Forget the drama about who might win, the post-performance gushing or even the insightful commentary from some of the judges, the “comedy track” about fat kids and Tamil accents and whatever else the producers’ desperate, picayune imagination can come up with in order to fill the airtime with something other than just music. Here’s the single biggest reason why I love this show, and the others like it. Thanks to the song choices of the contestants, I have found my list of favourite songs growing longer, and in unexpected ways. They have, to extend a Jerome K. Jerome analogy, made my boat bigger. A few highlights:
Udhaya Udhaya Ularugiren (Udhaya, A. R. Rahman): The song has its idiosyncrasies: the word kaadhal often involves an abrupt jump from one note to another, and Hariharan’s rendition of that part is hit-or-miss. But it doesn’t take away from the beauty of the song. It’s rare to hear a duet with two distinct voices and feel like you’re hearing one soul. Thanks to the film deservedly sinking without a trace, this song, I believe, got undeservedly sidelined, until it was popularized by kids in competition wanting to cut their teeth on a really tough Rahman number.
Enakkoru Kaadhali Irukkindral (Muththaana Muththallavo, M. S. Viswanathan): A dear friend introduced me to this, and it was steadily climbing the charts in my head before a recent Super Singer performance gave it another ratings bump. I’ll be honest: MSV is not my favourite singer, except for certain specific songs that I don’t think anyone else would’ve done justice to. When viewed in the context of the film (MSV sings for Thengai Srinivasan, SPB for Jaiganesh), it works fine. But forget all of that and listen to how it is composed.
Also, there’s something to be said for the experience of hearing a kid perform a song that’s probably more than twice his/her age, and feeling like you’re hearing it for the first time. I think part of it is because you’re not hearing it in the context of the film, so even if someone’s voice is too lightweight, or not raspy enough, or too strong for a particular song, you don’t care much. You end up focusing on how *their* rendition makes you feel. It is, of course, easier with songs you haven’t paid much attention to before this. But even with ones that you’ve had on repeat loop in a corner of your brain for years, there’s the occasional Eureka moment. Like listening to Divagar sing Neeye Unakku Endrum Nigaranavan and realizing that, until then, I had never even considered the possibility of that song being done solo.
Thanks to these performances, I’ve found myself really listening to these songs. I’ve found myself trying to figure out, in my head, how I would break down the difficult parts of a song and teach it to myself. The music is no longer just helping me relax after a long day at work or during a long commute. It’s saying good morning.
Postscript: While composing this piece in my mind, I started skimming through my old posts on music. Here’s what I discovered: I have written petabytes of stuff about bad movies, bad performances, bad directors, bad screenwriters, even bad acceptance speeches, but I have rarely written about bad music. Oh, I’ve made the odd snarky comment, but otherwise, it’s been mostly about how much I’ve enjoyed listening to this song or that. I’ve written thank you notes to composers, singers, sometimes even to music itself.
Now, part of this is due to the sample size: I write more often about the movies, and therefore find more opportunities to complain. But I don’t think it’s just that, really. (Not that I let data get in the way of my conclusions anyway.)
I think it’s simply the fact that music was the first thing I fell in love with.