Daily Archives: August 11, 2009

Accessing David’s Voice

autumn

While on vacation in the Caribbean, I had more than enough leisure time and, curiously enough, not as much Internet access as I wished I had. But if one is on holiday, that should be the point, shouldn’t it?  

Not when one is nursing a David addiction! 

Fortunately, I had my ipod with me and all of David’s songs and videos to keep my ODD satiated.  I also read two good books, one of which contained a Hispanic teenaged male character who was angelic and sang like it (I swear, if Ana Castillo’s The Guardians, a novel about life on both sides of the U.S./Mexico border, ever gets made into a film, David must get cast in this role).  So, David’s image kept me company while visualizing a fascinating story.  

Still, I realize why his fans get incredibly impatient about his increased exposure to the public.  ODD is a fairly private and exclusive phenomenon, which we get to share with fellow Archies but only through our private little Archuworld, which seems to exist primarily online and at the various venue sets where David performs.  When he’s not on radio or on TV, however, it’s hard to talk casually with non-Archies about this song or that.  In short, while on vacation, I began to notice how my David world has little existence offline.

By contrast, consider my encounter with Jordin Sparks’ “Battlefield” while overseas.  While waiting for a ferry sea boat to a neighboring island, a radio was playing at the port.  Jordin Sparks’ catchy song blared on the speakers, and to my surprise, some of the sea crew on the harbor started singing the refrain.  I was tickled to see these hardened men, whose daily musical dose included dancehall, ragga, soca and calypso, knowing all the words to this piece of teen pop fluff (a piece of fluff that I really like, actually).  Of course, one will know the catchy  refrain of a song if radio keeps playing it.  There, in the oppressively hot sun, I found myself smiling at recognition of David’s fellow Idol and label mate being played overseas.

It wasn’t the last time I heard her “Battlefied” song while on vacation.  I heard it another time while sipping a margarita at a beach-front restaurant and yet another time on a car radio as I was being driven around on an island tour.  What started out as pride in Jordin Sparks soon turned to jealousy, I’m not going to lie.  I was actually jealous that a song by Jordin Sparks was getting so much airplay and, hence, exposure in the social spheres of life (during a boat commute, at a public restaurant, and on a car radio), while my David songs were only being accessed on my ipod. 

I know some Archies like the feel of an exclusive, private little Archuworld, but I’m ready for others to hear The Voice.  Because, yes, it felt good (at first) to hear the song of an American Voice in another country, and I know I would have bubbled over with pride if I had heard, say, David’s “Zero Gravity,” which would have been awesome to hear by the beach (on loud speakers and not through my headphones).  And seriously, folks! How can a DJ at a dance club – whether by the beach in the Caribbean or in the bustling nightlife of a major city – begin to offer us ZG remixes if they don’t first hear the original on radio?  

For me, it’s about accessing David’s Voice.  I used to wonder why some Archies were over-the-top in their devotion, flying from one city to the next, just to attend a David show, or shelling out the bucks during an economic recession just to attend a VIP.  Yes, this says a great deal about David’s uncanny appeal to his fans, but how much of this has to do with the simple fact that we, David’s fans, are STARVING for access to his incredible Voice?  If he were getting nearly as much radio play, would we be as hungry?  I’m not just talking about the difference between David Live and David Recorded.  Radio and TV are about normalizing the process of accessibility, while concert tours serve as the privileged space for fans to unite with their idol in a live setting.  This is also about expanding David and making his world bigger because, quite frankly, Archuworld is becoming a little too provincial, with Archies interrogating other Archies about how many concerts they’ve attended, even chastising those who have never seen him live (it’s an amazing experience and something a die-hard fan must do at least once, but only in a circumscribed, narrow little world would fans think this is something to interrogate someone about).  Now that the Archies are meeting each other at concerts, the closing-ranks and positivity “uplift” talks will start multiplying. 

If David’s world were a little bigger, and his radar more visible, I can’t imagine fans would care this much.  In all the time I’ve been a Michael Jackson fan, I never had the opportunity to see him perform live (it just never worked out).  And while he’s described as “the greatest entertainer that ever lived,” I’ve never had an MJ fan chastise me for missing out on witnessing him live.  The difference is, of course, when MJ was accessed on radio and TV with no problems, you don’t feel like you’ve missed a thing.  Again, this goes back to accessibility.

I used to think the lack of radio promotion was a label issue (and I still do), but how much of this is management?  Worse, how much of this is management with an incredibly tiny vision of David’s potential in the music world?  And I certainly don’t fault David for his concert tours.  Each performance helps him develop his craft as a musician and performer.  Even Michael Jackson said in his last interview with Ebony magazine: “What I love about touring is that it sharpens one’s craft beautifully…’Cause it takes years to become a great entertainer.  Years.  You can’t just grab some guy out of obscurity and throw ’em out there and expect for this person to compete with that person.  It’ll never work.  And the audience knows it; they can see it.  They can see it right away.”

Obviously, this is MJ’s own veiled criticism of the American Idol system, but there’s definitely a kernel of truth in what is being said here.  Which is why the touring experience is such a great opportunity for someone like David; at the same time, he’s still so green.  Die-hard Archies love this raw presentation of him, while some Archies (myself included) look forward to the time David gains more polish.  Or, more to the point, gains more professionalism.  Of my various criticisms of the Idol system, my main issue has always been its refusal to transform their “reality show” discovered talents into professionals.  They simply don’t bother, and as a result, the craft suffers.  Fortunately, David takes himself far too seriously to settle for less.  However, if David’s Voice were regularly accessed and we started hearing it more as an extended part of his professionalism, how much sharper would his skills be, or better yet, how much sharper would his management be in handling the business side of his career?

At this point, accessibility is everything.  And the more The Voice is heard, especially in varied social settings, the more we would come to value it and consider all the different aspects of presenting that Voice in the best possible light.  David is 18 and having the time of his life.  But he needs to be surrounded by more sophisticated people who can think globally about David’s potential.  And by “thinking globally,” I’m certainly not talking about how many fans he might have in the Philippines or Malaysia or the UK.  I’m talking about the long-term effects of his music and his image and providing the best possible “access” to his greatest asset: The Voice.  

Mining through the provincial community of Arch Angels to rely on promotions – from behind-the-scenes videos to badly designed websites – is not “thinking globally.”  You don’t grow that way, and accessibility is all about growth and expansion.

All this is to say: heck yeah, I want to be able to hear a David song while I’m waiting for a ferry sea boat or sipping a margarita at a beach front restaurant or dancing at a club or driving in a car.  Music makes our social world go round, and in such an environment, who better to “heal the world” than our very own David Archuleta?  

While Michael Jackson may be critical of the Idol system, he did have this to say about the future of music in the same interview: “I think the answer is just phenomenal great music.  Just reaching the masses.  I think people are still searching.  There’s not a real musical revolution going on right now either.  But when it’s there, people will break a wall down to get to it.”

And wouldn’t that be something?  To see “the masses” break down the wall to access David’s Voice?  Yep, we need a music revolution, and I would love to see David lead the way.  It would help if access to his Voice was increased.