Is talent enough for the music industry?


We’re taking a break from film today and venturing into the world of music. I just wanted to discuss how incredibly difficult it is to crack into this business. You could have the voice of an angel and remain unheard. Consumers of music are looking for more than just a voice. The star needs to have some sort of persona that defines their niche and it is impossible to foresee which personalities will be in favor and which will be pushed to the side.

For example, it is undeniable that Lady Gaga is an internation superstar, but she could have just as easily been no one. In fact, she HAD been a no one until a couple years ago. With the wonders of YouTube, we can see her performances from high school and beyond, and she wasn’t bad then. In fact, she was good enough to get early admission into Tisch (highly prestigious arts school at NYU). Obviously, this girl had talent from the beginning, but no one was signing her. She wrote songs for Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears and then probably got discovered on her own merits.

But it is amazing to see the person she has crafted – a whacky, pushing the envelope, bonafide pop star. I once read somewhere that Lady Gaga is performance art stuck in a pop star’s body. But the question is whether Lady Gaga would be famous without her blood soaked stage shows or impractical-looking shoes. I would argue that Lady Gaga NEEDS the personality she exudes because her voice alone is not enough. Of course, that is not to say that Lady Gaga isn’t talented? She is a savvy businesswoman and a great entertainer, but her vocals may not be her most prized asset.

’80s and early ’90s Madonna is another good example of this phenomenon. Would Madonna be famous had she not rolled around in a skimpy bridal gown at the 1984 VMAs or made a video where she made out with black Jesus and burned crosses? I don’t think she would be the superstar she is today. What both of these women have in common is their ability to market themselves as what their audience wants. I am not saying this as a negative. I just wanted to reiterate that these women did not become the superstars they are because of their voice.

On the other hand, we have Beyonce, who I know Aulelia LOVES. Well, no matter whether you love her music or not, you have to acknowledge that she is an extremely hard worker and very classy. Also, as opposed to Gaga or Madonna, Beyonce doesn’t rely on shock value to get people talking about her. Sure, she has an alter ego – Sasha Fierce – but I never get the impression that Beyonce is faking it for us.

The final example I want to leave you with is Keke Palmer. You are probably wondering, “who?” And that is my point exactly. Keke Palmer is IMHO the most talented of all the Disney Channel stars of her generation (High School Musical, Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato) and yet, no one will fund her. If you haven’t heard of her, check out her single, Bottoms Up.  It’s catchy, right? And not only is she a capable musician; she is an even better actress. She was fantastic in Akeelah and the Bee, something else you should definitely check out. Why has this talented young lady been pretty much forgotten by Disney? I hypothesize that she just didn’t have the image or what was hot at the time. There is a window of opportunity for a musician to define their niche in the field and once you miss it, it is nearly impossible to make it in the industry regardless of your talent. It’s a cutthroat world out there.

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3 thoughts on “Is talent enough for the music industry?

  1. Anon: The purpose wasn’t to be self-deprecating but simply to acknowledge that our current battle is one where our side has little power to change what is (1) the attitude of Congress towards expats; (2) the dominant narrative in the media; (3) the laws that apparently make us into permanent slaves of the USA, no matter where we go to escape. We have been able to use the new media to our advantage. If this crisis had happened 20 years ago, I wonder how we would ever have made our voice heard. Thus, we have made some considerable strides, and the justice of our cause is being heard. The current regime in Washington DC must take notice. They cannot make us disappear so easily as oppressors have in the past destroyed poor and powerless.

  2. Keke Palmer has her own TV Show on Nickelodeon. TRUE JACKSON is the name of the show and its very good.

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