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Arts in Review

YouTube live: leave the shows to the pros

Countless young talents are making themselves heard with the help of a webcam and the ability to shoot just-one-more-take without extra studio costs, but what do YouTube-driven concerts like this teach us? That some things are best left as is.

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By Karen Aney (The Cascade) – Email

Date Posted: September 28, 2011
Print Edition: September 21, 2011

The phenomena of Youtube has meant many things for the musical world, specifically for Sunshine Corazon and Justin Bieber. Countless young talents are making themselves heard with the help of a webcam and the ability to shoot just-one-more-take without extra studio costs. It has its upsides: for instance, this breed of musician inherently practices constantly (while filming repeated takes for new videos), and spends a lot of time listening to playbacks of themselves – a much more true representation of sound than listening to one’s self mid-song. However, YouTube fame has its downsides as well.

First, in the YouTube fame game, hits dictate success. Self-written songs don’t get many hits, so artists must make a recognizable name for themselves through covers of popular tunes. The downside of this is that the only person who can make money singing a Jay-Z song is – well, Jay-Z. Oh, and Beyonce, but that’s a moot point here. Thus, the YouTube-centric artist must write their own songs to instigate any kind of cash-flow.

Boyce Avenue, the trio of brothers who recently appeared at the Vogue Theatre in Vancouver, is a perfect example of this issue. When they took the stage, their first three songs were self-written. Further, the tone of those songs was not in keeping with the acoustic canon that gave Boyce their name. The songs were loud, with heavy guitar and drums. Even if the sound technicians at the Vogue had been able to maintain good sound levels throughout the performance (which they weren’t), the sounds would have been too loud, too harsh, and not suited to show the talent that the Florida natives possess. The only cheers they got before switching to their acoustic set (stools and all) were from the over-liquored teenagers standing in front of the stage. That’s a bad thing, boys.

The same teenagers also screamed for the first opening act of the evening, Megan Nicole. She embodied another issue with YouTube famers: she’s a young, pretty girl with a passable voice and a fair grip on chord progressions. However, her voice is obviously untrained. The runs, while in tune, had no control. She stood too close to the microphone at times, and too far away at others. She didn’t know to pull back from the microphone while singing the high notes that she needed a bit of ‘screech’ to hit properly. She spent the first verse or so of each song with her back turned to the audience – perhaps needing time to focus without the crowd in her peripheral? Maybe unable to hear what key she was in? The motivation is uncertain, but the product is the same: she’s a young performer, too green for her success, the product of too many fans who like her for her sparkly dress and great hair. Not so musically relevant.

So, what do YouTube-driven concerts like this teach us? That some things are best left as is. Their voices may be great, you may even like their covers better than the originals, but that doesn’t mean they can cut it when it comes to writing their own material. Boyce Avenue, Megan Nicole, and many more like them, are very talented – but maybe they should stick to their cover videos. Suffering through their live attempts at music composition isn’t worth the 21 bucks it cost for the ticket.

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