Monday, March 21, 2011

Losing My Religion Over YouTube

When I was in grade seven, my class, 7C, was given the task of performing a Shabbat themed play for the entire Senior Division (Grades 6-8). At Bialik Hebrew Day School, or Bialkatraz as we liked to call it, each class got to produce one holiday themed play a year. 7B did a Purim play, 5A did a Passover play etc… twas a gay old time.

I have NO idea how these things were randomized, or whether there was a throw-down in the Teacher’s Lounge every September: “Chava you had the Chanukkah play last year, bitch; this year MY class is going to do it and our version of Peter Paul and Mary’s Light One Candle is going to blow yours out of the water.” [RIP Mary] I don't know how, but it happened.

I will also tell you that these plays were a HUGE deal. Like huge… all consuming for at least a month. As students we were so serious about our performances that I actually can’t watch movies like Centre Stage, because I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; people cried over leads, there were costumes and sets and while retrospectively, they all sucked obviously, at the time I think we felt like we were performing at Radio City Music Hall [You know how shit rolls in grade school].

Anyway… so the 7C Shabbat play; the year was 1994, it was springtime for Hitler and for some reason my teacher, a former Israeli military officer, natch, Rivka, decided to assign me a solo.

No one to this day, is sure what possessed her to do this. But what I can tell you is that at some point during rehearsals and again, let me tell you, this shit was rehearsed over and over again, Rivka turned to me, stripped me of my solo and admonished me in front of the entire class declaring: Yonatan (Hebrew for Jonathan) you sing like a goat. Colour me mortified. I also had horrible Harry Pottery Size glasses; something like 10 years before anyone knew who Harry Potter was so clearly Grade 7 was traumatic enough without being name-checked to a bleating mammal.

In turn, at parent teacher night, don’t think that Papa Len and Sim Sim Sima didn't tell Rivka off. Because they did. “Our sweet, sensitive [sensitive is code-word for gay in retrospect] son,” they let Rivka know, “performs better via positive reinforcement.” Now in some ways my parents are right… I do perform better via positive reinforcement, but, to tell you the truth my parents and I weren’t shocked that my solo was taken away; really what came as a surprise was that I was given a solo in the first place.

My entire family KNEW I couldn’t sing. I could never sing and let's call a spade a spade - puberty certainly didn't help matters.

I started thinking about my brief career as a soloist about week ago, but these thoughts were interrupted as I witnessed the world change forever.

Yes there was a major earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown in Japan; Libya’s Mohamar Gadaffi continued to bring the cray cray to North Africa and all of this shit that no one understands went down in Ottawa about contempt and the like.

But more importantly the world met a young rapscallion chanteuse extra-ordinaire named Rebecca Black, singer of the saccharinely mindless ditty, Friday. Which is, stop the presses, about the day of the week, colloquially known as Friday. Black's song is an ode to "looking forward to the weekend" from a chick who probably doesn’t know that when I was her age TGIF meant Full House, Family Matters and Step by Step.

Anyway - what hasn’t been said about the 13 year-old Rebecca Black that hasn’t already entered internet meme lore? At this point R. Black may in fact be bigger then Antoine Dodson, he of the “they raypin erybuddy” fame of last summer. My favourite is the Facebook group entitled: That awkward moment when Rebecca Black doesn't know which seat to take.

What I find fascinating, however, is that Rebecca Black, who admitted to Good Morning America that indeed she doesn’t have the best singing voice in the world, somehow convinced her parents to drop $2000 so that she could have her own music video and song.

At what point did Rebecca Black’s parents NOT say, “Look Rebecca, you’re not the very best singer out there but you’re really good at comedy, horse-jumping, poetry… ANYTHING else.” Did Rebecca Black not have a former Israeli military commando teacher tell her that she sings like a goat?

Cause I can tell you if 12 year-old Jonathan was like, "Sim, Papa Len," I want to become a rap star, my parents would have laughed in my face. Unlike Rebecca, I knew I couldn’t sing. I’m what the French call, tone deaf. But heck, I could do other things instead of singing. I could craft stories, make jokes and uhm… to tell you the truth, I recreated the fictional Hardy Boys town of Bayport out of Lego’s in my basement, but sing? Are you kidding me, singing is on my trifecta of things I don’t do, which are: play team sports, sing and have sex with chicks. Anything else I’m game.

I grow concerned that we’ve somehow become a society of people who refuse to admit that they can't actually sing. Somehow because of the internet and shows like American Idol everyone thinks they can become the next Justin Bieber. The weird thing is that Rebecca Black and the like must know that singing isn't their A talent. After-all its not the artistry of music they crave or a strong endeavor to master the craft of singing. It's none of the above. Rebecca Black and the Ark Music Factory is a wannabe fame factor. We don't want laudatory congratulations, we want celebrity. And people somehow expect that they’ll just throw up some videos on the YouTube and BAM! Viral sensation. Click on those for some awkward YouTube isms.

Maybe the new millennium isn’t, as REM declared, about losing our religion, but losing our sense of artistry for the quick soundbyte of fame at whatever cost. And as if to prove some sort of argument – when I typed “Losing My Religion” into Youtube, the Glee version came up first.



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