I’ve had the opportunity to sing at some spectacular venues in my lifetime thus far—the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, an 11th-century Italian monastery, the Sala Nobile (music room) of a 16th-century villa in Vicenza—and some of the best live-band karaoke venues at the Jersey shore. I am happy to have had the chance to travel and share my voice with all too appreciative audiences, singing only because I love to sing.
I never in a million years envisioned myself as one of the waiting hopefuls clamoring to get a piece of what extravagant, talent-searching shows like “American Idol” or “X-Factor” had to offer. I had no intention of presenting my talent for judgment only to be selected, molded and processed into what the industry deemed marketable. Whenever anyone heard I could sing, they’d ask, “Why don’t you audition for ‘Insert-Next-Big-Star-Making-Show-Here’?” And I’d always reply with, “Because they diminish vocalists into money-making-meat,” and other various retorts.
Enter “The Voice.” When I first saw the commercials for Season One, I was unenthused: do we really need another one of these? Why don’t we just create a channel dedicated to mass-producing musicians for the masses? However, after one sick-weekend-in with nothing else to watch on television, I was hooked: Season One of “The Voice” proved that the show caters to the artist, and not the other way around.
“The Voice” makes no mystery of the fact that it invites already-established artists onto the show in an attempt to further their career (which begs to question, why have open auditions at all?). However, even my most talented friends, regardless of their persistence, exposure, dedication and hard work, have had difficulty breaking into the music industry. “The Voice” simply provides another venue for them to try at a higher level of recognition. Fair enough—at least the show is honest!
More importantly, “The Voice” is much more personal than any other talent show I have seen. Instead of trying to change and mold an artist, vocalists are encouraged to stay true to their own style, and experiment within their preferred genres. The coaches, Cee Lo Green, Blake Sheldon, Christina Aguilera, and Adam Levine, are all respected musicians that have proven themselves as mentors by giving carefully thought-out advice and building up their team members’ credit. They've also chosen their team members blindly, basing their acceptance solely on their talent and voice, not their potential "markability" (a.k.a. good looks!)
After considering all of the above, I decided to audition for Season Three of “The Voice.” if you have a chance to play the lottery with better odds, you might as well. In fact, if you have ANY chance to work with Cee Lo Green, you’d be ‘crazy’ not to try.
At first glance, the March 11 auditions were a madhouse of desperate ditties, volunteering for the cattle call for the chance to be famous. However, as I waited amongst the thousands of people lined up outside the Javits Convention Center, I began to look deeper. I spoke to people on a personal level, artist-to-artist, dreamer-to-dreamer. No one seemed to be in competition here—in fact, the truth was entirely opposite. Everyone was supportive, constructive and willing to open up about their own experiences as an artist.
Anaya Menezes and her father, for example, stood in front of me in line. “I’ve sang my entire life, and I’ve never done anything about it,” said 17-year-old Anaya, hailing from Vernon, NJ. “I’ve been working on overcoming stage fright—I just finished a variety show at my high school, and I wasn’t nervous at all.”
She proved this by singing a sweet rendition of Kara DiGuardio’s “Terrified” right there on the streets of New York City. Since he was there and all, her father was even planning on auditioning, though he was not sure of which song he would sing yet—bonus points for spontaneity, Mr. Menezes!
When we finally arrived inside the convention center, we were skirted through security and sent to wait in a large room with groups of chairs in each corner. Several group sing-a-longs broke out, including “This Little Light of Mine,” and “Lean On Me.” Everyone was in high spirits—if we were there to take a chance, we were at least going to enjoy ourselves.
I was fortunate enough to be seated next to Chris McCall, a kind gentleman from Brooklyn. “I just want to be recognized,” he explained. “I’m not looking to be a real star—but if they take me to the top, I’m willing to go!” Though Chris is an avid gospel singer (we harmonized quite nicely on “This Little Light of Mine”), he was conflicted as to which song he might sing in the audition.
Finally, we were led to the hallway outside the audition rooms—this was the worst part. Not only did we have to wait while listening to everyone audition inside (desperately trying to get our notes right in our head), but the energy also changed dramatically—in this hallway, comrades became competitors. It was as if we were gearing up for our own “Battle Rounds” inside, and they were going to get ugly.
While some of that energy drifted inside with us into our auditions, the competition slowly turned friendly and supportive again. Each of the ten singers in the group was asked to perform a verse and a chorus of their song for the judge inside the room. My new friend Chris sang Prince’s “Kiss” with an impressively high vocal range; a beauty queen in sequined-sky-high-heels belted out an incredible rendition of Janis Joplin’s “Move Over”; and I sang Adele’s “One and Only,” hoping to showcase the power of my voice suited best for 80’s rock and blues-folk.
I tried to enjoy myself—I closed my eyes, swaying to the diversity of voices, trying to keep calm as we awaited the judge’s decision. After an excruciating silence, the judge let us know that no one would be moving on—he reminded us that many past winners of talent-based shows auditioned several times, and that we were encouraged to keep trying Then, with a swift clip of our wristbands, we were sent home.
Though I was bummed not to have the chance to become chums with the charming Cee Lo Green, I remembered that it is often difficult to tell what one is looking for in an artist, and I simply was not it at the moment. If I had one suggestion for “The Voice,” it would be to have three or more judges in each audition room, so that a singular preference might be less of a factor (Joplin diva, for instance, should have been a SHOE-in!).
Still, I kept my head held high and used my walk-of-shame to disperse business cards, and wish my new friends the best in their future artistic endeavors. I’m happy to have had spent a sunny day making new friends, meeting new artists, and singing some songs with beautiful East coast people. Look for me next year, or at an open-mic near you!