Archive | July, 2010

Philly Singer Hopes to be Andre Harrell’s Next R&B Superstar

28 Jul

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday

Sun

Renowned music mogul Andre Harrell believes there is something missing in the music you listen to on the radio nowadays.

As a man who helped launched the career of Mary J. Blige and has worked with music industry legends like Russell Simmons and Sean “Diddy” Combs, Harrell believes that rhythm and blues music has somehow lost its way.

“I want to make relationship music because that’s what’s missing on the radio,” said Harrell, who also launched the careers of Jodeci and Al B. Sure. “I think relationship music is very important because the radio and music help groom young people how to interface and be social with the opposite sex. What we have on the radio right now is head banging music. It ain’t boy meets girl or girl meets boy. We need that because we don’t know to be together or get together.”

Harrell was recently in Philadelphia, a city with a storied tradition of great R&B singers, looking for that next superstar soul singer destined to bring back the love as a part of his Andre Harrell Super Star Soul Auditions. In this contest sponsored by Radio One and Atlantic Records, singers nationwide are competing for the opportunity to get a recording contract along with $10,000 in cash.

In the local competition, 50 singers gathered down at the Luxe Lounge in Center City to see who would represent Philadelphia among six national semifinalists who will gather in Atlanta and sing in front of a group celebrity judges.

After the singers were gradually whittled down from 50 to 25 to 10 and then the final three, West Philadelphia High graduate Faheem Mardre (FAHLyric) will represent the City of Brotherly Love in Atlanta on Saturday. He is one of six regional winners competing for the recording contract. Mardre’s ability to move across the stage and sing to his audience separated him from the pack.

“I think he had the total package. When you look at the whole package of voice to image, I think (Mardre) had the whole package,” said WRNB midday radio host Moshay Laren, who served as the emcee of the competition.

Mardre said the thing that made difference for him was learning from the things he did wrong in previous competitions while continually working on his singing skills.

“I actually work at my craft a lot and I pay attention to my critiques. If I’m wrong, then I’m wrong, I’m open-minded,” Mardre said. “I just came out and laid it all out. My nerves were going a million miles a minute just at the thought of getting an opportunity that could change everything. I want to accomplish one step at a time.”

The next big step for Mardre is going to Atlanta this weekend to compete in an even more intense atmosphere against the other regional finalists who are just as good and just as talented.

“At the end of the day this is the best of the best, the cream of the crop that I have to go up against and so I definitely have to come out and bring my “A” game,” Mardre said.

“I’ve tried out for American Idol different times and the process is similar. When you try out and once you make it [through each round], [judges] see a little bit more of you. Once I found out that’s how it was going, I tried to prepare myself for anything they might throw at me.”

For the young singers who didn’t make the finals, it’s about learning from the experience and trying to get better the next time around. Twenty-four year-old Aliyah Lewis, better known as “Red Ink” made it to the final 10 before being eliminated from the competition. She believes her performance made an impression.

“I felt like I did really good. This is not an end, this is just a start,” Lewis said. “At least I got the opportunity to be seen by somebody that’s important, so my name is going to stick in their heads and they’re going to remember me. People are going to see me soon because I numerous opportunities for different things. I feel like it will make me focus on what I need to do better.”

Although there were seven female singers in the final 10, the biggest criticism from the judges focused on finding the right song to fit their vocal style. None of them made the final cut.

“It was just poor song selection,” said Carvin Haggins, who along with Ivan Barias, currently produces Musiq Soulchild and has also worked with Grammy-Award winning singer Jill Scott. “They’re singing these records that’s so low and morbid. There was nothing to show their vocal range. You can’t sing Anita Baker’s “Sweet Love” and try to spruce it up. You’d better sing it like Anita or find something else to show off your vocal range.”

The 28-year-old Mardre impressed judges by his ability to move on stage and connect with the audience, especially the female contingent. What caught the judges attention was Mardre’s rendition of Hall and Oates’ “Sarah Smile”. Harrell said he liked his composure and his ability to choose a song that fit his vocal talents.

“Choices are very important in terms of what songs –to pick that will highlight your voice the best,” Harrell said. “The stars know how to be a star and picking the right song will help you to be a star. The women reacted to him very well.”

Barias and Haggins said they both liked Mardre and the other male singers who were in the final three because of their honesty and sincerity.

“The thing that came through was that they were all sincere and honest with their delivery and their lyrical approach,” Barias said. “That falls into bringing back the love into the music. The thing is there is no honesty in music. These guys were sincere in honest and straightforward. They were singing to women and not talking down to them.”

Harrell said what he wants to see out of whomever win this music contract is someone who is genuine and willing show some passion and vulnerability. He said that’s something that’s especially missing from Black male singers.

“They don’t sing about their vulnerabilities, they don’t sing about what they really feel in love, the hurt and I want to bring back soul singers who have a message of love,” Harrell said.

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James Jump to Miami is Yet Another Example of No Loyalty in Sports

11 Jul

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report
and The Sunday Sun
I hadn’t intended to weigh in on the whole nationally-televised hype regarding LeBron James free agent choice, but seeing and hearing all the reaction regarding James’ choice of the Miami Heat as his new team and how he spurned the Cleveland Cavaliers, all I have to say is the hypocrisy on both sides of the fence is utterly fascinating.
While all of Cleveland is decrying James’ lack of loyalty to the city and the Cavaliers, his jumping ship to the Miami Heat for what presumably is a bigger and better deal is par for the course in a world where big business and people with money can operate with impunity if the price is right.
If you thought James announcing his “divorce” from Cleveland before a nationally-televised audience on ESPN was bizarre, the bitter response from Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert was simply over the top. He referred to James act of spurning the Cavaliers as “cowardly betrayal.”
“The self-declared former ‘King’ will be taking the ‘curse’ with him down south,” Gilbert wrote on the team’s website. “And until he does ‘right’ by Cleveland and Ohio, James [and the town where he plays] will unfortunately own this dreaded spell and bad karma.”
C’mon, Mr. Gilbert tell us how you really feel, dude.
The words ‘loyalty’ and ‘betrayal’ have been used in all the media to attack James for his much ballyhooed move to Miami. On one level, you can understand the outrage on the part of fans in Cleveland because, in the last 25 years, they’re hearts have been ripped apart by their sports teams, whether you’re talking about losing three times to the Broncos in the AFC Championship in the 1980s or Art Modell moving the Browns to Baltimore.
Following all of the back and forth stuff in this drama confirms for me one thing that we all have to remember even as we enjoy our favorite players scoring those touchdowns and hitting all the big baskets is that words like ‘loyalty’ and  ‘virtue’  really mean nothing in the world of the sports. Like everything else in American capitalism, it is about money and accolades (which, in sports, leads to even more money). Just ask the myriad of American corporations that have shipped American jobs to Third World countries in order to make more money.
What the millionaire athlete James did is no different than what billionaire owners of sports teams and what most corporations have been doing over the last 30 years; he moved himself to a location where he can further maximize his earning potential and his chance to win a championship.
The last thirty years has seen an vast increase in the movement of sports franchises to new cities where local politicians give them all sorts of sweetheart incentives; we’ve also witnessed the increasing mobility of free agent athletes who jump from small markets to places like New York for the big bucks. This is the game, yo–haven’t we figured it out, yet?

Expecting the players or the owners to be loyal to the communities they play in belies the intractable reality that money and the opportunity to make a few extra bucks trumps both nobility and whatever morality there is in sports.   In fact, those of us who work nine to five will pull up stakes in one town to move to another in a hot minute if we saw an opportunity to increase our paychecks.

For as much Gilbert lambasted James for dropping his team like yesterday’s garbage, how many times has the Cavaliers owner made decisions to benefit the profitability of the franchise at the expense of loyalty? Was Gilbert loyal to former head coach Mike Brown or former general manager Danny Ferry, the tow men most responsible for Cleveland’s success  during James tenure there?
Gilbert thought getting rid of those guys for new management was a better deal for his team and his best chance to put a winner on the floor–and loyalty had nothing to do with it.
And so James allegiance wasn’t to the city of Cleveland or its NBA franchise, but to position himself to win that elusive NBA title. To make you feel better and to let you know it’s not all about dollars and cents, James will even tell you that he’s taking less money to join forces with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. In the end, the bigger and better deal prevailed over any notion of loyalty to the city or his fans.
What always bothers me, though, is that fans and the media like to blame the players for spurning their communities. Owners like Gilbert decried James lack of loyalty to the team. But when the owners are finished using up the best years of a player’s brief lifespan, that allegiance unceremoniously disappears.
In Philadelphia in 2008, fans were outraged that former free safety Brian Dawkins wasn’t re-signed by the team even though he made the Pro Bowl in his final year in an Eagles uniform and had been active in the community throughout his career. Back in 1973, Baltimore Colts great Johnny Unitas wasn’t allowed to finish out his career with his team, which angered fans in Baltimore. Again, it was about business.
While we like to attach ourselves to our favorite ball players and teams, it is important to remember that they are ultimately governed by the cold dictates of the marketplace or their own selfish quest for a championship. Players will jump teams for money and the possibility of winning that ring. Owners will move a team to another city if it lines his pockets with more money or get a rid of a longtime player when his usefulness is up.
It’s not about any abstract allegiance to a city, a team or an individual player, it’s about loyalty to the players or owners own self interest and ability to earn as much money as possible. After all, it’s the American way.