With “The X Factor” having recently started its third season and “The Voice” airing its fifth season on Monday, September 23, the question of reaching musical superstardom looks relevant. Especially in light of “American Idol” having been around for a long time in the United States, the question can start to receive an answer after many years of competition cycles and winners churned out.
These shows offer the opportunity to get a chance at fame for more than fifteen minutes of a humiliating audition. That is, doing artistic work as a chance at employment if the contestant survived long enough to win. The structure is problematic, though, as the years have shown.
Granted, the shows offer something that many seemingly ordinary people want. The shows offer a chance to be different, to leave a more lasting mark on this planet without inserting more carbon in the footprint. Also, the contestants encounter famous people face-to-face. Plus, the contestants have interesting stories, which explained the ratings for a long time.
There are a few problems, though, in trying to win the musical lottery. First of all, little creativity gets injected into the contestants’ performances. I am not talking about how to sing already published songs nor am I talking about playing the occasional instrument while singing. Why not try to make them write songs or develop their own melodies with said newly written songs?
These factors may not make for great television, but at least the winning contestants can make a living out of their hard work and mega stress. Or maybe there’s hope. Look at Taylor Swift’s Diet Coke commercial.
Second, the winning contestants never have lasting musical careers. It’s really sad. Also, multiple artists face rejections, so eliminations in the last stages of the competition do not necessarily indicate a lack of potential and skill. Even Kelly Clarkson, unfortunately, seems to be fading away.
Looking across international waters can help answer the questions sought on the superstardom quest. A few names come to mind.
Idina Menzel and Sarah Brightman: How Musicals Shone Brightly On Them
Let’s face it: Unpopular, brainy youngsters get positive attention from an audience because they are the underdogs. The movie “Napoleon Dynamite” certainly made that point very clear. Idina Menzel became well-known for her role as Elphaba in the musical “Wicked.” If anyone remembers Glinda, played by Kristin Chenoweth, singing “Popular” to her new roommate, then it is clear who is the intended recipient of a makeover that affects the appearance and the soul.
No matter the story plot, Menzel and Chenoweth got such positive attention that they got acting gigs on television. However, Menzel was the one asked to perform at a London performance of “Wicked”. She has another performance coming up in “If/Then” in DC’s National Theatre from Novermber 5 until December 8.
Both Menzel and Chenoweth have their singing chops recorded for posterity in the CD version of “Wicked.”
Sarah Brightman, who can sing in seven languages, got her big break under Andrew Lloyd Webber’s wing as the ingénue Christine in “The Phantom of the Opera,” the musical that was performed on Broadway and not a more recent movie version. That one had Emmy Rossum as its Christine. Granted, Rossum can sing, but the difference between the two performers is an unusual career decision Brightman did that affected the rest of her life. She used her big operatic talents and combined them with more contemporary music strains, adding creativity to an already creative field. The label “Classical Crossover” is rumored to have been made just for her. She also has the capability of entering other cultures through music and making male singing voices her own. She is British, by the way.
Björk and Kylie: So Famous They’re Called by Their First Names
Both artists receive knowing responses from people of different ages. Björk Guðmundsdóttir, an Icelandic woman, usually sings in English but occasionally writes songs in Icelandic. She sometimes sings about Icelandic landscapes such as “jóga,” “Frosti,” and “Aurora.” The last two can apply to other Scandinavian places, but “jóga,” which lacked available translation, can only be Icelandic because it is a video with specific visuals. She also branched out into the film world, most notably with “Dancing in the Dark.” Before her big break, she was involved in multiple musical endeavors.
As for Kylie Minogue, her music video “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” will stay in your head for a long time, if not forever. The Australian singer was an actress in the Australian show “Neighbours” before she started to sing as a career. Her songs show a woman who exudes sexuality in a way that indicates comfort and ease with herself.
Disagreements may arise, but think about it.
-Selma Khenissi, Leisure/Music Staff Writer