There is [can be] a massive gap between being an honest artist and being an entertainer.
Last night, I was performing some Jazz and Soul at a bar.. the crowd sipped their wine and nodded away, feeling the vibe but not getting overly into it. We were serving more the purpose of nice background atmospheric music than entertainment per se.
We had a request for a Lionel Richie song from one of our regulars, so I had a go at “Hello” and their ears pricked up. This was then followed by renditions of ‘If I ain’t got you’ by Alicia Keys, ‘Someone like you’ by Adele, and ‘I will always love you’ by Whitney Houston. A whole lot of ballad!
Now, I wouldn’t normally sing ballads in a bar, but at that moment, I sensed this was what they needed. Sure enough, after every song was a storm of applause. They stopped in their tracks, stared as I sang and after declared the songs better than the originals! (definitely the wine speaking sir, but thank-you very much!)
It got me thinking about the difference between being an honest artist, you know, true to yourself and who you are, what you like- and being a entertainer. Sometimes these two things don’t mix. I like all those songs and performers, but ballads aren’t really ‘my thing’. Usually I might say, ‘sorry not in my repertoire’. But who would I be fooling? I know the words to those songs (kind of). Sometimes you should mind your ego and do what will entertain the people, after all, that’s what you’ve been paid to do. I have to admit, once we finished and I could see how much they had enjoyed the music, I had no regrets about catering to their taste. Like any normal healthy human being, it gives me great pleasure to make others happy – and at the same time I had a nice vocal challenge and work out!
Will I become a ballad singer? Not for now, one day perhaps! Will I perform ballads again? If it suits, yes.
The week before we had some real Jazz heads in the building from the States, so I could scat, jam and go crazy with less known standards, and they were really appreciating that! They didn’t want to hear any pop! Respect! Last week I was an honest performer and an entertainer. That doesn’t always happen, sometimes you have to compromise a little on your song choice if you want to please the crowd..
I’ll leave you with the legend herself…