Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Blind And The Elephant

Some people have their 'feathers' ruffled when the list for this year's Mediacorp's Star Award was revealed.

Their idol Chen Wei Lian got one nomination - Top 20 Male artistes.

Others cannot accept the fact that he, a newcomer, or 'no'-comer, can make it into the list.

Chen's supporters immediately retorted, that others who were from the 1st Superstar competition and acted in just one show, could make it into the list as well.

And so it began a war of words, on and off line. On and off print. On and off.

The funny part is: I was vividly reminded of the story of five blind men who went searching for the image of 'elephant'. Each touched on a small part of an elephant, and began describing what they feel and touch. The description got heated up and later developed into a, as one might have known, war of words. Simply because not only they couldn't see the elephant itself, they failed to see where the other four blind men are coming from and talking about. Yes, it's a humour, but certainly a dark one. Or what we normally call it in Mandarin - '黑色幽默'.

These two groups are exactly like these five blind men. Just that the supporters for Chen aren't out searching for the face of 'elephant', but 'justice' for their idol. In their minds, they have firmly believed that Chen is more than capable enough to secure one Star Award this year, regardless his short cameo apperance, and another hotly contested and debated title - Regional Most Outstanding Male Artiste (Singapore) in the just-over Global Chinese Music Award that took place here.

To them, he probably is the trunk of the elephant - cool, smooth and yet sharp.

The other group who disagrees strongly is speaking against his capability - notwithstanding his sight limitation - that he didn't show much of his acting talent, and though he sings well, there has not been many contributions like other artistes as Stephanie Sun, who makes impacts locally as well as internationally with her talents and album sales.

To this group, Chen is probably the tail of the elephant - thin in nature, soft and not much of an impression.

The truth is far from them altogether: they fail to understand one simple formula, which has been used explicitly and never discreetly, in wielding and chalking up viewership, and that is - the media industry, in this case the sole owner or main player otherwise known as 'The Mediacorp', is not concerned with who wins what title. All that matters to them, the planners who present proposals in securing that all-time important revenue mark, is that whoever wins whatever title, he or she must make sure there is a business spin-off. This effect must then be translated and transformed into concrete cash.

And thus behind every plan to come up with every title, there has been long hours of thorough and in-depth discussions and exchanges of ideas. These words of exchange would subsequently be penned down, analysed, formulated and later proposed to the management for the final hammer-pounding. The end result is the list where we see who's there and who's not. Then, with enough media promotion and attention-generation, the public is moulded into thinking they have the power to decide who should be the champion, or the deserving person. This is the first step toward success in spinning that revenue.

The rest is history: whoever wins has a stake in the company called Mediacorp. He/ she has the unwritten privilege in attending any or all important functions hosted by the company, and main time slot given to him/ her in performing for promoting his/ her album. It's a win-win situation, where both parties win in getting their shares of the pie we call 'media'.

The sole loser in this commercial unerstanding is the masses. And a very naive one. They are the ones who unwittingly pour out their monies in every and all ways, thinking they are supporting a 'superstar idol'. They believe that if Jay Chou of Taiwan can reach that height of success, 'Rain' of Korea can surmount that summit of fame, and Italian blind singer Andrea Bocelli can secure international fame with his deep, resounding voice, then Chen Wei Lian can do it too.

Supposedly we have 100 singers being churned out into the music scene every year. Not even half can have their music companies sustain their support in producing a second album. For those who are able and fortunate enough to have a second album produced, their value is being watched and scrutinised closely - with each consecutive album's sales sliding down, the promotion fees is relatively sliced. Therein lies the 'diminishing appearance' we see over the decades - talented singers who cut albums, but slowly fade out of the music scene quietly. This is why.

Of the fewer-than-half group of aspiring artistes, the number is again halved - those who can cut a second album AND venture out into other fields like advertising, hosting, acting...etc, and those who cannot. The rationale behind this analysis is whether this artiste is an 'overall', wholesome one, who beside the company's promotion, is able to generate some media coverage on his/ her own with the innate talents. Naturally, more exposure means more coverage, which in turn will lead to higher sales and profits. Or is he/ she simply someone with a good voice and not much of a talent in other areas, which again means this artiste will rely heavily on the company's promotion, and that in turn means higher promotion fees. This is not a very good piece of news after all.

Thus we now have a group of about 25, from the original hundred, left. Amongst this group who can sing and act/ host/ do adverts/ co-produce album(s), only a handful are leading the trend in the music industry. That is to say, only those few elites are the ones setting the trend in which direction the music will flow to in the coming year. The rest? They are mere followers who try to piggyback, hitchride or bandwagon-jumping in getting that miserable amount of money we call 'profit'. Chen certainly does not belong to the first group of 'elite singers'. In fact, none, apart from Stephanie Sun has that commanding power in establishing where the music will flow, or how to evolve into a singer of the next generation. Jay Chou and Jolin Cai are two artistes, male and female respectively, who have that capability also. Apart from them no other artistes come close in achieving what they have possessed yet. Chen is a million miles from them.

Media plays the masses, like many times before, and in the many times coming. Humanity must awaken and be enlightened in understanding that it is for the masses that media exists. They are present here to serve the common people. They are endowed with the holy torch of fire in lighting up the dark roads ahead. Where they fail to do so, all eyes are shut, and all men blinded. Where the light of fire fails to reach, darkness takes over and men is misled into fantasized lands of misery. Such blindness is far worse than a simple group of die-hard fans supporting blindly a blind singer.

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