SOUTH PLAINFIELD – South Plainfield’s own Cory Singer recently released the video for his single, “Someone,” a song he wrote about wanting to fall in love with someone who truly understands you. Singer is a singer-songwriter, musician, theater performer, and autism advocate. Diagnosed with autism at 4 years old, Singer knows the challenges. During the pandemic, the 26-year-old started posting video content and hosting live streams on TikTok, a video-sharing social networking service. His videos are light-hearted with his sense of humor shining through, and they share a powerful message of acceptance for those with autism. With 150,000 followers and growing, Singer is a rising star on the popular social media platform.
“There’s a difference between being aware of autism and being accepting of it,” said Singer. “Autism is a disability at its core. When you hear that someone is blind or deaf, you understand their disability. We want to get to a point where you hear that someone’s autistic, and you get it. This is a spectrum of different people with different needs and for us as people with autism, even though we want you to be aware of it, we want you to be accepting of our needs.”
From an early age Singer has been passionate about music. Although nonverbal until 4 years old, Singer found his voice and music became his creative outlet.
“I’ve always been into music and loved singing growing up,” said Singer. “The first time I remember really singing along to something where it hit me was listening to a compellation CD back in 2002. I memorized every word of the song ‘Ocean Avenue’ by Yellowcard.”
Singer says that his mother learned of his gift when they were watching opera on television, and he began emulating the singers. And it was in high school that his peers learned about his talents. Singer performed in theater and sang the National Anthem at wrestling matches that wrestling champion Anthony Ashnault wrestled in.
In 2012, during his senior year at South Plainfield High School, Singer got the opportunity to star on Bravo’s singing competition show "The Kandi Factory." Singer performed a song written by Grammy-winning artist Kandi Burruss entitled “I Can Do Anything.” In each episode, two people put on a live performance of the songs Burruss writes for them. Singer ultimately won his episode.
“’The Kandi Factory’ was an interesting experience,” said Singer. “I didn’t go into it as though I was going to be the next big thing. I wanted a different experience in the music industry and Kandi Burruss wrote basically the show. Kandi wrote me a song called ‘I Can Do Anything’ based off of my autism and I won. It was fun!”
Singer says that it was that experience that got him interested in songwriting.
“The first day she gave us a mp3 with her music on it and paper with the lyrics,” said Singer. “It was just laid out there for me. That’s what planted the seed of songwriting for me. I think people discovered me singing in high school, but I always knew I could sing.”
Singer’s career has flourished since high school. He writes songs and performs acoustically as well as with his full band. The country super group, The Highway Women, recorded his song, "The Devil," in 2018. His single, "Blind in Love," (the first of a six-song series) was released on in summer of 2018, receiving international recognition. In Dec. 2018, he released "Everybody Sing," a track produced in Memphis by Wes Edmonds (member of Wyclef Jean's production team). In 2019, he released "Girl." Throughout it all, Singer’s love for performing musical theater, winning numerous awards and nominations.
In 2020, as Singer was preparing to perform a musical in New York City, everything grounded to a halt when COVID-19 hit. Singer decided to take to TikTok to share his journey with autism and has since become an inspiration for children, families, and adults who are on the spectrum. Coining the phrase “People with Autism Have Superpowers," Singer uses his creativity and humor to advocate for those with autism.
“If you have met one person with autism, you’ve only met one person with autism...because we’re all different,” said Singer. “Your child may be nonverbal. I don’t know if they are ever going to be able to speak or not. I don’t know how to teach them to speak. I don’t remember when I started speaking, but I can only give so much information because everyone’s needs are different.”
Singer believes that classifying people with autism as high and low function is not necessary. He feels that everyone is unique, adding that his best friend, a scholar, was diagnosed with autism and so was his uncle. They all have the same diagnosis and people expected them to act the same, but their needs are all completely different.
“I would be considered high functioning, which wouldn’t be fair because if you take someone who is nonverbal, they could be more aware of what’s going on in the room socially compared to someone like me. They are just unable to speak.”
Singer says that growing up with autism has been challenging. What bothers one person, may not bother another.
“One thing I can’t stand is the sound of people chewing with their mouth open,” said Singer. “I could be in a loud room and hear that in the midst of all of it. It’s a sound that hurts me physically. But someone else with autism, they could be fine with it. It could be the other way around with the loud room being bothersome.”
Giving insights into the lives and minds of those with autism, Singer posts videos regularly about his experiences.
“Growing up with autism was weird,” said Singer. “I didn’t know I had autism. My parents told me I had autism, but we all never really did any research on it. They just told me I was autistic, and I didn’t comprehend it that well. I didn’t understand it until I saw the movie ‘Adam.' It was a romantic comedy about a man with Asperger syndrome who falls in love with a girl, and she helps him along. It was the first time I could really relate to a movie character, which was cool. It was the first time I understood myself.”
Initially diagnosed with Asperger syndrome (AS), Singer says he advocates for the elimination of that term.
“We don’t say Asperger syndrome because Hans Asperger, whom AS was named after, was affiliated with the Nazis in Vienna and sent disabled people to be euthanized,” said Singer. “That’s one of the reasons why we’re trying to get rid of that name.”
Singer’s newest single, "Someone," depicts the challenges of finding that special someone who understands you and sees you for who you are. The ballad is filled with Singer’s heartfelt emotion as he sings of true love.
With determination and drive, Singer has led a life pushing himself out of his comfort zone. He feels this is how he grows and finds success. Singer embraces each accomplishment with humble gratitude and continues to persevere. He has so come far and become the voice for many who cannot speak. And the young star seems to have just begun.