I’m continuously horrified by watching the career progression of a prodigiously talented singer from the Philippines trying to ascend through the ranks of the Secular Corporate American Music System.
Let’s call it SCAMS for short.
Charice Pempengco is the real-deal and everyone who knows her story, including the Ultimate Fairy Godmother Oprah Winfrey, wants this girl to win. Raised by a single mother who abandoned their abusive father which doomed them to the slums of the Philippines as a result, Charice and Her Voice entered singing contests starting at the crazy young age of seven (read: Michael Jackson) to help support her family.
It is not hyperbole to say this small child had the vocal ability of Whitney Houston and Celine Dion as adults, before she was even ten years old. By stroke of luck or fate or both, one of the more than 100 talent contests she entered in her homeland was filmed, and a year later a video of her singing “I Will Always Love You” with unbelievable vocal power hit Youtube. A producer at Oprah Winfrey saw it and Charice was promptly “rescued”– whisked to Chicago and onto the Oprah show with a title bestowed by her Fairy Godmother as “The Most Talented Girl In The World.”
Charice subsequently wowed the world through Oprah, met her idol Celine, and got a record deal with Celine’s one-time producer David Foster – someone with a gigantic track record in the past but who hasn’t had a #1 contemporary (read: young) POP hit in over a decade. But he could immediately secure Charice an arranged marriage with Warner Brothers/Reprise through his imprint distributed by the corporate behemoth, called 143 Records. The SCAMS still think you actually need a record deal to become a legitimate recording star. Meanwhile, she had already broken worldwide from the internet and TV.
How can the Pempengco family possibly navigate through our matrix? There’s been many others before them, the story as old as Hollywood itself: what’s yo’ dream? Charice and her mom were happy to be out of the ghetto and on the road to hers. There is no assigning blame for those humble desires.
And so it was. Crusty Foster of all people, whose production consistently appeals to the 40+ demo, emerges as the sudden Svengali to a ridiculously talented 16 year-old girl. His most recent proteges are Josh Groban and Michael Buble. While both are credible and successful, they aren’t relevant to pop radio at all– we’re talkin’ straight grandpa jams.
Like it or not, Charice’s peers and main chart competitors are kids her age, hello— Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus. Except she has more raw talent than the both of them, the Jonas Brothers and damn near every Idol to hit the stage rolled together into one boring Seacrest recap. This is not up for argument from anyone with ears.
It is such a missed opportunity for the whole music business, one collapsing and needing to figure out every single way they can develop authentic talent that will grow alongside a 70-million-strong Millennium Generation, it makes me want to scream.
The reality is: if you don’t have a hit song it doesn’t matter how well you sing.
But the few who have that incredible gift, with once-in-a-lifetime uniqueness (demonstrated by her heritage alone) are the artists who change EVERYTHING.
That is why Charice Pempengco is so important.
Showbiz is who ya know, kids. David Foster is a close friend of Oprah’s and I believe the ONLY person in the music industry she dare interact with besides Russell Simmons, who doesn’t deal with people who actually sing, and hasn’t had an active role in the business since selling his Def Jam label in the mid 90’s. Applying this to the Pempengco scenario that’s called “Winning By Default”.
And so away Charice went. Into the studio to record her “American Debut” album. It was promptly released about a year later in May of 2010, to little fanfare. The same month she went back on Oprah’s show and performed one of the songs from that album called “Note To God,” written by pop powerhouse Diane Warren. But in a truly mystifying move, Warner Brothers/Reprise Records decided to release an entirely different song to radio– called “Pyramid”– which had a whopping three-week airplay life at the contemporary pop/rhythm formats. The main reason given by radio programmers for the song’s failure and lack of connection to the coveted 12-24 music demo? The song just sounded too adult next to…..hit music by peers Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus.
But what has happened since, is a fascinating mix of amazing and absurd.
More than anything it seems to be slowly morphing into a truly sad metaphor for how twisted up our values are in this country and how unbelievably disconnected they are, especially when we impose them on innocent people.
The most heart-wrenching part of this tale could potentially be the defining moment for Charice. At the end of June with her “Pyramid” single now off the charts and her debut album/aka dream languishing in obscurity, it was announced that Charice was added as a cast member to the smash hit television show Glee. No question this is a phenomenal, career-saving break for her.
Yet instead of embracing what will be her mark of greatness — Pinoy Power — she is already being taught to alter what makes her special. In a bombshell interview distributed by the Associated Press, this not-yet-media-savvy girl innocently reveals that in preparation for her television role she is getting cosmetic procedures to “look fresh on camera”. She is just 18.
Apparently this includes “non-invasive” procedures like Botox and Thermage to “make her naturally round face more narrow,” according to her plastic surgeon.
There is only one message this sends to impressionable young people, to a whole generation that is already overwhelmingly ethnic, of mixed heritages too like black and white, white and hispanic, black and asian, and an endless combination from there: Ethnic Is Ugly. Nothing could be further from the truth, yet here we have the most transparent example of it. A prodigiously talented Asian girl being told how to compete with another insanely talented Italian/Spanish girl for the biggest hit television show in America……WTH.
There is no other appropriate response except to put it all on BLAST.
“All people will be anticipating, ‘How will Charice look?” she says in the same interview, “is she good enough to pit against (Glee character) Rachel Berry? So of course there is tremendous pressure.”
Not one time does Charice mention her voice, her talent, her spirit and energy, and how THAT will pit so beautifully against Lea Michele’s (who plays Rachel Berry on Glee) amazing voice, talent, spirit and energy. These are things that can’t be altered, the marks of a True Star, the qualities that REALLY MATTER.
It is because of those intangibles that the stars are able to jump off the screen. Somebody tell Charice it ain’t really what it seems….
Author: divalina, xomba.com
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