. They were practising for the next round. It was almost as if the urban streets had become like a musical theatre. I wish I could be always among singers – they're so entertaining.
The next day, there was an auction at my place. The estate agents wanted people to buy my studio apartment. It was open for inspection for half an hour beforehand – I went for a walk while the inspection was going on. When I returned, I noticed that the agents had turned on my CD player and they were playing one of my CDs. "Sorry for doing that without permission," they said.
The auction commenced and the auctioneer talked about how great my apartment was. "This is the cheapest flat you'll find within an eight kilometre radius of Melbourne," he said. "All you'd need to do is spend about five thousand dollars doing it up, and you could sell it for sixty thousand dollars more. If it weren't against the rules, I'd buy it myself." But there were very few people listening to him, and no one wanted to buy my flat. No one made any bids. So the auction ended and the property was still unsold. It was all very inconclusive.
Three or four days later, the sign outside my building (the one that said "For Sale") had a "Sold" sticker put onto it. I don't know the name of the person who bought my flat. But the estate agent said it probably wouldn't make any difference, and that I wouldn't have to move out. The agent could be just talking rubbish, as they often do – but I haven't been asked to move out yet, so no news is good news. Hopefully they'll leave me alone now and I can relax and let my flat get all messy again.
I went over to my friend Cat's house today. When I arrived, she gave me a cake and some biscuits that she had baked. Cat is very good at cooking stuff. She also gave me a cool t-shirt with the name of a TV show that I like on the front, and a couple of burnt CDs. "Happy Birthday," she said.
The birthday cake had a lot of cherries. It tasted much better than the sort of cake you'd buy in a supermarket. "Mmmmmm," I thought when I tried it out later at home. "I wish I could take a photo of a taste, then I could show everyone how good this is."
A couple of hours later, I went out again, to see the band called The Brunettes who were playing a live show. I was trying to re-live the joy of the last Brunettes gig that I went to, back in June, but it wasn't quite the same. It was a hot night, and the venue had little in the way of air-conditioning – the musicians were sweating and I couldn't summon the energy to dance properly. But it felt good towards the end of the set because the music was so catchy.
roll your mouse over this image
I received a phone call today from the Northern Metropolitan Institute of TAFE. They said they'd like to offer me a place in the Advanced Diploma of Music Performance course that I applied for. That was a surprise – I didn't expect to get an offer so soon. "Will you accept a place in the course?" they asked. "Yes, definitely," I said. So next year I will be studying music full time at Northern TAFE, Fairfield campus. I don't know if I'll be offered a place in the other course that I'd prefer, but it's a load off my mind to know that I'll definitely be studying something next year, instead of just drifting aimlessly.
That show called Chappelle's Show is a sketch comedy series hosted by this politically incorrect black guy named Chappelle. His blackness is integral to the show's style, because he often does jokes which make fun of the tension that exists between people of different skin-colour. Last week he did this thing where he got a young white lady to sing controversial statements, the kind of thing that black activists would say, and it was funny because she sung them in an "operatic" voice. And there was this other memorable sketch where he pretended to be the leader of an white-supremacist hate-group, and he didn't realise that he himself was black because he was blind. This guy likes to push the limits of what good taste will allow. There are a lot of offensive jokes, but a lot of funny ones.
I've finished reading the book Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling. It's about this guy who has magical powers and he has to use them to win a school competition, but meanwhile dark forces are brewing. And at the end, he almost gets killed by the main bad guy, but then he escapes. This is a story for children, but it's almost too scary for them – in the climax, Harry Potter is physically tortured and there are graphic descriptions of his pain. And one of his friends is murdered. I was reading some things that people said about this book, and some of them said the ending must have been hastily re-written to make a good character into an evil character at the end. "It doesn't make sense!" they said. "If he was evil, why did he teach Harry how to resist the Imperius curse?" But it makes sense if you read between the lines a bit. This book is cool. I wonder if they'll make a film of it – that would be something.
I borrowed that CD [love] tattoo (self titled) from the local library – it's dance music. It doesn't have much in the way of substance, and the lyrics are shallow as possible. But I can't help but admire its style, especially in the first three tracks. It's "feel good" music and you don't have to think about it. Actually it shows a bit of originality in the way it lists the tracks on the back – instead of normal track numbers it says "10pm, 11pm, 12am", and so on to "6am", as if it's telling the story of a night out on the town and the later tracks are more spaced-out and trippy. I didn't make a copy of this CD, but I liked the first three tracks enough that I made mp3s of them – and later, when I listen to them, they'll make me feel good again.
This Wednesday I went to the karaoke and sang the song "Regulate" by Warren G and Nate Dog which is a half-rap half-singing song. It's really designed to be performed by two men – when I tried to do both parts, the rapping and the singing, it didn't really leave me time to take a breath. But what really bugged me was the fact that all the lyrical references to guns, or drugs, or hookers, were left out of the karaoke lyrics display. I tried to do the uncensored version in accordance with my memory, but the display put me off a bit. Anyway, later on that night I sung another song, "YMCA" by the Village People. I did it quite well, but the high notes in the chorus made my voice sound a bit strained and I began to see why I'll never be a finalist on Popstars. The good news is, several people in the audience did the special arm movements with the song.