The topic of this blog entry popped in my mind a few days ago after watching one of my favorite reality shows. YES…..I do watch some reality shows. What can I say? Anyway….this particular show follows the lives of a few R&B artists as they work together and take steps to revitalize/grow their respective careers. I started watching the show because it features artists whose careers I’ve supported over the years. I hoped for no drama, some great singing and a little inspiration; but unfortunately that has not been the case quite often. I will say the latest round of drama served as a true disappointment for me when something quite ugly appeared once again among these artists……EGO! Now I am realistic and know that everyone has some level of an ego especially in the music industry, but that does not excuse people from not recognizing when their egos are out of order and need to be checked.
Over the years I’ve dealt with my fair share of artists/musicians who think they are the greatest thing since sliced bread and don’t mind telling you! I usually find it irritating and/or comical because it’s so absurd. I do believe to deal with this crazy music industry one has to possess a healthy amount of confidence, but not to the point where it crosses over into “I Am God” territory. I have an issue when artists buy into the hype and treat others as if they are better than them just because a few people purchased their album or came to their performance. That type of support can shift quickly and does not speak to the value of you as an artist or person. Too easily I see artists fall for this skewed reality which results in egotistical individuals whose behavior is often quite horrendous and offensive. I learned years ago that we are all on this journey together and should respect each other as musical equals striving for excellence and longevity. Maybe I am in the minority on this one, but it is what it is.
On the particular episode of the show I mentioned, a couple of the artists have truly drunken the “Kool-aid” and act as if they are above doing certain things such as singing background vocals for another artist! I honestly was blown away at their behavior because some of the absolute best vocalists/artists in the game have held it down as background vocalists in recording sessions and live shows. In fact, I just recently saw Academy Award-Winning “20 Feet from Stardom” again which truly reiterated the fact about extraordinary vocalists singing background vocals, i.e. Lisa Fischer and Merry Clayton. Shoot….one of my absolute favorite artists of all time, Luther Vandross, was a legendary background vocalist which led to his solo career. Singing background vocals is an art form all by itself that demands the utmost respect. I felt the artists on the show should have been honored to share their talents in order to support their fellow artist who is one of the most respected, unique and sought-after vocalists in the industry even after being in the game over twenty years. What happened to camaraderie and sister/brotherhood?
After the episode was over I sat still shaking my head in disappointment. Maybe my perspective is different on being a working artist/musician, which to me means you check your ego at the door and remain hungry for the opportunity to share your gift. I do not mean randomly sing at the neighborhood back porch gathering or every time a family member asks you to sing! A professional artist has to exercise some discretion, but when the opportunity arises to contribute to music of substance, background or leads, one should seize the chance and do their absolute best. Not only will it possibly introduce you to new listeners/fans, but you never know who in the industry is listening/watching which may lead to additional work. Most people welcome the opportunity to work with an extremely talented vocalist, but the chances to secure steady work increases when people know you are professional, humble and cooperative. To possess this perspective one has to NOT buy into the hype and be consumed with being famous. An artist needs to love singing, performing, writing, etc. and do it because you have a passion for it. Those who only do it for the fame usually have quick, fleeting careers because their priority is not about creating timeless music and artistic evolution.
At the end of the day I guess we all get into this music game for different reasons. I undergo reality checks often to remind myself why I have been chosen for this life. For me it’s for the love of music and to progress the art form, but I am probably in the minority these days. I just hope those artists out there with serious talent learn how to remain humble, understand the necessity of paying your dues, and not get caught up in a false sense of reality that causes them to belittle others and not honor their blessing. The last thing the music industry needs is another artist with an inflated sense of self creating soulless music. We MUST do better!!!