Tuesday, July 18, 2006

In fairness...she also has a very pretty guitar.

Today I heard Cheyenne Kimball do her thing (which appeared to be "singing," though I'm still not sure) on one of the morning shows. She was dreadful. This is not a matter of opinion or taste,* because I'm not talking about the song she chose to sing or the general style in which she sang it. I'm talking about, among other things, the fact that she was flat--ear-hurtingly off-key--on most of her purported high notes. I'm talking about the fact that midway through, she got lost in the music, such that she was at first slightly behind the beat, then just ahead of it, in a clear attempt to overcompensate. I suppose one might argue that Kimball was doing this intentionally, as part of her "aesthetic"--but, you know, we're not talking here about someone like, say, Diana Krall, who's a serious songstress, knows her way around the music, and can produce special, original vocal stylings. We're talking about a (just barely) 16-year-old nymph whose chief musical attribute seems to be that she's cute as a button.

This is of interest because so much of what we see in pop culture skews our sense of what's worth admiring, and therefore, too, what we try to emulate. We don't even know how to "self-actualize" anymore, because we have so few models of what genuine "actualization" even is. (Consider that in 2003, NBC named Ms. Kimball, then 12, "America's most talented kid"!) So, young people who aspire to singing greatness see someone like Kimball and think, "Hey, I can do that!" (In truth, they couldn't do much worse.) We have no coherent standards anymore. We buy albums because the singer is cute. We buy books because the writer is well-known from his or her activities in some other enterprise, even when the other enterprise is criminal in nature. We bestow obscene wealth upon Hollywood types who adapt movies from video games and Disney rides.

Kimball's debut CD, just out, is titled The Day Has Come. Not for you, Cheyenne. Not for you.

* I spent "my first life" as a jazz musician (sax, flute, clarinet) in New York City and environs, circa 1967. I was also the featured soloist in various collegiate ensembles during my years at Brooklyn College. I may not be John Coltrane, but I know when a singer is off-key.


Cosmic Connie said...

Steve, this time you have gone too far. You are really selling this little girl short. You forgot to mention the one other big thing she has going for her: a cute, trendy-sounding name. Any young person who isn’t named after a city, state or street these days just isn’t anyone. Cheyenne. Savannah. Austin. Dallas. Madison. Dakota (no offense intended to Dakota Fanning, a truly talented young actress). Oh, I suppose it will be a while before Hoboken, Hackensack, Little Rock or French Lick become as trendy, namewise…but give them time! (I myself once named a litter of miniature dachshund pups after towns in Wyoming, just ’cos I was born there, even though the pups weren’t. And yes, I named one of the pups Cheyenne. I have to say that little creature could sing better than Ms. Kimball.)

I think this passage from the bio page of Cheyenne Kimball’s web site says it all (warning: put your volume control on “mute,” or you will be blasted out of the room by her…um…vocalizations):

“In more ways than one, being grounded continues to be an important part of teenage singer-songwriter, Cheyenne Kimball's life.

“When she was eight, she wrote her first song - entitled ‘All I Want Is You’ - after being sent to her room for saying something mean to her older sister. ‘I remember writing it and hoping it would get me out of trouble,’ she recalls. ‘I haven't stopped writing songs or getting into trouble since.’”

Wow, that really makes her sound fascinating.

Hey, the music industry (like the publishing industry) is going to keep churning out nondescript or downright crappy product as long as there’s a demand for it. And if there isn’t a demand, they’ll work to create it. That’s why God made “mute” buttons.

Steve Salerno said...

Dead-on as usual, CosCon. Re one of the other celebri-tykes that you mention: I have often said that if screenwriters feel compelled to write into their hot new Dakota Fanning "vehicle" ONE MORE SCENE in which Ms. Fanning is required to scream That Scream Of Hers, I will personally seek her out and give her a reason to scream. (NOTE to members of law enforcement: I am kidding. But oh how I wish I weren't.)

Steve Salerno said...

P.S. Ditto Julia Roberts' "girlish" guffaw/giggle, which, I'm sure, if I were Dakota Fanning, would make me want to scream, were I to have to share a scene with her....