Monthly Archives: January 2013

Il Divo Sings Cheesy Music and Makes a lot of Money for Simon Cowell

I think the thing that makes me angry about “pop-opera” or “crossover” singers is that, because they get so much more publicity than traditional opera singers (you know, the ones who sing in actual operas), people who haven’t been exposed to opera, who might love it if they were, never get around to hearing a real opera because they never seem to move beyond these more mainstream performers.

So, when @OperaNowPodcast tweeted a quote from a Daily Mail article about pseudo-opera supergroup Il Divo that made my blood boil, I eagerly clicked on the link to rage-read the whole thing.  As I did, I experienced an unusual range of reactions, some of which were unexpected.

The article weirdly begins by describing how the band members complain that fellow crossover singer Katherine Jenkins has it so much better than them. Because dresses…or something?

‘When Katherine opens her wardrobe she can take her pick from hundreds of different things. All these designers have different fabrics, cuts, styles. She has a gazillion options. What do we have? Black suits. Nice black suits, granted, but how many options can you have with a black suit. You can have a good piece of trim or a different lining, but ultimately it is a suit.’

But at least they don’t have to shave their legs.  Whatever.  Moving on…

They then argue about whether their music could be considered “cheesy.”

‘But they are among the most popular songs in the world,’ he objects. ‘The most passionate, emotional . . .’

Mercifully, Sebastien launches in with: ‘No, I agree with her. Some of the songs are cheesy, but what we have done is turn them into something different.’

Let me help  you guys settle this.

Yeah, that’s Toni Braxton’s Unbreak My Heart sung in Spanish.  That’s basically the definition of cheesy.

The article goes on to discuss the genesis of the pop group, which was put together by Simon Cowell, the sneering, sarcastic American Idol judge who can’t seem to find a tee-shirt in his size.  He initially signed the four singers for one album, “I don’t think even Simon had any long-term plan. He couldn’t have expected us to still be around nearly ten years on.”

Then the author of the piece claims that the group has “created a crossover category of music, which is neither pure pop nor pure opera.”  Wait a second!  Pavarotti, Domingo, and Carreras were doing that shit back in the eighties.  Il Divo didn’t create this genre, they were late to the party.

Most of their fans are women, but their fans’ husbands like Il Divo too, because their music helps them get laid, and that’s all guys care about, amirite?

Women love them. They attract groupies all over the world, ‘But the men love us, too,’ smilesCarlos. ‘In Spain, the men say “Sing well, boys, because if you do I will get the benefit of it tonight”.’

But the part of the article that surprised me the most is this one:

They admit they waved goodbye to their dreams of becoming global operatic soloists once they signed with Cowell. David is returning to the opera stage next year for a performance of La Traviata in the U.S., but it is his first major opera role in ten years.

I had no idea any of these guys had legit opera cred!  Go figure.  Starting to judge them less…well…judging the one named David less…

They are used to people assuming they dumbed down in some way to sing pop, but insist today that it is actually harder than opera.

Ok, judging you again…

But this last part of the article is what really pissed me off:

I ask about their lifestyles. Do they have pools, mansions, fast cars?

‘No. I live in London and I drive a 12-year-old car worth £2,000,’ says Sebastien. David says he lives in an apartment in New York. Carlos has moved to Paraguay. Urs lives in London, but does not have a Cowell type of life. ‘You probably have the wrong perception of how much money we have made,’ he says. ‘Simon Cowell has made a lot of money . . .’

Simon Cowell has made a lot of money.  And with that, I find that I don’t blame you, Il Divo, as Tenor and Blogger Christopher Gillett says, “I blame them that sent you.”





Tune the Third!

Ever since I began to gain an understanding of basic music theory, I have found that the funniest musical joke you can make is to take a familiar melody in a major key, and play it in a minor key, or vice versa.  For the uninitiated, all that means is to change two (or sometimes just one, or sometimes  three, don’t worry about it) notes in the tune.*

I had a music teacher once who played Frosty the Snowman in a minor key, it was hysterical.

Now the Vimeo channel Major Scaled that is doing just that, by digitally altering minor-key pop songs into a major tonality, to hilarious effect.  Check out this rather jaunty little tune:

Major Scaled #2 : REM – “Recovering My Religion” from major scaled on Vimeo.


Songs that once had menacing gravitas now seem uplifting:

Major Scaled #1 : Metallica – “Nothing Else Majeur” from major scaled on Vimeo.


*Here’s a quick tutorial:  If you sat at a piano and played a C Major scale, you would play all the white keys from C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C.  To change that to a minor scale, you would play C,D, E-flat, F, G, A-flat, B, C.  (Music theory nerds, yes I know there’s more to it than that, I’m trying not to confuse people.)  More detail can be found here.