Daily Archives: June 1, 2009

The Measure of Success

david_elleIt’s almost a year since various news sources and blogs announced that David signed with Jive Records, and in that time, we have seen so much growth in David.  We’ve also seen new directions some of us just did not expect when David signed up with this label and, later, with his management, Azoff.

What hasn’t changed much is that wonderful, infectious, bubbling-over sheer joy that David exhibits when he sings.  No where is this most evident than in David’s recent public appearances when he sang for an intimate gathering of fans at the Z100-sponsored concert at Tribeca last Thursday and on Saturday when he was invited on stage by Reo Speedwagon.  Whether in a small setting or large one, David now “owns” the stage, his Voice unleashed in all its powerful glory.

It’s because of that joy that I’m left to wonder what our vision of “success” is for David.  I remember getting into some heated arguments this past year about the “direction” Jive is taking him.  There were those who wanted to hear the inspirational David we were introduced to on American Idol.  There were those who wanted David to fit into the pop music crowd of young adult performers.  There were those of us who wanted “soulful” David (*raises hand*).  I don’t remember any Arch Angel wanting Disney David.  Not a one.  However, the arguments that arose had more to do with those of us who thought the “Disney David” was necessary in order to get to Soul David or Inspirational David or Pop David, while others of us (*again raises hand*) thought this detour was a waste of time and an indication that his label/management really didn’t understand David’s musical identity.

Fast forward, and the fanbase awaits his summer tour with one of Disney’s kids, Demi Lovato (and as “opening act” no less) and his second album.  And we have pretty much resigned ourselves to what the label/management has in mind for him.  Like many signed artists, there isn’t much one can do about the situation, so you live and let live, or you live and learn.  Most of what I’ve learned, while driving on the Archuleta Express, is that music is joy, and David embodies joy whenever he sings.

I have no doubt that, if we are to measure success, David’s career is just that.  And it’s not because he’s earned $1.3 million or sold a platinum single and 700,000 units of his debut album.  It’s not even because he got to perform at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, appear at the Kids Choice Awards, Teen Choice Awards, the American Music Awards, or the Latino Inauguration Ball.  It’s not because he made a cameo appearance in two popular kids’ shows like iCarly and Hannah Montana.  And it’s certainly not because he toured in England and Southeast Asia.  No.  It’s because he gets to earn a living doing what he loves to do, and that’s singing.

Listening in and often participating in discussions with other Archies, we all have our own dreams for David’s success.  There are those who think he’s the next Elvis, there are those who think he’s the next Justin Timberlake.  There are those who anxiously await for his world domination.  The David that I see singing in the videos recorded at Tribeca and even the Reo concert is a David who couldn’t care less about being the next (fill in the blank).  Just give him a mic and a keyboard (and some room for artistic growth), and it’s all good.

Our anxieties of course are not unwarranted.  It’s no secret that many Idol alumni don’t get much respect in much of the music world (outside of Carrie Underwood who functions in a different universe with country music), and their careers are often perceived as short-lived.  Many are already expecting last year’s contestants to fade away from public memory now that we have a new crop of Idol winners and runners-up.  Because of this fact, Idol fanbases get terrified that our Idols will fade away and that we’ll never hear from them again.  Yet, here is David giving us a constant update about himself via twitter, blogs, vlogs, and texts.  Here is David jettisoning to the next tour stop.  Here is David planning a new album.  He may not be “out there” writ large, but those of us who follow him can say we’re content (although, if I were not on the Internet, would I have forgotten him?).

Record label contracts are never a sure thing; one day, you’re selling like hotcakes, another day, you’re not.  Sometimes, that one bad day is reason enough to get dropped, regardless of whether or not you’re destined to be the next Elvis.  No one in the fanbase is ready for David to fade away; so determined are some of us that he never becomes the Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor he plans for “if music doesn’t work out,” we’ve already promised to finance his next album if ever his label drops him.

I just want David to keep making music because it’s what he loves and it’s what we love from him.  Who could ask for a more satisfying symbiotic relationship between an artist and his fans?  Nonetheless, I’m very clear that the media that used to dominate the 20th century – radio, cinema, and television – have undergone significant changes to stay relevant in the 21st century.  I have no worries about David’s future because, for someone as well-versed in digital communication as he is, this will most certainly translate into new ways of getting his music and performances out there.

He used television (American Idol) and a label (Jive) to get him launched in the public sphere.  He uses digital technology to connect with his fans.  Somewhere down the road is a brand new medium ready to be discovered, and I have no doubt David’s Voice will revolutionize how we listen to music.

David Letting Loose on Stage with Reo

Remember David tweeting about joining Reo Speedwagon on stage and having “an amazing time”?  Here’s the video (thanks to Snarky Archies) – he’s just rocking out, is he not? 😀