A story I wrote - in honour of the end of the talent show "the voice" tomorrow night - I'm a big fan of the thing for easy watching...
Music began, and she sang. She sang despite the nerves. Her chest felt like it would explode with the quiver of it, but she managed to tame. She cast a net over herself and kept on steering through the wild storm of her own waves and gushes of panic. Her body was reacting as if she might be shot if she didn’t sing it perfectly. Tears ran from her closed eyes, closed against the blur, focusing on the next note, the next note, the next. Her nose felt all soft. The meaning of the words kept her going. The flood of gratitude, love and excitement that filled her with each of these words that had unbelieveably, even to herself, spilled from her pen at 3am of a quiet morning – helped keep her steady. She seemed to wake at the end of the song. She shielded her eyes against the blasting lights of the studio to see all four judges chairs had turned. They all wanted her on their team.
Melon clutched the microphone in front of her. She’d never sung on any kind of stage and really didn’t expect even one of the judges to turn. She didn’t quite remember how she’d even got here.
“I don’t know if you saw right” Stud began when the thunderous audience applause died down, “but I turned around after two seconds, like two seconds flat!” The other judges began to shout him down. He stood. “All 6 foot 7 of me was shaking when the first note left your lips, honestly it was without a doubt the most stunning thing I have ever heard.”
Shorty waited for the roaring and rapturous audience to calm down, helping to quiet them with her slender arms. She fixed her eyes on Melon “You my girl, have got a special gift, you know this don’t you?”
“Of course she knows it, come on!” scoffed Cheeky, throwing his hands up to the studio rafters, “she is a diva, a true and honest Diiiiva”
Eyes was last in the line. She was half crying with the emotion – “What’s your name again darling?”
“Melon” she quietly breathed.
“Well, an apt name for someone with such a fresh and juicy voice,” Eyes didn’t miss a beat “I would actually find your sound completely succulent and smooth. Was it your own song?” Melon nodded and the audience got to their feet again, the judges shook their heads in disbelief.
Eyes said with a wide smile “Your voice can go anywhere”
Stud “Your voice does things to parts of me that have never before been done things to if you get me.”
Shorty “He can’t even speak. Listen, you and I, I know you are going to win this, everyone else might as well go home, I want to talk about getting you to duet on my next album, I would love if you could pick me”
Cheeky “Watch out for her, she only wants you to further her career – I’ll let you be yourself.” There was silence before Eyes came back in again with the killer smile
“ Only you can choose.”
Melon noticed how orange the sides of her nose looked with the make-up they’d plastered on her – she was far too pale the girls in the make-up room had said.
They all continued begging, quietly pleading in their own ways. “I’m going to go with Eyes” said Melon, which led to the lucky judge jumping high off her seat squealing with delight.
Three weeks later in the “judges homes” bootcamp, things were not quite so rosy. The judges had gone on and on for the remaining few programmes about how Eyes had got a hold of the amazing Melon, and how she didn’t need anyone else, so all the strong contestants went for the other judges . She’d had to turn for the weaker ones, so that she’d be alone, so that she’d be guaranteed to get them, but she hadn’t been worried until now.
“What do you mean you don’t sing anything else?”
“You are telling me you don’t sing ANYTHING else? Like you CAN’T sing anything else? Are you for REAL? You’ve never once managed to sing any other song?” The normally sweet and collected Eyes was storming around the penthouse apartment, the camera crew luckily hadn’t arrived, and the other contestants – all mediocre and nerve ridden, were standing awkwardly around the island in the kitchen while Eyes strode up and down the fake tiger rug.
“Oh we’ve a little trick or two up our sleeves” the flushed Eyes told the camera flirtingly later. And then they shot a warm little scene of everyone singing Melon’s song around the piano while Melon herself smiled sheepishly.
Eyes told the camera later from her bedroom in a confidential excited manner “The first surprise is a name change. This isn’t a gimmick or anything, it’s just that for Melon this competition has already been such a transformative affair – we’ve decided her new stage name is going to be Cantaloupe.”
“So you’ve never sang anything only your own song?” Eyes was going over the story again later that night, this time slightly calmer, sitting on the couch, cameras and crew all gone away, her sweeter self fighting to show itself. “You know you can tell me about it? Did you never even hum along with pop songs?”
Cantaloupe shook her head. “No, I told you, I came from a house where there was never any music – it was like my parents wanted to be able to hear every single insult they hurled at each other – whispered or shouted. And then when I finally left – I dunno – music always kind of got to me a bit too much” Eyes nodded her huge understanding eyes unbelievably wide and encouraging, until she remembered the lack of cameras and narrowed them a little again.
“I don’t believe it” she shook her head. “And you’ve never managed to sing any other song?” She’d seen the proof earlier herself though. The girl wasn’t making it up, she sounded crow like when trying to apply her vocal chords to anything but her own composition. It actually made Eye’s toes curl with discomfort listening to her. It was fully apparent – the girl struggled to get anything out that wasn’t part of that one amazing song.
Cantaloupe shook her head again sadly “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have entered, it was a stupid idea” her eyes were brimming wetly as she thought about the job at the dog shelters which was probably gone by now, the house mates who won’t notice her absence till the rent is unpaid.
Eyes looked slightly haggard when the live shows came around – they’d spent weeks trying everything she could think of - hypnosis, sleep training, she’d even tried to scare the girl into singing another song – but not even when held at knifepoint by actors dressed as crazed fans could she string more than a note or two of a song together before breaking down in an exhausted sob or sometimes she’d go and start singing her own song again – leaving the listener spell bound, but Eyes increasingly worried.
They pretended she was skipping the sound check for health reasons. And then the moment came. The nation had been talking about the song and her amazing voice since the point when her audition had been aired. People were humming it to themselves, thinking about it while they made love, finding refuge in clicking the youtube clip again and again no matter what their difficulties. Something about the song just made everyone melt. When her turn came to get up and sing – a reverent and blistering silence descended on everyone in the mega theatre. The pianist began a thrum thrum thrum, and she began to sing “It’s a little bit funny...” and then she stopped, shook her head, seemed to fight something inside herself before roaring out of her, unaccompanied by the stunned musicians came her original song again, stronger and even more impressive and touching and tender than before. It was way off script, but Eyes lit up like it was planned and every listening soul in the whole country swooned with it, skin fizzing with each note, backs of necks caressed by the sounds. Hairs standing up but dancing. She looked as surprised and awed by the power of herself as everyone else as the place erupted in thunderous appreciation.
She got through of course, to the next round, and the next. 3 weeks before the end of the series the rest of the contestants quit. “I was only thinking about her song anyway while I was up there” said the young fella with the gravelly voice. “Yeah” nodded the woman with the face held together with staples, “I’ve enjoyed the journey, but there’s no way I’d want to win anyway if it meant Cantaloupe was going to lose. Who am I kidding? I was voting for her myself every chance I got” she giggled showing her coloured button teeth.
Things got strange after that. She was crowned winner of the series. Camera people had to have their ears blocked so they could concentrate on their jobs when she sang. Every time she sang it just kept getting better and better. She recorded an album full of the song. In 12 different styles, recorded over the course of one 24 hour period every two hours. People gathered around water coolers – “I adore the 3 am, it’s just so aching and tired you know?” The 5pm was released as a single – but all the different versions were played incessantly on the radio as well. The rest of music started to sound so old, so wrong and false. “He’ll only go to sleep for the 9pm version” said the young mother at the bus stop with earphones in her sleeping babies ears, as she checked the iphone to see how many seconds were left in the tune – “I’d never have survived the colic without it!”
Everyone agreed it was the most amazing thing. Of course it spread. Conquered the world. No translations required. She didn’t quite believe it herself. Eyes gave heaps of interviews about her times with “Loupe” as she liked to call her. “When I first heard she couldn’t sing any other song I felt like a race horse owner who’d found out the horse was paralysed from the neck down, I didn’t know that she had the song, I mean THE song – the only song we’d ever need again.”
Cantaloupe herself didn’t do interviews. She’d have liked to see her old school choir master who’d kicked her out for not being able to sing – he was probably eagerly training his kids to sing her song now, boasting that he knew her once upon a time. This was just a dream – she knew he’d never remember that he’d once known her, that he’d once frowned, rolled his eyes and stood her in the corner at the back, coffee breath telling her to sing softly, so she wouldn’t put the kids who could sing off their notes.
At first it was wonderful. Her music was out there, the world’s finest musicians (as well as the lousiest) all sending her demo tapes, trying to capture the sound, trying to impress her so that they could be in her band. She got lovely letters, from people who’d been preparing to die but then rallied around at the sound of her voice. People who’d fought for years no longer seeing the sense in it and reuniting with the people they’d once loved. Terrorists abandoned their plots. Boardrooms began their meetings with a quick listen and gave everyone the rest of the day off, realising that giving people a chance to connect with each other and share some love was actually infinitely more important than growing. But Cantaloupe grew tired of it all. She went into hiding. The attention, the adoration was too much.
Once she’d stopped her daily podcast of the song she began to relax. It was true the critics said that every time she sang it just kept getting better, but so also grew the nerves and the pressure on her to deliver, until her blood was pounding with it, and she was stopped in her steps a few times with heart palpitations. So stopping was a great relief. Her massive wealth bought her an island where she could hide. She had a full staff who she interviewed extensively for until she found the perfect team of people who were deaf but no one else, no one from her old life. She flew a doctor in twice a month to check on her recovery. He strongly advised that she stay put and said that if she ever sang again there was a strong chance that she would die. He had tears in his eyes as he said this, as he really wished he could hear her just once more – but he was a consummate professional and wouldn’t risk the patient’s life.
The world was in shock. When the podcasts stopped people prayed it was just a blip, a technical difficulty, that the mysterious singer would be back soon. Every concert had turned into a Cantaloupe tribute concert, the same song echoing sadly and never quite perfectly delivered in arenas around the world to crowds who were in mourning. In nightclubs her earlier recordings were mixed with later versions, the 7 videos from the talent show were shown on a loop, people smiled wanly under the disco lights, no one felt much like dancing.
Eyes was a shadow of her former self. The media were cruel, they blamed her as she was the only known connection to the girl. They even went back to calling her Melon, saying that the name change was part of why she’d ran. Eyes was hunted and headlines showed her in tabloids and broadsheets alike pointing out that she had the brashness, the boldness to continue living, eating, breathing and seemingly, or claimed to have lost contact with her protegee. “Eyes wide shut” they jeered. “Irish Eyes not smiling” “Eye’m the biggest loser”. This was only 3 weeks into the loss of Cantaloupe – a full 3 months after she’d first began to sing in public. Cantaloupe’s former friends and family it must be said never missed her – of course they worshipped her as a singer, along with the rest of us, but they never connected her with the mousy colleague/ sister/ daughter who’d gone missing a few months before without trace, and who they really weren’t all that distraught to lose.
Her doctor broke his silence on the 22nd day, he sold his story to a respectable broadsheet and a medical journal – “The song has nearly killed our songstress,” he said, “she has only just stopped in time” He was hunted by the press for news of her whereabouts, and soon regretted having brought the attention to himself.
Eventually Cantaloupe made a Video. In it she told the world she would come back and sing once more. Her holiday was good, but she was ready to return. People blessed themselves, sang, gave birth without pain killers, and cried into their soup.
She never returned, but every day she made a promise that she would, made an excuse or two and asked for more money to be sent. She grew fat and then dramatically thin and perfect with the help of surgeons. She starred in documentaries and films. The song was played and played. People continued with the purge of other music till no other music was to be heard in the entire world – even birds were shot at except the ones that could learn the song and everyone kept smiling at each other like they do in Ireland when the weather’s good and they said to each other “I think we’ll hear the new version tomorrow” “I think we might”