On People Pleasing Dysfunction (Amy Morin/PT)

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Namaste, Dear Music Lovers,

One aspect of being “in the public eye” is the tendency of artists/performers to fall into some variation of “people pleasing behaviours” and I’ll admit it’s practically a given for singers.

If we’re not already overloaded with pressure to produce excellence by a music director or composer, we can find ourselves second-guessing audiences to try to add that subtle touch to a song in order to convey the emotional moment of the lyrics in the context of the film (which is the stock in trade of the movie director). Maybe I’ve had movies on my mind more than usual as awards season has come and gone here in Bollywood.

Many of the stalwart toppers are still seriously bringing audiences to the box office. Movies remain a perennial part of Indian culture (and the pace of film music production in Mumbai never slows, I assure you, lol). Apart from our unique vantage point in Bollywood, it seems that even pop psychologists in the U.S. have explored this idea of being a people-pleaser in some depth.

As an industry, we’re all subject to the tastes and preferences of our regional and international patrons (paying theatergoers). Still we must be more than purveyors of salable, marketable products. Experts call film a culturally-important form of expression. Depictions of characters remain the type of issue than cannot be resolved in such drastic measures as simply killing off all of the bad guys in Act III. Real life is more nuanced and complex.

For example, the India/South Asia market is much less intrigued with animation and fantasy than by thought-provoking or otherwise absorbing, emo and psych themes than our Hollywood peers.

That seems likely to remain the norm for the foreseeable future, yet music also seems to have its own trajectory and timeline (while tracks make the rounds of DJs, film, radio & TV use, etc.).

Music preferences as larger trends (the sort of analyses used by the leading publishers—in India those are often the same as the film publishers—of which they’re often parts) are very often regional in nature—or segmented according to the end user purposes) are being studied in great depth thanks to online-provider analyses—what’s most popular tends to be repeated or cloned.

By segmented (beyond whatever traditional song  forms or styles are used), here I mean we have in the most basic senses film songs (often romantic or at least sensual), and lighter (or heavier—more-specifically, ethnic) dance numbers. Within those two rubrics, we also have many other variations. We’re learning to embrace them all. Please share your preferences and inspirations with the rest of us! Growth and cross-pollination is guaranteed.

I’ll admit that like most people (and most women in particular—it’s an old familiar pattern) I’ve at times struggled with trying to be a people-pleaser. In other times, I must either be handling pressure on autopilot or it’s simply an unconscious trait that’s become a part of my approach to being a recording artist: my objective is to please myself as a performer first (and at times my teachers—Indians are known for allegiance to their educators; I certainly have to credit my several teachers with helping my skills and studio/stage confidence, as well as the greats like Asha, Lata, Sunidhi, Madhuri, et al. who’ve inspired me to embark upon this film-music journey myself).

My own Bollywood career might’ve been quite impossible if not for my dear Baba (Daddy) and of course, the great Pritam da and film and other music directors and writers who’ve included me in their projects. While I don’t like to boast, someone must enjoy my singing at least sometimes. I’m honored when the masters call for my expertise.

This makes me ecstatically happy and eager for more of the sort, God-willing. I am forever grateful for the opportunities coming my way. I don’t want all of the songs, just a few great ones, please! I prefer “quality over quantity.”

I’ll accept at least a modicum of responsibility whether I decide to change my approach to the music, the story being told, the soundtrack mixers and editors, and/or the audience. Or not, if my interpretation is dictated by (a) director(s), lol.

Like the art of songwriting, shaping vocal performances involves (usually, multiple, longish) continuing series of creative choices. I wouldn’t choose different family or work associates even if it was an option! But the choices I do have are usually not unlimited. Good taste is the ideal arbiter when considering one’s creative options. Enough is enough but too much is even a bit more.

We can take a song in various directions, with or without accompaniment(s) or background vocals… and in whatever style(s) are needed. Often these are fun choices, but occasionally it’s a bit of a struggle. Such challenges go with the territory. We try to withhold our opinions until we hear the final mix.

I suppose what I’m suggesting is that people-pleasing isn’t merely a bad trait. I’ve read that the #1 trait of top achievers is related to pleasing others—in a word: conscientiousness. We try to be conscientious (okay, the editor slipped one over on us).

I also strive to be reasonable and patient (perhaps occasionally missing the mark, but rarely for selfish reasons)—like any artist, I want the work to speak for itself (and to speak well for the writers). If that makes me a peoplepleaser, I guess I’ll just have to own it, lol.

Not every topic of a blog post here will be fully explained or thoroughly tested prior to being  included on my site. Your takes on these issues will always be welcome. The blog itself will improve over the months and years ahead, in part with your help. We just updated our Post editor and are learning how to make best use of the new one. My web team keeps promising me that forum and it looks like it’s coming soon—within a few months, we hope!

I keep forecasting this, but it’s still not ready for release/opening: my Forum Antara’s Bollywood Takes is still in development. When it goes live, I’m sure the exchange of opinions will be lively and apt. Well, I hope that after months and months of promising a useful and meaningful site resource/meeting place, the forum when working lives up to its advance billing!

Perhaps our shared-here takes (commentary about songs and performances) on film songs will influence the status quo. This has potential to raise the bar and improve things industry-wide for the future. Stranger things have occurred in my life!

So have sweeter things. I choose to celebrate and embrace the sweeter ones. If I have one (the occasional sweeter moment), that’s my style. Right there!

We do hope you like what we do here, lol. We care! At some point, we’re all subject to the mandates of life in general… according to mid-century U.S. teen hearththrob singer-songwriter Rick Nelson:

You see, ya can’t please everyone, so you got to please yourself.



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