Singing for 'Million'
Of all the artistic interests I have studied, singing I've studied the longest. However, singing, I've performed the least. I'll tell you why; I can sing, but I can't dance.
I wanted to be an opera singer when I was fourteen, but really I just had a crush on Charles Dance's performance in 'Phantom of the Opera'. Ironic, since I studied at the musical theater studio at Tisch, CAP21. Put me in a club with some electronic pop, strobe lights and great friends, I'm all club-dancing confidence.
But bring me in for a choreographed dance callback for a musical after the singing audition; and I'm breaking down in tears of mass hysteria outside my apartment terrified of the on-coming humiliation.
It's not that I can't move. I can't remember the moves. I've always been fit and flexible. And I suppose if I could have afforded to stay in dance classes after college I could have been better.
But you know what? Waste not what you know you got! Just because I'm not a Broadway dancer, doesn't mean I can't find some way to sing somehow.
Mamma Mia, Spelling Bee, Rent, Miss Saigon; these are just a few of the Broadway shows and national tours I've auditioned for while in New York. And my voice teacher back home is no hack either.
So, I decided to call up a friend of mine who is well versed in the music biz, take him out for a night of karaoke (just keeping it casual) and sing for him. Sing for Million, also known as, Billy Million.
Mr. Million toured with Ike & Tina Turner, Smokey Robinson, and The Righteous Brothers to name a few. But the point was that I hadn't sung for anyone on a professional level in a while.
I was a bit nervous. All those childhood ninny-voices of criticism and self-deprecation come crawling in out of nowhere. How is it those voices make you forget you're a pro and that you CAN do this?!
So I did. A few Kelly Clarkson hits, some Alicia Keys, Tiffany, Cyndi Lauper, Beth Hart and a musical duet later, I had impressed the Million and most importantly, myself. Quit hiding Ann!
"I'm surprised at the power you have behind your voice," he admits, "and you're well trained, there's a lot you can do, and the fact that you read music, you're already ahead of the game."
You, yourself, are the most critical of those talents, those interests that mean the most to you. And singing has always been my precious.
I remember in grade school, this pack of 'mean girls' (literally) that I was friends with, and I (it was a small town) tried to form a band.
It was so alarming that the leader of the mean girl pack snatched the microphone out of my hand. I didn't exactly figure out till afterwards that she may have been jealous. I was singing Samantha Fox's 'Naughty Girls', who need love too. True story.
Mr. Million then shares with me a perspective on the music world that I never learned in school.
"Broadway singers can sing anything. They can make a song popular but they can't make a hit. A great 'commercial' singer (aka pop, r&b etc.) can make a hit because it's not just the song, it's who you are."
He's got a point. Having auditioned and sung in the rooms of Chelsea Studios, Bernard Telsey and Munjoli Casting for years in New York, you realize great voices are a dime a dozen.
But a hit singer is the total package; the essence of who the person is in the sound of the voice. It's not just the song that is sold, it's the person.
And I begin to wonder who am I as a singer? And what is it really that I desire to sing? Afterwards, I also thought to myself, "If everyone else knows you can Ann, then why don't you?" I think it's time I learned the lyrics to that song.
"I keep on fallin'...," That's me in the pic of one night of karaoke with my New York buds a while back. Yeah, I'm not twelve there.
(photos courtesy of Billy Million and Thomas Ashton)
Yours Truly -- Ann Hu