“Talent is insignificant. I know a lot of talented ruins. Beyond talent lie all the usual words: discipline, love, luck, but, most of all, endurance.”
― James Baldwin
Last month my mom called to share something with me. She had found a box of various writings from when I was younger: a poem I wrote after my grandfather’s suicide, love notes I wrote to boys but never had the nerve to deliver, and an essay I wrote about her when I was in high school. She was laughing about the essay and insisted I let her read it to me.
“Nooooo…it’s gonna be cringey!” I protested.
She laughed, “No, it’s not. It’s a nice essay, but it starts off kinda mean!”
“What do you mean, mean??”
“It’s about our relationship. The message is really nice, but the way it starts off—” she laughed again.
I was mortified, cause I could just imagine.
“Go ahead,” I said, resigning to impending embarrassment.
Long story short, the purpose of my essay was to convey how much I loved my mom and our relationship and how I had grown to understand and respect her. By the conclusion, that message was perfectly clear—but in true me fashion, it didn’t start without a litany of grievances. My intro paragraph lamented everything from the way she chewed her food to the way she helicopter-parented my brother.
It’s me. The proofreader at heart, always recognizing what could be better about folks and wishing I could edit them into a polished final draft. (Obviously, it’s me that needs editing. I’m working on it.)
So as I watched yesterday’s inauguration it wasn’t long before I pulled out my figurative red pen. Here it goes, my one criticism of this otherwise wonderful historical event:
Of all the amazing vocalists in the world y’all picked JLo to sing “This Land is Your Land”?
There aren’t enough cliché metaphors to describe how terrible her singing voice sounds to me. Really, I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a pop artist/entertainer whose voice puts me off as much. And I feel awful for saying that even though I know I’m not alone. She has all the Benjamins in the world to wipe her tears. I’m sure she’s fine.
When you know your voice is not that great (cause someone in her life has certainly told her the truth, right?), and Mariah Carey—literally one of the best vocalists of our time—is always throwing you shade, it takes all the self-love and confidence in the world to go out there and sing with conviction anyways. To fake it ’til you make it while offering up your soul for criticism. It takes guts. She has remained relevant and successful for the past three decades through disciple, hard work, confidence, and endurance; and despite the voice, I will always revere her for that. (Not to mention she has a long list of other talents.)
There will always be someone who can do what you do but better. Believe in yourself anyways. Do the hard work. Set yourself apart. It matters.