Every time there's a new reality singing show on TV, I give my guilty pleasure a watch. Sure, there's the thrill of accompanying some unknown on his or her journey from struggling anonymity to superstardom. But really, there's singing. Lots and lots of singing. And some of it is even good.
I was suckered in at the get-go with American Idol, and smitten enough with it to remember more cast-offs' names from varying seasons than I'd readily care to admit. But alas, all singing shows are not alike, try as they might to emulate the star-making quality of Idol.
Up till now, I've never known anyone who was actually on one of these shows, though I've known many who have auditioned. You see, I'm a professional songwriter, and we songwriters hire singers to demo our songs. So if you're, say, me, you've worked with quite a few singers, and it's safe to say that we writers all have our favorites.
Enter one of my favorite singers of all time, Lorraine Ferro. When she told me she was going to be on The Voice this season, my first thought was "Halle-(insert expletive)-lujah! The world will finally get to hear you!"
I didn't stop to think about the show itself, which to my knowledge, has not produced a bonafide chart-topping singing star in its illustrious two seasons on television. Nor do I know the behind-the-scenes machinations that go into producing such a show. No, all I could think about was the chance millions of people were going to get to hear real artistry, soulful passion, and a voice with more color and nuance than most well-known artists that are labeled "iconic." So yes, I was excited.
I readied myself in front of the TV, eager and anxious to watch Lorraine. I suffered through blind audition after blind audition as the judges pushed their big ol' buttons and turned their chairs around for people, some of whom couldn't find the center of the pitch with a flashlight and magnifying glass. In their defense, some of them were young and cute - always a plus. But great singers - not so much.
Soon it was Lorraine's turn. I unconsciously held my breath as I watched the montage, the interview with her mother, the shots of her and her bandmates, and then it was time for her to take the stage. Come on, Lorraine, bring it!
She walked out there and began singing "Skyscraper." I'll be honest with you, I didn't know the song. But that didn't matter. She was magnificent. I got "chill bumps" as they like to say in the south.
The song was going by too quickly and I started screaming at the TV. "Push your buttons!!!" But not one judge did. No chairs turned until the song was over and they gave their perfunctory comments.
I really didn't care what the judges had to say. And I frankly don't know how Lorraine kept her sunny disposition while I was sitting at home teary-eyed. Seriously, not one chair?
I could tell you that I thought the judges made a grievous mistake. And I'm sure many would agree with me and have probably already expressed as much on blogs, and tweets, and message boards. You could argue that I'm partial because I know her, and maybe that's true. I was rooting for the home team. But I didn't know her when I first heard her sing. I just loved what I heard and was profoundly moved by it. And no matter how long I've known Lorraine, no matter how many songs I've heard her sing, that still hasn't changed. So Godspeed to The Voice. We don't share similar vocal tastes.
I caught up with Lorraine Ferro last week over dinner with music business friends. She was her usual upbeat, exuberant self - full of gratitude for the experience she told us about with great animation.
I couldn't help but think as she was talking, that she exemplified personal dignity and perseverance, and that that was not just a great lesson for the many young artists she coaches, but for any of us who get to witness it firsthand. Sure, we wanted to hear all the juicy details about the show that a five minute segment doesn't afford the viewer at home. But really, the take away for me was that, while these shows provide a shot in the dark opportunity for those who might not otherwise be afforded one, they also provide the chance to experience a person's character. And in the case of Lorraine Ferro, as with her singing, that is a beautiful thing to behold.