Tuesday, December 22, 2009


I sincerely hope you never pull up next to me on the road, and see me singing my lungs out in my car, much like that State Farm commercial they have on now. I look like that. I really do. Hand motions and the whole thing. And my car is the only thing that will hear me do that.

And you see the lines of people trying to get into the American Idol auditions, with ridiculous costumes and horrible voices. The high squealing falsettos and the wavering pitches, thousands of them, all going to sing for these idiot judges whose job it is to spare us from having to listen to people make fools of themselves. And maybe cut down a few dreams. It's all for the fame, the money, the popularity. It's so that people will pay attention to them, pay them a compliment. And in their heads, they're the greatest singers on the planet. Everyone should hear them belt out whatever pop song is popular at the top of their lungs, and it should be an epiphany of life changing proportions. Well guess what. It's not.

I sing because I want to. I don't sing because I want other people to hear me, because I want money, or fame, or whatever. The good singers, the ones that have made it successfully in the world and are making millions singing, or not, like Sting (whose CD we're selling at Borders. English Folk tunes with a Christmas theme), or Bochelli (whose CD we're also selling.), sing because they want to affect the people listening with a certain emotion, love, or passion, or anger, or sadness. Emotions that ring with each note, that resonate with each chord. The trick is that those emotions resonate in each of us when we sing, whether we actually sing well or not. If we are good singers, it does help. And if we are, we can affect the people around us.

If I thought that my singing would actually spur emotions in other people besides the intense desire to choke a person, I would perform. But I am, after all, and introvert, and honestly I don't care what they think of my singing. I think I sound good, and that's all that matters.

Music has always been a very personal thing for me. A song is an encapsulated expression of emotion, something to be treasured and experienced. The thought of someone just having music on as background noise, as something to have on while talking, drives me nuts. A piece of music should be listened to, the notes should envelop one's body. To reduce it to elevator music is nauseating. When I worked at the grocery stores, I always could pick up on any song I liked, and know what was playing within seconds, even if the volume was low. The songs swung me through my day, from tune to tune, until the day was done. Most of the other workers couldn't hear it or care what song was playing.

I loved playing clarinet in the bands at Heritage, at Georgia College, in the marching, symphonic, or pep bands. I received a full music scholarship for college, and it helped pay for, well, a lot of things. But I was never playing for the expectations of the audience. I played for myself. I was 3rd part Clarinet, but not because I couldn't have played the 1st parts (although, truthfully, I would have never have practiced hard enough to play the runs and the difficult stuff. It was all fru-fru anyway.), but because I loved the low, harmonic parts that were the center of the emotions coming from the song. Also, and this was the important part, I sat next to the Saxophones and the Trumpets, so if I didn't like my part, I simply switched to theirs, picking up the notes out of the air. If I didn't like a note that was on the page, I changed it to one I did like. The music was there for me to play, not for someone to tell me how it should be played.

When it comes to singing, I'm even more reserved. I'm selfish, in a way. There's very few people who have even heard me sing in a normal manner. Sure, I'll bellow out some Christmas song in the style of Sinatra, or the Chipmunks, or Marilyn Monroe, but it's never my voice, just an impression. The songs are mine to experience in my own way.

My mom and stepdad never could understand that idea. Especially when it comes to church music. "Why don't you join the choir, or sing a solo?" It's not because I'm shy (cause I'm not), but rather I don't want to share. And God knows my relationship with Him, I can sing a good Church him praising Him in my car just as well as in church. So there's no need. When I tried explaining the idea of experiencing emotions behind the songs, they just dismissed it. "But won't the power of a song wear out?" No. It won't. The emotions behind "Bridge over Troubled Waters" is as strong now as when I heard the song some 20 years ago. It's the singing of it, in my car, that enhances those feelings. It'll never go away. The ideas of "Amazing Grace" haven't diminished, and it's been sung millions of times (best sung by Whitney Phipps, here.).

I wonder if those people in line for American Idol really have the ability to appreciate music for what it is. Not what it could do for them, but what the music actually says and expresses in each of their hearts. Probably not. And their shallowness will be reflected in the music, resulting in mindless drivel that makes the "Next" button on the MP3 player all the more worth important. I tried listening to the newest Train album Save Me, San Francisco, and found it full of fluff and meaningless love ballads. All the going rage in popular music. And it's such a shame, because Train's other albums, with songs like "Drops of Jupiter," are masterpieces of contemporary songwriting. Give me a good Simon & Garfunkel album any day, and I'll be happy.... singing in my car.

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