LOUNGING AROUND 1

A group of us were having a few drinks at a hotel lounge recently. And as with all hotel lounges, there was a resident lounge singer- attractive, youngish and doing as much as a lounge singer in a five-star hotel can do and within an environment where an older audience with a very fleeting interest and knowledge of music are more than happy to hear a few standards and some hits from around ten years ago.

LOUNGING AROUND 2

Stray from this format and formula and you become “too eclectic” for this audience- at least to those who have done the hiring or those managing the venue and have very definite and ideas of what a “lounge singer” should be that goes to the days of the pharaohs.

So while listening to this singer- a girl named Zoey Jones from the UK and who has been recently playing hotel lounges throughout Asia- I kept thinking how pigeon-holed and musically shackled these performers are.

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With usually only a keyboard player and double bassist for backing, there really isn’t any kinda backbeat and which makes every song remarkably similar and like bad parody. It’s like making one of those wedding and bar mitzvah singers sound hip.

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Sure, one can have a synth player also adding a few beats, but the end result still sounds like MOR and Adult Contemporary schlock and even more corny as it sounds like a desperate effort to sound cool and contemporary but ending up coming across desperate and tired.

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A singer-songwriter like Zoey Jones, or Tess Collins or my friend Ali “Quirky” McGuirk have all done or are doing this hotel or restaurant lounge scene and it’s a good enough gig financially and better than playing for free, but what makes me wonder is why the role and image and repertoire seldom changes with versions of Come Away With Me, Don’t Know Why, a few originals, and a few songs from Tin Pan Alley making up their repertoire. Zoey Jones is more than that but needs an Out Clause from this Lounge Singer label and someone to point her in the right musical direction.

MY SPACE – ZOEY MUSIC

The problem lies from those doing the hiring and like the audience who frequent these lounges with only a modicum of knowledge about music and so hire singers based on their promo photographs and song lists based on songs they know.

It’s a very big difference to a singer-songwriter playing by themselves or with their bands in a club setting. Clubs are cool in that there is usually more freedom for artists and where artists like Norah Jones, Amos Lee, Corinne Bailey Rae etc started out.

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The worlds of clubs and lounges are polar regions apart and which, at the end of 2012 seems a very sad problem in that if both different venues somehow came together they could be pushing music further and also offering audiences something new, musically. And that Norah Jones has come a very long way from Come Away With Me.

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In many ways, these lounges are underestimating audiences and happy to shovel them the same old shit. It’s lazy marketing and predictable and somewhat exclusive to Asia: Hire an attractive white chick, put her together with some Filipino musos and have her sing some old warmed over chestnuts and never break away from this formula.

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So when I heard Zoey Jones suddenly launch into her own jazzified arrangement of a Pussycats song, it stopped me from nodding off.Just for a few minutia, I felt I was back in a club setting and not with some fat cat tourists who howl and applaud like trained seals at all the wrong times and thinking they were gonna get laid by the singer.

The solution: These hotel lounges should go to good A&R people who can guide them towards hiring good, original talent and who can expand their audience base.

Many of us have seen way too many hotel F&B hotel managers being shuck and jived by booking agents into hiring fifth rate acts that wouldn’t even be able to perform in the lobby of a Vegas casino.

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But in Asia, they end up playing the “main room” and saying they’re from LA or NYC when they’re actually from somewhere in Winnipeg and still doing Kool And The Gang shtick with all those cornball “audience interaction” clich├ęs we have seen for around twenty years. Like dragging up some poor knob for some call and response performance of doing The Lambada. Oh, and not that there’s anything wrong with being from Winnipeg.

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A talent like a Zoey Jones, or a Tess Collins or an Ali McGuirk etc are wasting their talent doing what they have been doing as time waits for no one and the music world changes with no time for them to keep up with what is happening in music today. I am always taken aback at how little music many professional singers listen to or know about other than the usual suspects- and which has to do with their work and rehearsal schedules. And which is why many say, “I like the old Norah Jones” for the simple reason that they haven’t heard the new Norah Jones and how she has made her music more edgy by working with Producer Danger Mouse.

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Then again, it also depends on what they wanna do and if they really understand which musical direction to take or cop out and become a part-time singer and a full-time girlfriend and believe everyone is willing to march to the beat of their drum.

Sorry, but no one is indispensable and new and younger singers hungry for work are a dime a dozen.

But the real problem are those who hire singers who suddenly become “lounge singers”. And as “lounge singers”, they are meant to be seen and not heard too loudly. They are there for ornamental value.

But why pay for some eye candy, first, and music second when simply playing a compilation CD will do?

My point is that if these singers are doing 20-30 minute sets, make them real sets and give them the stage to have them seen and heard with no meddling.

Turn those lazy lounges where twentysomethings are asked to wear gowns and perform into a more casual and cool environment where they can be themselves, where their music can shine and they can win over new fans.

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