Branding David

It’s amazing how a speculation, a quote from David, an idea – “white Chris Brown” – has become another opportunity for debate here at Soul Davidian.

A few things for newbies and those of you who might not have been here at the beginning of Soul David six years ago: this blog became the site for “open discussion” ever since I made the decision back in the summer of 2009 to let fans express themselves over the Jeff Archuleta massage parlor scandal.  When every other fan site agreed to “not speak on it,” Soul David knew some fans needed an outlet to express confusion, outrage, disappointment, skepticism, cynicism, angst, what-have-you.

The rest, as they say, is history.

So, here we are again: with everyone feeling a certain freedom to say the things that concern them. I imagine anyone who posts here, even after all these years, do so because they genuinely care about David. There is a love for the Voice but also a concern for liking/loving the individual and having conflicts about that love or admiration.  It may be painful for those who follow the LDS faith (a faith very few of us not following the religion really know all that well) to hear negative things about it. Unfortunately, when one’s church gets politically involved in targeting certain communities (as had occurred when LDS backed Proposition 8 back in 2008), it’s not surprising when certain fans really get conflicted: an artist may be apart of a church and never endorse many of the things the faith supports politically (think of Baptists disagreeing with endorsing political candidates or Catholics who disagree with the Pope), but an artist might agree with every tenet. When David kept his faith private, we didn’t have to ponder it but now we’re in a post-mission David era.

Then again, I strongly disagree with many teachings of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and that has not stopped me from loving the music of Prince! 😛

Surely, David’s religious views can be separated from branding/marketing David the artist.

Let me explain.

So, in the previous post, the above video was shared, which shows David performing the song “He Lives in You” from Disney’s The Lion King at a religious conference. I’m absolutely fascinated by the way David inflected a specifically Christian message into an otherwise universally-based pro-nature/spiritual song. And despite the sacred space of David’s performance, the many qualities he showcases – his command of the stage, his humor, his passion, and his amazing soulful licks that he can still add to the most Disneyesque “safe” song can be transformed beyond a singular church or faith.

That’s the power of the Voice, y’all! If I were a music exec, I would see vast potential here (e.g. don’t forget many of our most cherished vocalists in history started out singing for their churches!).

So, this idea that David’s label Jive may have been misguided in thinking they could market him as a “white Chris Brown” is based in a limited worldview.

Think about it.

Chris Brown, back in 2008 when David became the runner-up on American Idol, had very family-friendly pop songs playing in rotation: from “Forever” (which will be forever linked to the phenomenal viral video of that infamous wedding entrance) to “With You” to the Summer 2008 Olympics anthem “Dreamer.”  If marketing David along those lines was what Jive had in mind, not only does that make perfect business sense, but I imagine the label saw the grand potential of turning David into a bigger and more mainstream version.

Of course, Chris Brown took a huge fall after he was arrested for beating up fellow pop star Rihanna in 2009, and both he and Rihanna have revitalized their careers vis-a-vis the “bad boy” and “rebel girl” image.  There was no other way for Chris Brown to recover, once he had been exposed as a batterer. Indeed, the fact that Chris Brown did not disappear into irrelevance means that anyone from all walks of life can be branded/marketed.

Indeed, with Brown’s downfall, there was even an opportunity for David to rise up from the ashes of this fallout on Jive’s label, rescuing the label with an alternative image: that of the “good boy,” the kind and tender-hearted crooner. Who wouldn’t have eaten that up when the public decried violence against women?

In short, any persona can be branded or marketed.  There is a market for all kinds.  Just like Taylor Swift can be a “good girl” to the “bad girls” that Rihanna and her ilk represent, David could be the sweet and true dream guy.

So, what happened? Perhaps David wasn’t invested in being marketed to the masses.  Perhaps he prefers comfort to discomfort. Fame is a heavy price to pay, and being such a shy guy, I could see his own discomfort.

But then you see videos like the one above, where it’s so obvious David loves the stage and loves to sing and loves performing. Labels are just there to figure out how to “package” it to sell to more people. That’s not always a bad thing, unless the artist has decided niche markets and niche audiences are all he needs to be happy.

Posted on May 9, 2015, in public image. Bookmark the permalink. 39 Comments.

  1. Hi, HG. I love everything you just wrote. And I love how you still believe in David. Seeing this performance again, with more closeups of his facial expressions and movements just reinforces my opinion that David is a great and uniquely talented singer. I mean, just a piano and percussionist for accompaniment, and he can emote more feeling with his voice than any other current artist I can think of.

  2. Great piece Hg, and I agree with you also oliveoil!

  3. Rainbow, if you return I am curious as to how you know Jasmine and why she confided in you ?

  4. Another great thought provoking article Hg, keep them coming, 🙂
    Interesting what you said about Prince, I too, feel the same way about his religion, but yes, doesn’t prevent me from enjoying his music, which to me, is separate. It’s funny. but until Cchalo, mentioned about how devout of JW he was, I had no idea (of course I don’t follow his career, just enjoy his songs) and is it wrong for me to want that for David, to be as religious as he wants, but keep it separate from his music career?!? And by no way do I mean he can’t do that type of music, it’s part of him too, just not front and center. I guess for some that is wrong for me to think that way, but it’s omo. That voice really shouldn’t just be in a niche market, imo, but his life, his choice. As I’ve said before, it would be sad for David to want something less than what his phenomenal talent is, namely a niche career.

  5. Very well written blog hg. I am a fan of Prince. Saw him in concert once years ago and he was great. I agree with this-“Perhaps David wasn’t invested in being marketed to the masses” No he was not . I just don’t understand why someone of David’s young age does not seem motivated to use the social media (twitter,instagram, ect.) to promote his music career. He has made some tweets about a few upcoming concerts in Utah and Idaho but that is about it. lol. David seemed more motivated to promote his religion as opposed to his music career after his mission but after the last “incident” on twitter I do think he must of realized that was not such a great idea. lol.

  6. I had to re post this comment as for some reason Gina Orr’s tweet that I posted went into moderation. lol.
    Just noticed this tweet from David manager-Gina Orr- regarding Crystal and Casey
    Gina Orr
    Jam session 5/7 @CrystalBowersox & @caseybassy performing on #Stageit

    Any good reason that David could not do a stageit event with Casey or Crystal??

    peter-Hope Clark kills it with his song selection this week on AI. 🙂

      • Thanks for posting the videos of Clark,peter 🙂

      • Peter,

        I have to ask. Did I understand that this song which was performed brilliantly by Clark was “chosen” for him to sing? Don’t you think it was a strange if not ironic song choice considering Clark’s revelation about how religious he is? Was this a test of sorts to see how he would react or if he would even agree sing a song from one of the most notorious & sexually explicit movies ever made (so I hear). Was it another attempt to “throw him under the bus”?

        What a shock it must have been for TPTB when Clark rose to the occasion and absolutely killed it on stage. Wow.

      • I think he said that God wanted him to sing this type of songs (as opposed to contemporary Christian music). But I believe “Earned It” was chosen by the judges, yes. I’m not watching AI, but based on the clips I have seen, they are actively trying to bus him so that Scott Borchetta would not need to make an album with him.

  7. Great & interesting insights by HG. The last paragraph says it all though, IMO.

    “But then you see videos like the one above, where it’s so obvious David loves the stage and loves to sing and loves performing. Labels are just there to figure out how to “package” it to sell to more people. That’s not always a bad thing, unless the artist has decided niche markets and niche audiences are all he needs to be happy”.

    Therein lies the rub. From all indications so far, David seems to have found his niche market
    and his niche audience in and around Utah because that’s where most people live who “understand” him, his beliefs and his way of life. Eventually, he may need to expand to other areas but will he want to?

    The video above IMO shows how brilliant David is at turning a song into a religious or spiritual experience rather than what the song was actually written about. He may continue to choose secular songs which he can use in a religious context, albeit in a very subliminal way, for his shows. He can be looked at as a “secular artist” but the reality will be he will be using music to promote his beliefs, subliminally of course. His new music I think, will leave no room for debate as it most likely will be deeply spiritual infused with his own religious beliefs, even the fun up-tempo songs if he records any.

    Just my own speculation.

    • Exactly what I was thinking, Red Robin. Looking at the songs he’s performed since he returned, and perhaps even the BEGIN. album, gives us a pretty good hint about his future musical direction. Even though “Nunca Pense” and “Glorious” are specifically for his church, they aren’t specifically religious. Who would have guessed that he would use “Mirrors” to inspire family history buffs? There will probably always be a hymn or two in his performances, (not to mention that he’ll never again perform on Sunday), but he’s not about the hard sell.

  8. Have to say that I love the clarity that HG’s posts bring to the discussion!

  9. Yes rainbow…I would also like to know how you found this info about jasmine and David. And how she knew David was attracted to her.

  10. Re: HG’s comment on David preferring comfort vs. the discomfort of fame. I don’t disagree, but I’d point out that he had to approach strangers about religion everyday on his mission and he wasn’t only willing to do it, but thrived. IMO he’ll gladly step out of his comfort zone and be as big as he be, if he has the kind of career that he feels is worth it.

  11. Yes it seems in some ways that David wants a “do over” for this career so that he can be known for being a conservative Mormon artist rather than what Idol or Jive attempted to brand him to be, or what his fans might have assumed he wanted to be. Arists reinvent themselves all the time so the only part I don’t get is why David always seems so tortured and miserable about this stuff. Those blogs were so depressing especially. Shouldn’t he be happy to finally be living his life on his own terms? There are endless strories of artists rebeling against their record label after their first album to break out and be more like the artist they truly feel they are. Usually fans embrace anything that is authentic. In David’s case, he still seems to be keeping a lot of what’s really going on to himself, so it makes it harder to tag along on his musical journey. I’ve never gotten how secretive he is about his career-related stuff.

    • Which is why I wonder if he is doing this out of obligation more than because he really wants to. As I have said before, I think he really wants to become a singing missionary more than anything else. Or at least have something to do with the church. Because IMO, if he was really excited about getting his career back on track, he would share more. Unless he is trying to stay focused on writing. Or maybe he wants to surprise us. Idk

  12. Obviously, the kind of career which will be “worth it” to him is one where David will be successful without having to step out of his “comfort zone”. All the appearances he’s done since his return have been within that comfort zone.

    Singing secular songs like Mirrors at the Roots Tech event was another brilliant way he used a very popular & recognizable song to promote his church’s stance on the importance of ancestry researching. Of course, he also sang his own song DRA because IMO, it would have been strange for him to sing a cover when he has songs of his own he’s never performed live. The bottom line though, I think whatever David does musically will have undertones of him further promoting his church. I picture David “mentioning” little anecdotes he experienced on his mission during breaks between songs in his shows. He may love the stage, performing and music, but he loves his church more. Which brings the question

    It will be very interesting to see how this year plays out. David has been known to be unpredictable so anything can happen. I suspect this is one reason some of us are still here. His story is fascinating and reads like a book complete with mystery & intrigue. We can’t help but keep turning the pages to see what comes next.

  13. cotton candy

    Donny has been able to retain and successfully flaunt his talent, sexiness, and charming flirty personality while maintaining a Mormon life and marriage so hoping maybe David can do the same.Main difference I see between Donny and David is Donny being an extremely confident extrovert and David being a private serious introvert.

    • Well now…as for Donny, I guess “sexiness” is in the eye of the beholder. Never followed Donny or Marie. Never really cared much about them or their music. Just not my cup-o-tea.

      One thing I do know is that Donny didn’t go on a mission. I think I read the reason he chose not to go was because it wouldn’t have been safe since he was already too famous & popular. Give me a break. If he had gone, chances are it could have ended his career. No career as a teen idol, no TV Variety Show with Marie, no hit records. And no Las Vegas Show. But he still would have his Mormon life, marriage & family. Coming from a “show biz” family, I think his parents knew two years away on a mission was too big a risk to take.

      At any rate, Donny may be a big star in Utah & the Vegas scene, but vocally, David as young as he is, can sing rings around the more experienced Donny. IMO.

      • It was said that the church could not guarantee Donny’s safety and advised against him going. Back the there was not such an emphasis on going on mission like today either. It was encouraged but wasn’t a make it or break it type thing. I believe most of Donny’s older brothers did go. Not sure about his younger brother. I read up on it when David went on his mission.

        Now, if a young man doesn’t go on mission, he is practically ostracized. No upstanding Mormon girl will marry a boy who isn’t an RM. And in the tight knit suburbs of SLC, where most LDS live and work, the best job opportunities will go to those who served missions.

      • Red Robin, Donny and Marie have found their niche as being entertainers, not necessary for their great voices, imo. I agree with you about David singing rings around both of them. Both seem to have good business sense. Both went on DWTS, to really kind of rebut their careers and it has seemed to work nicely.
        I remember the Jackson Five and The Osmond Brother being two big groups and thinking, although the Osmond’s were cute and dance well, just didn’t have the same phenomenal talent that the Jackson Five had, well, I guess because of Michael.
        At one time I thought it would help David’s career to go on DWTS and yes, I still do, but, hum, I doubt that would be something he would even entertain if indeed he was asked to do the show.

      • Red Robin, can you explain why, if you have never cared much about Donny Osmond and his music, you have thought about him to the extent that you conclude that “If he had gone (on a Mission), chances are it could have ended his career. No career as a teen idol, no TV Variety Show with Marie, no hit records. And no Las Vegas Show.”

        On what do you base these “conclusions”? How do you “conclude ” that a Mission would have ended his career? Donny was already a certified superstar, both in music and TV. He readily sold out huge venues like Madison Square Garden, his records almost always were hits and sold millions, and he and his sister were ,by far, the youngest celebrities ever to host a regular prime time variety show. Elvis left the music scene for 2 years to go into the army, and he returned bigger and more popular than ever.

        What’s with you people? You’ll make up anything, with no basis in fact, to advance your notion that going on a Mission for an LDS performer is the “kiss of death” and David’s having gone on his Mission has spelled the end of his once promising career. Are you saying that Donny “knew” this and avoided going on a Mission because he, like you, knew it would end his career. And you know this, how? You “read it somewhere”. Please.

        You have presented nothing but your hocus pocus as “evidence ” that David made a foolish and fatal professional mistake by following his heart and leaving his career for the 2 years that he was away. Can you come up with one piece of documented fact to back up this claim, or does it all, as I suspect, exist solely as a manifestation of your anger towards David for going on a Mission that cramps your style?

  14. I think Donny and Marie Osmond are a great example of how to be successful as Mormons. In my eyes though, David is completely opposite to them. They clearly love showbiz and promoting themselves and are still working hard on stage today. They enthusiastically love their fans too. From what I can tell, their careers and their Mormon identity are separate things to them. It’s very possible to be clean-cut and PG-rated while still being “in the game.” David insists on being beyond G-rated though, and completely OUT of the game, seeking no professional help, having no real showbiz connections etc. He is all about staying under the radar firmly in his comfort zone and keeping to himself. Like Red Robin said below, he seems to love his church the most, not singing and performing and everything that goes along with it.

    • I agree. Also, I checked Donny’s twitter and a recent interview and found no mention of his church or the recent Mormon General Conference. All he has is a “Beliefs” tab on his website, which has questions and answers which, I’m told, are answered by someone other than Donny.

    • I agree Anonymous. Donny and Marie are both very savvy about the music industry. They have made smart career moves and made the right connections.

  15. David just seems wound way too tight. Even in the joy filled singing performances there is a certain self-consciousness. Nothing wrong with being a bit awkward, but it seems to go beyond that sometimes. And yes, where is the joy? He does show some when singing and speaking for his church, but his messages have been of sadness and regret mostly. I don’t know. I would almost worry about him if I knew him personally. I also wonder if the longer he remains single, will the LDS embrace him as much? I remember reading that the people who “rise up through ranks” in his church are married men.

  16. That is very interesting that men who serve missions and get married get preferential treatment within and outside the church. I never knew that and would be curious to hear more details if you have any. Do you think the church helped him secure these upcoming shows for him?

    I agree that David seems very tightly wound and he also seems to lack any sense of humor. He seems to have the weight of the world on his shoulders, but after all of these years, I still have no idea why that is. It’s one thing to try to be a good example to those around you and it’s another to put your allegiance to your church above your own personal growth and happiness.

    • Anonymous, you can google to find a lot of info on RM’s and LDS culture. One particluar blog called “I Go By Ari” The young LDS woman actually discusses how she took “must be returned missionary” off her list of requirements for a future spouse once she realized that she put his on her list due to the culture she grew up in etc. Interesting stuff for sure.

  17. cotton candy

    Jazzy looks good as a blond!how did they (jazzy, amber, daniel) end up so seemingly different from David?

    • I think that David still has his dry sense of humor, it’s just not so much on display these days now that he’s communicating so little. Jazzy is planning to go on a mission, so she’s like David in that respect.

      • I agree cc halo. David hasn’t lost his sense of humor as we can see in the video HG posted for her article.

        Question for anyone who may know. Is it more encouraged & expected for an LDS male to marry in his twenties & start a family asap than it is for an LDS woman? I remember Kendra Lowe & very attractive, was single way back in 2009 when she toured with David. She’s still single, still quite lovely, talented in several instruments and of course still a devout Mormon.

        I guess I wonder why we are assuming David will get married sooner rather than later because it’s expected of all LDS. Is that really true or an assumption?

        It’s really late. Happy Mother’s Day to all the mom’s & foster mom’s.

      • Red Robin, I am wondering if women don’t need to be married since they hold no official titles in the church as far as I’ve seen. No idea if this is true, just wondering. I would think most LDS women wish to be married since it is such a family centered culture. Maybe Kendra just enjoyed putting her career first, who knows.

        Happy Mother’s Day!!!!

  18. Just finished reading a blog posting about the cult of the RM. Fascinating responses that may offer insight into David’s actions since returning. Several comments about RM’s being treated like rock stars in Utah. One person said he had experienced special graces on his mission and was terrified they would not continue if he didn’t live as perfect life upon return as he felt was required. I would link it but I think that puts one in moderation?

    Off to lunch with the family now. Was killing time while someone took their time getting ready LOL.

    • Interesting, makes me think, David was already thought of as a ‘rock star’ can you imagine what his status is, cream of the crop. I don’t believe in proselytizing so it’s very hard for me to wrap my head around any of this being a good thing.

    • True, cq, the young girls in Utah were already crazy for David, now it’s so insane that even after he said in the last conference that he didn’t like the screams and ‘marry me’s,’ they immediately went out of control with it anyway.

      Reading the blog Anne suggested shakes me up like reading the missionary blogs did during David’s mission. If an educated, enlightened Mormon blogger needs to say that men who didn’t complete a mission can be still be good people, what must they think of people who aren’t even Mormon? (And some of the responses are scolding her for even saying that). A close look at the culture he grew up in and embraces so closely, explains a lot about David’s mindset now and it’s not encouraging. Check out the blogger’s recent post about Obama. OMG.

  19. Ok here’s one for ya. Remember how David would always wish everyone a Happy Mother’s Day? well he has been home for 2 Mother’s Days now. Both of them he wished his own mom a HMD but NOT anyone else. Now…most of his fan base are mothers so why hasn’t he mentioned his fan base??? makes you wonder if he really even wants us around. I don’t get it. Can someone please explain why? am I missing something?

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