Shelf Life of Contemporary Singers and The Choices They Make

Shelf Life of Contemporary Singers and the choices they make
Shelf Life of Contemporary Singers and the choices they make

In the coeval times, the music industry is undergoing a tectonic shift with the latest emerging technologies, and slew of prospective artists. While it is a good sign when we look at the bigger picture, but it also greatly affects the shelf life of the contemporary singers. It spans over not more than 5 years or so nowadays. The depleting longevity of their fame is a depressing vista to them. It also has a notable effect on their current decision making. This article comprises ten perspectives that delve into the current scenario of the playback singers in the Indian (predominantly Bollywood) music scene.

1. The emergence of Various Digital Platforms –

Those were the times when a singer had to pay enormous numbers of visits to even a modest studio to get a chance. However, with the torrential flow of digital platforms like YouTube, and social media like Facebook and Twitter, an artist has a facility of publicizing himself/herself and come to limelight, and subsequently, becoming a strong competitor to the existing and established singers, who have already made a mark in the industry. Such platforms have given producers scope to explore new talents in their budget. This gives them chance to replace old artists with the new ones.

2. Unjust Defamation –

Easy access to articles by irresponsible media companies has become a threat to the current singers. Singers are rather casually doomed to defamation, if they deny for an interview or get a little arrogant with a media personnel for a genuine reason. Consequently, their name is dragged through the mud. This generally and sadly doesn’t raise questions on the authenticity of media, but obviously affects the impression of a singer.

3. Redundancy of Singer-Actor Duo –

Raj Kapoor used to address his relationship with the mellifluent Mukesh as that of body and soul. Those were the times when a pattern of the singer-actor combination was prevalent. Rafi Saab sang most of the songs of Guru Dutt, and Kishore Da became the voice of the ever jaunty debonair Dev Saab. As mentioned above, Mukesh used to be the customary singer for Raj Kapoor’s melodies composed by Shankar Jaikishan. Later on, to cite a well-known example, Abhijeet and Udit Narayan were preferred to sing for Shahrukh Khan.

However, these days, there is no such pattern. Some directors choose the local artists that would suit the subject matter of the film. Anurag Kashyap’s Gangs of Wasseypur is an exampleSneha Khanwalkar had auditioned some local artists for the peculiar need of the voices that should sound indigenous to Bihar or Jharkhand). Some directors use songs as backgrounds without “lip-sync” of the actors. This doesn’t need any particular singer-actor combination. Even if the singers provide a playback for actors, the choice of artists are varying, e.g.; in Rockstar, Mohit Chauhan sang for Ranbir Kapoor, but in Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, Arijit Singh chipped in, and Amit Mishra impressed with a rocking rendition in Bulleya. There are also times when music producers choose a new voice for an old actor to make him sound young. Neeti Mohan had also mentioned this in a recent interview with Indian Express.

4. The Wrath of Cutting-edge Technologies –

The emerging cutting-edge technologies have catapulted the quality of music. However, as much as it is a blessing, it also happens to be a curse for the established, learned and quality singers. With the help of those superlative techniques of tuning and sound mixing, any Tom, Dick, and Harry can be projected as an eminent singer, and it is quite evident when we observe that it has become very rampant these days that actors are turning into singers; which is not to say that it’s bad, but it does affect the career of the proficient singers.

5. Perils of Specialization and Selectivity –

In an era, in which the industry expects versatility in an artist, some singers are conventionally clinging to their own genre- ranging from classical to rap, which is to say that, when it comes to singing a different genre of song, they fail to prove their forte and some of them reject the offer, because they don’t succumb to the commercialization, as it infuses a feeling of creative dissatisfaction in them. This makes any composer or studio to look for different talents who sitting out there, only to grab such opportunities. This nature of selectivity backfires, and the new singers become a threat to the existing singers.

6. Vagaries of Public Taste –

Akin to the changing times in music industry in terms of technology, the choice of the public is also varying day in and day out, which is to say, unlike the loyal fanaticism that singers from ‘The Golden Era’ like Mohammad Rafi, Mukesh, Hemant Kumar and Kishore Kumar evoked, which created perennial fan clubs of them. These days the fame of a singer is rather an epiphany or a brief incandescence, due to the spasmodically occurring changes in the taste of audiences. The changing trends are affecting the fan following of singers. Due to this, sooner or later, every singer is bound to face oblivion.

7. The Artiste Tantrum –

As also observed in the melodramatic Bollywood flicks, in reality, some singers throw tantrums too. This phenomenon that has its roots in the fact that they fail to digest sudden success and overwhelming fame, which makes studios and producers indignant and annoyed, subsequently making them look for more sincere and deserving artists.

8. Insatiable Demands of Singers –

Some artists are way too demanding and even avaricious when it comes to prerogatives,  which the studios can’t fulfill. Although the studios are also compromising on the adequacy of paraphernalia for the singing stars, it is an artist who has to succumb to the people who are handling the business. When the artists don’t compromise, it paves the way for the new singers, thus hindering the shelf life of the existing singers.

9. The shallowness of the Contemporary Lyrics –

It is not only the euphonious voice of a singer and a melodious tune composed by a music director that makes a song immortal, but the lyrics of the song also have a major role to play when it comes to get into the hearts of fans and live to eternity. Unlike old songs, like the ones in Awara (1951), Pyaasa (1957), and Guide (1965) [personal choices], there are very few songs these days that promise to stay for even more than five years and stay relevant in the changing times. The biggest culprit behind this happens to be shallow and cringe-worthy lyrics. The lyrics now reek of formula.

Barring Irshad Kamil, Amitabh Bhattacharya, and Swanand Kirkire, obviously with a sporadic appearance of the songs written by Gulzar Saab and Javed Akhtar, there are no other prolific songwriters, who have the ability to evoke a palpable emotion in the listeners. This makes up for the fact that if a singer is singing a song today. Even if she/he sings it brilliantly, audiences fail to appreciate it due to its shallow lyrics. To cite an example from the current scenario, even though Jonita Gandhi has won a Filmfare for “The Break-up Song” from Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, there is a trifle chance that the next generation would hum or even give an ear to it- but on the contrary, “Jaane Wo Kaise Log The” from Guru Dutt’s universally acclaimed classic Pyaasa would reverberate in the posterity.

10. Rehash of the Old Bollywood Songs –

Frequent rehash of old Bollywood songs has perished the need of a particular singer. Such songs are destined to be viral because of the catchy tune, and an exuded fame from past. It hardly matters who sings them. Moreover, a need to pay an established singer a humongous amount of money for an already popular song is redundant.

A Singer’s Decision Making in The Current Scenario –

Contemporary singers are quite aware of the fact that their name and fame are not permanent. There will be a time that they will stop getting much work in the industry. So, it’s obvious that they will have to look for the alternatives. To handle this situation, the artists have started demanding exorbitant rates. This is the case with playback assignments and the concerts as well. By doing so, they are securing their future. They have come to know that the changing times would force them to make many compromises. They would be compromising with their choice of genre, singing style, studio facilities, and even payment. Some of the artists are also consistently looking for opportunities. They become judges on the television reality shows like Sa Re Ga Ma Pa and Indian Idol. 

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