New Talent Revisited… [ Part I: Auditions ]

Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.

~ Helen Keller, author, political activist, and lecturer

Man, time sure flies…

Tomorrow marks the audition date for New Talent Singing Awards Vancouver Audition 2011.  In case you didn’t know, New Talent was the contest that I entered back in 2000 which kick-started my television hosting.  Time to take a quick jog down memory lane…

Back in 2000, I was just this 20 year-old boy who wanted to sing.  New Talent Singing Awards was the stepping stone for many of Asia’s bona-fide superstars like Hong Kong’s Anita Mui, Sammi Cheng, Leon Lai and Taiwan’s Elva Hsiao, just to name a few.  So, it’s been a lifelong dream of mine to compete on the same stage as them.  One of my friends had bought me a karaoke laser disc (yes, those shiny 12-inch frisbees known as “LDs”) with a song that she thought I’d do pretty good and urged me to enter the contest with that song.  I was contemplating it for a good while as the entry deadline loomed closer and closer.  One of my major concerns was (and still is now) that I’m not exactly the right “body type” for Hong Kong’s music industry, which is predominately skinny, attractive boys and girls.  In fact, there is a running joke on the Chinese name of the contest, as “New Talent” has the same pronunciation in Cantonese as the words “Skinny Body” does.  Grrrrrreat.  So, even when my application form was long filled out to completion, I hesitated to enter from the fear of sheer humiliation losing in the first round due to my weight and not my singing capabilities.

Luckily for me, my mom woke me up on the date of the deadline, told me to suck it up, get dressed and hand that form in.  Yup, my mommy drove me to the TV station to drop off that form. (I think she gave me the $20 application fee too.  Hey, I was a broke student back then!)  So, now I can’t escape it.  I was slated for auditions in two Saturdays at 10:30am at a now-closed karaoke bar in Richmond called Manhattan Karaoke. (Classy, huh?)  For the next two weeks, I practised my song over and over again.  I was determined to win over the judges with my singing talent.  Surely, great singing technique counts for something at a singing competition, right?  As for the style part, I was still quite concerned.  I went and got what I thought at the time was a stylish haircut, but in hindsight looked like a shorter version of Fido Dido’s hair (surely I can’t be the only person who remembers him.  I still remember playing a Fido Dido video game in the early 90s!).  And clothes-wise, even worse.  Everyone knows that black can camouflage fat, so I decided to wear a bulky, shiny black polyester hoodie with a pouch pocket across the tummy and a pair of faded blue jeans.  Yes, I was stylin’… like a chunky punk thug.

So, the audition date rolled around and I’m now in front of Manhattan Karaoke in my shiny hoodie, jeans and Fido Dido hair spiked porcupine-hard with my frisbee-sized LD in tow.  There was a crowd outside consisting of anxious fellow contestants and their even more anxious parents.  It was a closed audition so the parents could not go into the venue and had to wait outside.  The first group of contestants were competing inside and I was in the second group.  I still remember the parent of one contestant competing inside desperately trying to peer into the bar through the door by pressing her face onto the tinted glass.  She eventually got the door open a crack and stuck her head inside.  Just as this happened, someone from the TV station came out and sarcastically asked her if she was a contestant (the age limit for entering is 28 and this woman was in her late 40s).  When the woman replied that she was a parent of a contestant, the TV person yelled, “THEN BACK AWAY FROM THE DOOR!  CONTESTANTS ONLY!”, slammed the door shut and proceeded to tape contest posters all over the door so that NO ONE can peek inside.  Gee. Thanks, overly nervous parent!

15 minutes later, the door opened and a group of 20 relieved faces come streaming out and a group of 20 nervous faces, including myself, marched inside.  After registering my name and giving my disc to the reception person, I was told to stick a label on my shirt to signify who I was.  According to the big white label, I was contestant number 25.  Now, to tell you the truth, the actual audition process was pretty much a blur as I was a nervous wreck.  All I could remember was going on stage and thought everything was so yellow in colour. And then halfway through my song, hearing a loud “DING!” from a bell signifying the end of the audition, and it was all over.  We were told that the 20 selected semi-finalists would be called that evening, and we were ushered out the door to make room for the third group of contestants.

On the way home, my mom asked me how I did (yes, she drove me to audition.  I’m a momma’s boy!) and I told her that I felt good.  I made no mistakes during the song and I was pleased with my performance.  She then told me that if I thought the performance went well, then I had a pretty good chance because she knows how big a perfectionist I am when it comes to music.  Even though my mother had faith in me and I felt confident, I was still unsure of what the judges thought.  Did I make too many hand gestures while I was singing to hide my nervousness?  Did my shiny hoodie reflect too much yellow light into their eyes that distracted them from my performance?  Were they wondering who the hell did my awful hair?  Or worse, was I simply NOT GOOD ENOUGH??? 

What seemed like an eternity followed as I waited at home and paced back and forth the living room for hours, lunging at the phone on every first ring and being disappointed to find out that it was another telemarketer selling me cheap phone plans (who calls on a freaking Saturday afternoon???)  I finally tired myself out by 7pm and sat down to watch some TV.  Okay, it was more like I was sitting down and trying to will the phone into ringing with my mindpowers.  And at 7:48pm, the phone rang and I knew it was the call.  I answered the phone as calmly as I can, answered professionally when the person congratulated me on advancing to the semi-finals and somehow even managed to scribble down the orientation time and date (even though it was barely legible from my excitement).  As soon as I hung up the phone, I let out a scream that could be heard by most people on my block.  Hey, I guess talent DOES count for something, huh?

What happens afterwards?  That’ll have to wait for a later blog entry…

But, if you want to test out your singing skills, why not give New Talent a whirl?  (Mind you, you need to be between the ages of 15-28 and preferably Chinese.)  They are holding auditions on two Saturdays, April 16th and April 23rd and you can sign up on-the-spot.  Click here to find out more details.  And maybe you’ll be the one screaming this year.  A word of advice though… don’t wear bulky, shiny black polyester hoodies to your audition (or any performance).  Not an attractive look on anyone.

I have to watch the Canucks destroy the Blackhawks now.  Go Canucks!  Woot~

UPDATE: Part II of this story is up!  To see it, click here!

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2 comments on “New Talent Revisited… [ Part I: Auditions ]

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