Sanjaya's inspired me. I've decided to grow my hair and revive my singing career.
Revive may be a little strong. I sing "Happy Birthday" to family members and "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" during the seventh-inning stretch of the two or three baseball games I attend each year. Group sing-alongs? I stay silent. Karaoke bars? I drink and listen. Christmas carols? I love 'em. But I don’t sing 'em.
It's not that I have anything against singing. I know good singers. Good singers are friends of mine. And I'm no good singer.
But Sanjaya's not exactly a good singer, either. And he made it through six rounds of American Idol before finally being voted off. Talk about making the most of your 15 minutes of fame.
Sanjaya got a lot of negative press during his American Idol run. But positive impressions outnumbered negative ones. And negative press aside, he turned himself into a national phenomenon while singing very badly. He generated more than 322 million media impressions during his American Idol run and the 38 million votes cast the week he was booted is a record for the sixth round of the show.1
Sanjaya's a good example of the importance of knowing what your objective is. If his objective was to generate only positive reviews of his singing, he failed. But if his objective was to launch a profitable singing career, he's probably succeeded -- and the negative press is part of what helped him do that because it helped drive the "buzz" about him.
I don't know whether Sanjaya knew he was not a great singer before starting his American Idol run, although his use of his "ponyhawk" and other hairdos tells me he's probably realistic about that – unlike many singer wannabes.
How do I know I can't sing? Not by critiquing myself. To me, I sound great. But I've gotten a few subtle hints over the years. Well, not so subtle.
When I was in the sixth or seventh grade, I decided it would be fun to be in the school choir. The nun who taught music at St. Andrew's parochial school accompanied me on the piano as I started to sing some simple song. After a few bars (shocking, I know, that a nun and seventh grader would be doing bars together), she interrupted and suggested another tune. After a couple more tries, the poor woman looked at me, smiled and told me to go play baseball instead.
To put my failure into proper context: There were 14 kids in my class, maybe 150 kids in the entire school – grades K through 8. The "choir" didn't really sing for anyone. They just got to spend more time singing as a group than the rest of us. In short, the bar for admittance was low. Very low. I didn't make it.
Fast forward to the fall after I graduated from high school. I was in a Jesuit seminary, on my way (I thought) to becoming a priest. All but two or three of the 130 or so seminarians were part of the schola cantorum (fancy Latin words for choir). I was one of the two or three. We sang – okay, they sang – Gregorian chant, not exactly complex music. Several of my fellow seminarians, the ones who could sing, asked me when they had the misfortune to be next to me in chapel if I could just "mouth the words" because my "singing" made it hard for them to stay on key.
Doing You A Favor By Staying Silent
So, I've always considered that I was doing the rest of you a favor by remaining silent when it was time for singing. I’m reconsidering my position.
I've had enough experience at karaoke bars to know I can sing better than some of the folks who get up on stage. I've always attributed that to them being drunk. But that's no excuse for how bad some of them are.
And I'm as good as some of the folks who make it onto American Idol. Those folks are on national television! And they’re sober. If somebody like Sanjaya can make it through six weeks on American Idol and become a national phenomenon, then I figure I have potential as a singer.
So get out your earplugs. Jerry the Singer (not to be confused with Jerry Springer) is on his way. I wonder what a gray ponyhawk will look like.
1Yahoo!News RSS, 2/15/2007 through 4/19/2007.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Jerry Brown committed journalism for 20 years, but received a full pardon. He's been practicing public relations for more than 20 years and plans to keep practicing until he gets it right -- which he hopes takes a long time because he likes what he does. He specializes in strategy and message development, media relations and media training and writing (news releases, annual reporters, collateral, etc.). He also writes the Monday Morning Media Minute, a free weekly media tip distributed by e-mail. You can reach him at email@example.com / 303-781-8787.
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