I first heard Roberta Flack’s ‘Killing me softly’ in the early 1970s and ever since then, I had always liked it. I believe I became a teenager that year, and since then I have heard so many songs, I lost count.
Many good ones and as equally many not so memorable ones as well. Some can be called music (I liked The Jam’s ‘Going Underground’ as much as I liked Lionel Richie’s ballads and Billy Joel’s Piano Man), whereas some can be said to be pure rubbish (even if they got to No. 1 on some music charts). One man’s music is another man’s #*$%, I’d always say.
Now some people I know would call themselves ardent fans of rock, solid rock, adult rock, rock and roll or whatever rock you may have, juvenile, adult or ancient but for me, I consider myself just a fan of music. Period. Just plain ole good music and that will do very nicely, thank you very much.
Now I believe every single one of us likes to listen to a good song (depending on how you defined ‘good’ and of course, the musical genre of your choice), and every one of us has his or her favourite singers or bands, his or her favourite songs and in this day and age, his or her favourite music videos (tastefully done would be my choice, of course). And I believe all of us would like to think there is a singer inside every one of us just waiting to come out, crooning the best of songs with silky smooth vocals ala Luther Vandross or Whitney, or with the raw emotive expressions of Jackson Browne or Bonnie Raitt, or the cool, cool drawl of Rickie Lee Jones and if need be, with the showmanship of Freddie Mercury (please stand aside everyone!) or David Lee Roth (seriously? All he does is to finger brush his hair!).
And when we are relaxed enough, we would be singing along to whatever song is playing on the radio in our cars as we make our way home from work, or as we jog (or trying to jog, more like it) to the recordings in our MP3 players (never thought you could do that), or as we sit down and relax to the sounds of our CD collection and thinking, between hums and a few off-key notes here and there, that that’s the song we are going to wow our friends and colleagues the next time we set foot in a karaoke joint or attend the next company dinner.
I am pretty sure too that for most of us, we have been, at least once in our lives, been to the karaoke joint or attend a company dinner. At a company dinner or outing, there would always be a singing session. After the first few songs where we would have supposedly warmed up for the night’s singing, the real singing starts. That’s when you and your friends would do your best Roman Emperor impression as you give the thumbs up or thumbs down after each song.
But regardless of whether we get the thumbs up or thumbs down, all of us would always cringe whenever some apple polisher invites the Chairman or the Managing Director to sing, because for as sure as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, it’s going to be ‘My Way’.
And ‘My Way’ it is. While the Chairman or the MD blissfully massacres the song in his own indomitable tone-deaf way, oblivious to the sight of the rest of us cringing with smiles so fixed on our faces, we thank God for the quality of the sound system as it covers the muffled sounds of the apple polisher being thumped for good measure. Verbally of course. Never physically.
The song ‘My Way’ is so chairman or so MD that, like I mentioned earlier, it’s never a surprise for the song to be the chosen song whenever a Chairman or a MD is being asked to sing. If Ole Blue Eyes could turn in his grave for every time his ‘My Way’ was massacred, he couldn’t tell you which way is the sky and which is down under any more, not after being turned so many times that a roasted lamb would be totally carbonized. But then again, it is called ‘My Way’.
But once in a while, thanks be to The AlMighty, we would be surprised by a good rendition of the song, but generally speaking, the operative phrase would be, ‘Systems normal, song massacred. AGAIN’.
Talking about massacres, a very strong candidate for the most massacred song in this lifetime must be George Michael’s ‘Careless Whisper’. Personally, I have heard that song massacred so many times that I actually pity George Michael. It was once mentioned that the song had been actually covered by many CantoPop singers in the different dialects of Hong Kong. I do not personally know how many dialects there are in Hong Kong (or China for that matter) but I would think it’s quite a bit.
I have also been told that the CantoPop scene is very competitive, therefore I would like to think they would have done a pretty good job covering the song in the many dialects of Hong Kong. But even I do not even want to think about the number of times the song has been sung in all the karaoke joints and homes of Hong Kong and South East Asia, in both the English version and the different dialects.
Could this be a reason as to why George Michael burnt his leather jacket, sported his hair short and take on this mean guy look and didn’t go anywhere near Hong Kong for a while? Well, at least with the new hair do, he wouldn’t be pulling his hair out anymore.
As for karaoke joints, when karaoke first burst onto the Malaysian scene, it was more an open karaoke kind of thing. They will have a karaoke set, a TV and a stand with all available song selections. The equipment would be quite basic, unlike what we would have today. I guess the massacre began even back then.
Somebody must have complained and somebody must have gotten his light bulb lighted, and voila! The karaoke joint evolved from an open karaoke to what it is now with different karaoke rooms catering for different groups. Now they can shamelessly try to sing or massacre any song they please, to their heart’s content.
If you have been to any karaoke joints recently, try listening to the people in the adjoining karaoke room and you would understand what I mean, for surely the walls aren’t that thin, are they? Or are they?
I once had a CEO who likes to sing both ‘My Way’ and ‘Careless Whisper’. It was pretty awful (on both counts) but hey, he was the CEO then. And he would always ask for the mike, not that we would give it to him anyway but being the CEO does have its privileges, I guess.
In most cases, whenever we have to sing a song at the company outing or dinner, there will always be an in-house expert telling us where we went wrong with the song, and that our pitching is off or that our timing is not on. And in most cases, we’d be thinking, ‘hello! have you heard yourself sing???!!!!’. Not that we are any better a singer, mind you.
But as they say, practice makes perfect and once in a while, there would be a real singer amongst us, on key, rendering a song so nicely with the correct pitching and timing, and easy on the eardrums too. Until then, I guess we would just have to cringe and bear it whenever we go to these company outings or company dinners and applaud for an effort well done. The effort, I mean. Not the singing.
As for the singing, like the lyric goes in Roberta Flack’s song, ‘he’s killing me softly………with his song…….killing me softly….with his song…..killing me softly… with his song’.