As a music producer, I oftentimes get asked this question “what does it take to be a successful artiste?”

Many expect me to say ‘talent’ alone, but a lot are surprised when I say that it often takes more than that… a combination of talent, good looks, likeability, a certain uniqueness, the ability to work hard and a huge dose of good fortune. Personally, I used to think that if you were destined for greatness, greatness would find you. However, the follow up question of “how do artistes stand the test of time?” is a lot harder to answer.

Here’s my theory.

Over the last few years I have been extremely blessed to have worked with both local and international artistes who have not just had a good measure of success but have managed to sustain a long lasting career so much so that each time these artistes’ names are mentioned, the word RESPECT inadvertently pops up.

When you think of Dato’ Sri Siti Nurhaliza, Dayang Nurfaizah, Faizal Tahir, Jaclyn Victor, Brian McKnight, Chaka Khan, Ceelo Green, Afgan, Judika & Kris Dayanti what comes to mind? All of them have had careers that span more than a decade… and the word RESPECT comes to mind too, right?

[OK, spoiler alert! Name Drop coming up]

In the past year I’ve worked with ALL of the above (warned u, didn’t I?), and I have had the privilege of observing them closely during rehearsals and shows. It struck me that all of them have one thing in common; they are all brilliant live performers who can sing ‘live’ almost flawlessly. ‘Pitch’ is hardly a concern… they deliver either an ‘Above-average’ performance, or a ‘Great’ performance most of the time. It’s like they just ‘know’ what to sing, and how to sing it. These artistes have obviously worked hard polishing the talent they already naturally possess. For them, ‘the mechanics of singing’ has become part of their arsenal, so much so they can just concentrate on the other aspects of their performance.

That’s Brian McKnight with David Foster on piano!

Meanwhile, especially on the local front, I have seen many young ‘stars’ struggle to put on decent performances during the big shows, and then wonder why they get ‘forgotten’ when the next flavor arrives on the scene. So I wonder, why don’t these ‘stars’ work on their craft a little bit more? After all they already conquered the tough part of getting to a place where they have a decent following, a decent fan base… what’s wrong with taking some vocal lessons and improving on the ‘live’ delivery? Then maybe, when they land a performance slot on a show like *AIM or **AJL, they won’t sound like a kids at their first school concert! (Thankfully, this year’s AJL has quite a few young singers who can hold their own!)

Salamiah Hassan, Dayang & Jaclyn. 3 of the BEST!

Here’s my ‘two-cents’ to these young acts: If u lack power, build it. If you lack breath control, improve your breathing technique. Go find a good vocal teacher who can teach you these things. If you can’t sing in tune, develop your ears, invest in some proper ear training, maybe learn to play some basic chords on the piano or guitar. Learn to write your own songs. Do all that for a year and you’re definitely going to be a better artiste in 12 months time. You might even survive the onslaught of the emergence of ‘next big thing’. And then, go improve yourself some more!

I didn’t write this piece to put down the new kids. I write this with the hope to see them get better and better, so that, instead of just having overnight YouTube viral stars and reality show ‘graduates’ with short-lived careers, we actually have a generation of great young artistes who last, a generation of artistes that genuinely command … (and here’s that word again)… RESPECT!

Keep the Music Real!

* AIM: Anugerah Industri Muzik (Malaysian Music Industry Awards)

** AJL: Anugerah Juara Lagu (TV3’s Annual Song Competition). This year’s AJL will be on February 11th, 2018