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who do you really sing for?

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last night i was thinking about the struggle i'd have between singing songs that i love to sing vs. singing songs people "know" in these singing competitions.

i really don't like to sing easy songs or super recognizable songs. i prefer less popular, more challenging pieces.

you know what, it really is all about song choice, and this really bothers me. i auditioned for a talent show locally here last night. i sang "when something is wrong with my baby" (sam and dave) was very happy with my vocal but i lost the audition. the guy holding the audition said the only reason he didn't pick me is that i did a song that was unknown (do you believe this?...unknown?) and told me to come back and try again with a song everybody knows. he turned around and picked the song for me....

"my way" .....not only don't i like this song, but it doesn't move me to sing it. i'm trying to decide whether to do the song, or just bow out gracefully.

there's not much you can do with a song like that because you have to audition to a sinatra karaoke track on top of it.

it's no big competition, so if you were me what would you do?

and you know what, i really don't enter these things to win, i just love to sing.

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Well... I'd say you have to decide what you want. If you just want to sing well and be happy with personal achievement, sing whatever you want. But if you want people to listen, you have to cater to the crowd a bit. Unless you're an original artist trying to push your own work, most crowds get enjoyment out of music they know. It binds a room together, creates an energy that keeps the night going. People sing along. You can'd do that with unknowns. :( You can get away with one or two in a set list, but the majority needs to be recognizable until you get your own following. That is my opinion, both from singing in a band and from loving live music as a bar patron. You want the stuff that keeps you hooked throught the night! Sure there are people out there that like something they haven't heard before for musical quality, but unfortunately, they're the minority. Why else would every band learn "Don't Stop Believing"?

As for the talent competition... again, a lot of those are meant to be viewed by an audience, and you are a product they're trying to sell on some level. You still need to please a crowd. So I guess you need to decide what it is you want to do with your talent.

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There's a lot to address in your post Bob. Some things tug at each other. On one hand you say you are singing not to win; you just love to sing, but on the other hand you are concerned because they didn't appreciate your song as competition worthy. If you just want to sing then sing and enjoy it for yourself as well as hope others will appreciate it. If you want to get yourself out there more and sort of sell yourself I would find a middle ground. Songs you like mixed with songs you like but that are also more popular.

If you want to push ahead then sometimes you have to give a little slack at first just to get the door open a little. Sing Sinatra, then maybe something else, then little by little wean yourself more into your stuff. It's hard to say. Winning never hurts you know :) Try to win then use it to your advantage. you never know who is watching. It can open more doors for you to do what you love....sing!

On a recent cruise I sang a few songs and got good feedback. Next night my wife and I were back at karaoke and the place was jumping. There was a guy singing a rap song that had everyone up and cheering and dancing. He couldn't sing but it was fun. Next was someone else singing another "fun" song. Not a good singer but people were up due to the beat and singing along having a good ole time. It seemed the theme of the night. We stayed about an hour before my wife asked when I was getting up. "Good crowd" she said. I said I would get up later after the crowd cleared out. I don't do 'that."

" THAT" means follow the crowd and make a spectacle just to have a good time. I sing. Or at least I like to think I do. I take it seriously and I want to seriously entertain....impress even. I won't do "their" stuff. I'll wait and do mine. I choose songs that I feel cross lines a bit. The older crowd likes them. They offer some vocal flexibility/agility which can be impressive and not amateurish. Younger people can appreciate them also and they are songs that I like to sing. Some don't go over well but I keep trying anyway. I used to worry about the younger crowd and trying to impress them with rock tunes. Not anymore. Blues and soul man! because that's me. Some classic rock sprinkled to show versatility and to surprise some that expect only a certain type of music from me. But at times I have to do what I need to get ahead and get noticed so that they will be willing to listen to me later.

Does this make some sense? Do "your" thing . But you may need at least some of theirs. :)

Good luck.

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I used to sing on a band that did some events like mariages. My Way would be a super virtuous technique show off near that repertoire, I had some really poor local songs there, where I had to let go of resonance and control a chest open sound, tired the hell of me, was boring, and really isnt my thing, I like more weight and power. Some reggae-like songs that requires lots of breaks, and so on.

I remember the two songs that were more fun in there were Holding Back the Years and Your Song.

But in the end of the day, I was forced to learn how to do an interpretation line on those songs to make it sound good, and it was very good for me, I learned a lot, helped me with the songs I like. Some even became fun after I defined my interpretations better. Others didnt even had an interpretation, so not much to do except speaking the whole thing at different pitches... -.-

So, cutting the chase, Id probably study the original, catch some cool musical details and let go of the more apparent accent and bad habits stuff, and I would try to go for the win doing something different. I would not try to mimic the traditional, or try wavering all around the tempo as Sinatra usually did live. Isnt this song from Paul Anka? Even if its another key (dont know that), try using some elements of his interpretation, should sound cool and different.

With this song, since people think of Sinatra as a big huge voice, probably a less-is-more approach, wavering around low dynamics and doing one stronger phrase in the end (pretty much what he did all the time and that constructed his image :P). The melody is sort of easy but the dynamic choices are not hehehe, not at all, fun stuff to dive in.

I would do it, in these terms. I would try to win from myself, turning this boring song to listen to into something fun to sing :P. (I am speaking from your point of view and what I did on the same situation, I actually like Sinatra).

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Now, that's what I call making a whole vest out of one button.

One karaoke judge passed you over because he didn't know the song. Good thing I wasn't there because I would have done an a capella of a song by Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen. Curse words and everything. Talk about an obscure reference ....

Was the judge our age, someone old enough to even know of Sam and Dave? Or did he just assume that you should not win because you picked a song that he didn't recognize as a #1 hit song? Oh well. It really does depend on what you want.

If you were auditioning Broadway, you would be singing pieces from whatever musical and would be expected to generate a certain sound and style.

But an open-ended competition? Doesn't seem fair to exclude you just because it was not the 30th rendition of "Don't Stop Believin' " that night. Which is a great song, no doubt.

So, let me see if I get the accent right - "fuhgeddabotet." It's that or - "Allow me to introduce my friend, Guido. He's going to make you an offer you can't refuse." :)

I think it was just an off night. But, if you cater to what is popular, you might whip our your awesome rendition of "Black Hole Sun."

Then, again, if you had done that song, the judge might have excluded you out of pure jealousy. Yes, it really does happen.

You are a star, Bob. Some stars get hiccups along the road. Keep singing the songs that you want to sing, regardless. I do. And I take the heat.

I will never sound like Bon Scott. I'm not interested in someone trying to teach me how to sound like him. And I will sing "Highway to Hell" because it pleases me.

If you sing what you want, someone will eventually like it, because of the strength of your peformance. In any case, you did it "your way."

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The thing is, singing in front of a live audience is really an experience that the singer SHARES with the crowd. He's exchanging emotions with them. He gives something to them and they give energy back. You could liken it to a dance - a tango, if you will. So it's good if BOTH the singer and the audience get something out of it. It's a compromise. It's also FUN to sing some songs that are easy and everybody loves - but still also sing some songs that are simply there because you want to challenge yourself vocally.

I often like to pick songs that are not the MOST famous songs of a particular band but also not a song that nobody knows - more like a song that people go "oh, it's been a while since I heard THAT song - that's always been a great song".

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Bob - I would never do a song that I didn't want to sing. However, opportunities in life reveal themselves to us in unexpected ways. I rarely back down from an opportunity. The downside of this song is that is such a big song and soooo familiar as a Sinatra song that you'd have to really pull it off well. It's a risk, and if you have something to lose, I'd make the decision carefully. If there really is no risk, nothing to lose, then I would be inclined to take the opportunity. However, if this song is boring to you, or really not in a style that suits you or moves you, I'd turn the opportunity down.

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Unless you're an original artist trying to push your own work, most crowds get enjoyment out of music they know. It binds a room together, creates an energy that keeps the night going. People sing along. You can'd do that with unknowns. :( You can get away with one or two in a set list, but the majority needs to be recognizable until you get your own following.

I think you bring up a good point that factors in the number of songs in your set list, and also what you want to accomplish with your audience. I write my own songs and usually want other people to hear my music when I perform live BUT because I want the crowd to warm up to me, I usually throw in some recognizable covers in my set list depending on the number of songs I get to sing. Its kind of similar to what I do online when promoting my music - I release cover videos or other types of videos to ultimately get more fans/subscribers, which provides an audience for me to share my original music with. The important thing, however, is that I still enjoy singing those covers and don't feel like I'm singing for "them"...In fact, I feel even more satisfaction to know that I'm sharing/letting them re-live their experience of hearing that particular song again. Hope that makes sense! It made more sense in my mind when I was thinking about it than it does reading what I've written, haha..

So I'm going to just throw this out there. What if one has a 3 song set, performing in front of a live audience, and you want others to enjoy your performance but at the same time you want to share your originals. How would you split it - 2 covers, 1 original or 2 originals, 1 cover? What takes more precedence?


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I think the reality is that singers need to divorce their brains from their heart if they want to treat it like a business. As much as you want to get up and sing a particular song that is meaningful to you, the crowd or judges want to hear what they want to hear. If you don't give them what they want, then they will pass you off without a second thought because it's a tough industry.

Correct me if I'm wrong here guys, but if I was judging a singer I'd want to hear certain songs which I know well already, so that I can judge their PERFORMANCE and not the song itself. Similarly, if they're a crazy good singer but the song has a great chorus but only an okay verse, I might have made my mind up subconsciously before they even get to the catchy part.

I make this 'mistake'/choice all the time. I like to get lesser known songs from popular singers and do acoustic covers at my college events (for ex. I recently did Celine Dion's "That's the Way It Is") and predictably people think it's "freakin' weird but kinda cool." But that's what I want to do so I do it. If I was auditioning for a talent show then I'd sing something more conventional (not that I'd have much of a chance :))

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It sounds like the judge already had an idea of how he sees the talent show shaping up and in that case it is hard to know what to sing prior to auditioning for him. Now he has shared with you the direction he wants to go. The decision to conform for this show is yours alone but if you enjoy entertaining, I wouldn't pass up an opportunity just because you’re not the biggest fan of “My Way”. If you love to sing and entertain, go out and nail it. You never know what may come of it. Once you are part of the show you may have more flexibility to choose your song.


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let's put it another way..sometimes it's next to impossible to compete based on the artists the others are singing.

for example, let's imagine you're on an audition with 5 other people, the majority are women that sing whitney houston, celene dion, and let's say beyonce.

now hear i am with "my way." in my opinion, "my way" no matter how well i sing it, how much i either sound like sinatra or make it my own, whatever i do, i'm likely not going to be thought of as "equivalent" of a vocalist.

see what i mean? it's harsh reality.

so you say to yourself, what is perceptually the male arsenal for going up against a whitney houston singing singer?

is it luther vandross, steve perry, stevie wonder?

to put it another way, the male singers that are either perceived as equivalent or rival the top female black singers?

am i making my point?

how does a guy compete? ...to confuse you further, i really don't want to win but be perhaps thought of as holding my own against the others....

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I think you can what if yourself into a corner. The best you can do is sing your best. Skill is skill and listeners have to appreciate that and your gift. Now, if there were certain criteria to be met then either one meets that or they don't. Then you have some ammo. But if it is based on listener taste then it's hope for the best. Like the one brunette in a beauty contest of all blondes. She maybe better looking but if it is a crowd of blonde lovers...

Don't overthink it and don't what if it. Just plan on wowing them. Take the song and do it like it has never been done before. My way has two big notes imo. the last one...the song ending...is the applause note.

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If the contest is based on audience votes unless you have a whole lot of friends you are more than likely going to loose to the house band/singer no matter how good you are. If there is no houseband/singer you have as good a chance as anyone else.

Go to a few contests and see how others do. Check out the competition. Get a feel for the process.

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I'm still trying to wrap my head around the vision of you as a black female singer. For I have seen your video of you performing "Gethsemane" and I am experiencing some cognitive dissonance.


You compete by doing what you do best. And if they don't like it, there's always another competition somewhere else.

For goodness sake, Bob, you won a competition somewhere around a year ago. And you won against a trained opera singer. Remember that success and disregard the (I can't think of the right word to describe them, so I will just say "people") people you had to deal with this, at this time.

Seriously, you already rock. But you are so willing to let some (same descriptive problem as before) take away all the "atteboys" you have already achieved.

But I have the perfect song and lyrics for you to sing as an encore when you have been rejected.

"May the bird of paradise fly up your nose/ May an elephant caress you with its toes/ may your wife be plagued with runners in her hose/ may the bird of paradise fly up your nose."

In fact, I cannot stop myself from trying to find it on youtube. I used to hear it on the Dr. Demento radio show.

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To compete against the Mariah's and Celine's you might want to pick a well known tenor ballad. Or just be like the white guys with a guitar that have won the last 3 American Idols, even though were the worst technical singers of the top 10 ;) They just won people over with their charisma (according to many voters, at least).

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