Music is as a part of me as breathing. I don't just enjoy music, I need it.
So it would follow that I enjoy watching programs about music, and the people who make it. Anyway, that's my excuse for the fact that I have been watching the third installment of MTV's 'Making the Band.'
Now, admittedly, as I watch this reality show about 5 girls, chosen by Puff Daddy/P Diddy/Diddy/Puffy Combs, I have to ignore a lot of things I don't like. While the girls themselves seem quite sweet, the clothes they wear (such as they are), their choreography (handled by the insanely talented Laurie Ann Gibson), and the lyrics to their records (usually NOT written by them) all personify the adage that Diddy himself unflinchingly states in one of the first episodes: "Sex Sells."
In my interest in understanding what it really takes in 2006 to become an artist or group, I ignore much of this. My real curiosity is with the music. The hows and whys and whats of when a record gets made. I enjoy learning about the process.
So I was really looking forward to the show as it began to follow these girls into the studio. But the more I watched, the more it became clear to me that what these girls do in the studio is exactly what they are told.
They walk into the booth after a quick run through with the producer. For one of the first records, the producer was a giant of a man named "Pooh Bear". Mr. Bear cues the music track, and the girl in the booth will sing a line or two. Then, Mr. Bear will sing it to her the way he wants it sung, and tell her to do it again. This will happen over and over again until he has her down singing it with exactly the tone, timing, annunciation, vibrato, and pitch he wants it in.
So, I ask myself: is this the "artist's" record? Is this the group "expressing themselves"? I've come to the conclusion that in today's music world--at least in the pop genre--the record belongs to the producer. The artist is merely a featured guest.
Now, I am not saying that Pooh Bear and his contemporaries aren't talented. I'm not saying they don't know how to put together a song that sounds great and will be a hit, either. They absolutely know what they are doing, and have the resumes to prove it. But whether or not the record is a hit seems to have very little to do with who is singing it. It's also the reason why so often when I turn on the radio, I have no idea who is singing something because it sounds so very similar to everybody else.
And as a music lover, I gotta say--I feel a little bit cheated.