BY ROB BELCHIOR
Special to the VOICE
A long long time ago, I was in a rock band for a few years. We practiced regularly, worked the local bar circuits, acquired some loyal fans, and came up with some pretty darned good tunes. I even let my hair grow to some really amazing lengths. Unfortunately, none of it was good enough. It’s a hyper-competitive business, and we were missing some indefinable thing. Was it work ethic? We had that by the truckload. Talent? Far worse musicians have had far greater success. Looks? We might have been a bit weak in that department. Great hair? C’mon, get real, we were lock stars.
Regardless, we eventually realized that commercial success was either unattainable or very far into the future. We weren’t hitting the right button, and perhaps we didn’t even know where the right button could be found.
Fast forward a decade or two, when a hip-hop/electronic dance group by the name of LMFAO enjoyed some fleeting success with the catchy tune, “Party Rock Anthem.” The infectiousness of the song was played upon in their video, which featured clever references to modern-day “outbreak” movies such as 28 Days Later. Their videos and stage performances also featured a unique character known as the “Shuffle Bot,” which, well, was basically a guy with a box on his head dancing around. I’ll just wait here a minute while you Google it.
I envied the Shuffle Bot. He wasn’t much to look at, but he carried himself well. His attire was golden, his box-head was symmetrical and oversized just the right amount. His box-eyes were large and somehow full of life, and his box-mouth, while neither turned up nor down, seemed so happy. He was surrounded by talented people and he clearly knew it.
I imagined how satisfying his life must be: instantly recognizable, yet no one really knew him. Undoubtedly making a good living, without having to do a whole lot. Bouncing and twitching around, generally looking happy and golden, while those around him did all the heavy lifting. Kind of like Justin Trudeau, I guess.
Go back a couple decades again, when Bon Jovi released one of the all-time greatest rock anthems, You Give Love a Bad Name. I won’t wait for you to Google it, because we all know it, and we’re all hearing it in our minds right now. My apologies for doing that, but at least it wasn’t Nickelback (oops, I did it again). I swear I never belted it out loud (really, never), but whenever I heard it played, I also felt some envy, this time for what I called the Bracket Guy.
The Bracket Guy screeched out “bad name” every time Jon Bon Jovi finished singing, “you give love a bad name (bad name).” Everyone knows that part, and everyone can screech it about as well as the guy that did screech it. I have no idea what else that guy did, and if I did my research I’m sure I’d learn he’s actually quite talented. I suppose I could Google it, but who has time for that? The point is, he too was surrounded by people way more talented than him, he too enjoyed the riches of his band’s popularity, and all he had to do was screech out the same accusatory mantra. Kind of like Doug Ford, I guess.
Perhaps this means that talent isn’t necessarily a prerequisite for success. Certainly, we’ve all scratched our heads over the years: Milli Vanilli, Britney Spears, anything Kardashian, college admissions, Jagmeet Singh, Sam Oosterhoff. How do you get there? How do you get to that sweet spot where input yields disproportionate amounts of reward? Hard work? Determination? Luck? Or just coming up with that perfect little thing at the perfect time?
Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that talent isn’t always obviously visible. The Shuffle Bot was a fellow by the name of Andrew Furr, a DJ, dancer and rapper. He won a contest to secure a place with a dance crew who had also won a contest to join LMFAO. You can debate the definition of “talent” when it comes to various genres, but Mr. Furr did have to rise above the rest. He had to prove himself to secure the right to wear that box on his head and get paid darned good money to do so. Yes, I Googled it, and yes, I wish I could get paid to dance with a box on my head.
As for Bon Jovi, love them or hate them, nobody can argue their commercial success. They didn’t achieve it overnight. They worked hard for it, and underneath the catchy lines and amazing hair was a base of determination and musical ability.
So what about all those politicians, the rich kids getting into Harvard, the Vanillis and Spears and Kardashians of the world? Meh. I’m instinctively distrustful of the whole lot. Maybe they poured in tons of time and talent and sacrifice. Maybe if I worked hard enough, honed my talents further, and put in more time, I could get to the same lofty perch. Or maybe I’ll just put a box on my head and start dancing and screeching. ♦
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