Tuesday, February 4, 2014


So, like any word in the our language, the meaning can be various and imply different things to different people in different situations. For example, I laughed when I heard that the word "SNOW" in Alaska can have 8 different meanings or types. We say snow and think white cold stuff that falls down from the sky and sometimes sticks to the ground in big piles. But in Alaska, they can say snow and the way it falls, the slushiness, etc. all are a factor of what KIND of snow it is.

Talent. A word used loosely by most proud family members of a focused artist in their DNA chain.

So what is talent? Is it like beauty... beheld in each one's eye differently? Sure. Why not?

When it comes to musical artists, talent comes in all shapes and sizes. And when it comes to the voice of a musical artist, it is as diverse as the types of snow in Alaska.

Let me just rattle off a few well-known artists and allow your mind to see why they deserve a sub-category of the generic word TALENT.

  • Elvis
  • Bob Dylan
  • Patsy Kline
  • Whitney Houston
  • Jim Morrison
  • Hank Williams (Jr. and Sr.)
  • Janis Joplin
  • Frank Sinatra
  • Kurt Cobain
  • Michael Jackson
  • Nat King Cole
  • Bee Gees (Andy Gibb)
I could continue making the list. There is no question every one of these artists has "TALENT" but I don't believe you can simply call their talent the same thing. You could spend time describing what makes their talent different from the next, but you can't put them in the same vanilla envelope and just label it talent. That would be a gross generalization.

When we were preparing Spencer for a collegiate career in basketball while he was in Middle School, we spent quite a lot of time working with trainers and mentors who not only knew the game, but understood what recruiters looked for beyond game stats. They explained that players are graded on more than just their ability to score points. They actually have entire rating systems that are based on physiological aspects of players that we had no idea were part of the equation. Things like intellect, character, discipline, athleticism, skill, get-alongability (team minded), habits, and the most ridiculous statistical analyses of specific drills that seemingly had nothing to do with the game of basketball. However, after seeing players who focused on these "unknown" areas of TALENT, it became obvious that it wasn't always the kid who was the tallest or fastest or scored the most that impressed recruiters. It sometimes boiled down to intangibles that weren't obvious to the popcorn eating parents in the stands.

In that same respect, the music industry is full of TALENT that can't be denied. But what is it that causes certain TALENT to be successful over others?

Some artists have song writing talent. They have the ability to play an instrument or more than one instrument. Others have the ability to sing 4 octaves. Some have the ability to sing scales at a lightning pace and evoke a jaw dropping awe from the listener. Others embrace emotion and interpretation of lyrics and notes that help the listener forget about caring how skilled their vocals are at the moment. Some can dance and sing. Some can play an instrument and sing at the same time. Some can put on a stage show that amazes the audience because they entertained more than wowed with vocal prowess.

The band "KISS" comes to mind. Vocally and instrumentally, nothing extraordinary. Visually... cha-ching. So it's not always about the most amazing voice or instrumental skill. Sometimes there are other sub-categories of talent that create a career for an artist.

So why write about this philosophical question of the definition of talent?

Depending on which person you're targeting with your music (Fans, media, industry execs, etc.) talent has many faces. So instead of pigeon-holing yourself into believing only A, B, and C on your checklist really matter, take a look around you at artists making money and see the ones who have sustained a career and what they've done to maximize their talent.  Most have built on a few strong areas and figured out how to let go of trying to be perfect in areas they won't necessarily need to be.

For Spencer, he isn't a prodigy of vocal ability, but he has charisma and a personality that helps his overall artistry. He compels fans to care about him beyond his music. That is, by itself, talent.

Take an inventory of the sub-categories of talent you or your artist has and see how you can focus on the strengths and not be so obsessed with removing the weaknesses.

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