A uto-tune is the plastic surgery of the music world. It makes things pretty, but is it real? Have you been to a live concert of a big act only to find the live performance sounds very little like the album you downloaded? It becomes clear the artist nipped and tucked his or her own voice to be something it isn’t. For good or ill, the artist deprives us of his or her true self. This creates an unsatisfying experience for the recipient because the artist chose the pursuit of perfection- the absence of apparent mistakes. I have a different version of auto-tune and perfection. It’s called a celebration of growth and rehearsal.
What is it about our world that demands artificial perfection? Perfectionism is an iron fist of self-rejection that pounds the message into our subconscious minds that we, and those around us, will never be good enough. The unreasonable drive for perfection in ourselves and others becomes the “Precious” and our authentic selves waste away and become covered or distorted by saline injections and identity manipulation.
The itch to achieve perfection must be satisfied somehow. The entertainment industry satisfies the itch by providing artificially produced perfection in the magazine spreads, recordings and moving images of our icons of perfection created by auto-tune and Photoshop. Then we are fascinated to discover (and the tabloids are anxious to deliver) the news that someone has an imperfect body! In fact, they have cellulite! We cue the viral Twitter and Facebook posts! There is a dent in an icon’s armor…I mean thighs!
I ronically, in an age where perceived perfection dominates the media and our expectations of ourselves, rushed rehearsal is becoming the norm. Reality talent shows that feature artists with new songs every week are evidence of this. I wonder if this brisk performance pace deprives the performers of the natural learning process of rehearsal that the most successful artists and musicians enjoy before live performances. The competitors are clearly prepared with years of experience, but to perform for a television audience with little time to let a song percolate inside of them- I just wonder if they are burdened with an overly stressful level of expectation. Perhaps it is a celebration of musical and personal vulnerability from people who simply love to sing. Like the rest of America, I watch with fascination at their performances under immense pressure and cheer every one of them on because I understand at least in part what that performance pressure cooker feels like.
I was born and grew up before auto-tune. What you heard was what was sung. Recordings were live performances without voice-altering digital surgery. As a performing classical pianist, I had one shot to win a competition, so I rehearsed, learning from my errors and adjusting my mind and body to the requirements of excellent execution of the musical piece. Focusing on learning from errors helped me to win, not because I was perfect, but because I rehearsed and learned from the things I did imperfectly. Even in those competitions that I won, I made mistakes during my performances! Quickly recovering from mistakes and focusing on the present and the music yet to come was key to doing my very best. So it is in all aspects of our lives.
P erfection is not about flawlessness, fame, or attention. It’s not about living life on artificial auto-tune where everything is seemingly perfect. Perfection is that which completes you. Perfection is about living in tune with our highest selves. This means doing our best to be true to ourselves, our beliefs, and loving ourselves enough to keep on rehearsing as we explore the limitlessness of our potential. It is about loving others enough to allow them their own struggles without pounding them with the iron fist of our disapproval.
Currently, there is a transformation that I call a Renaissance of the Human Soul. Great thought leaders are encouraging the power of vulnerability as the secret to overcoming challenges and making important human connections in our personal and professional lives. Vulnerability requires a willingness to expose our struggles and open ourselves up to criticism or attack. Yet, vulnerability is essential to a connection. I was not the most technically proficient piano performer, but I was the most emotionally expressive and vulnerable. Judges were drawn into my creative sphere by seeing the music move my body and face. I showed and played what I felt. We shared emotional vulnerability.
T he key to connecting to an audience is the act of emotional vulnerability. The perfectly imperfect leaders are rising to the top because vulnerability is endearing and engenders trust. As people, we are willing to learn from people who understand what it is like to not understand something. We no longer value the perception of perfection. We value and celebrate the journey of exploring the unexplored within our hearts and minds. A perfect image is taking a backseat to the power of imagination. Pretense has been replaced by a personal connection. We now seek to live true to our gifts and talents rather than to the expectations of generations past.
Film and television actors push themselves to perform in live theater where there are no second takes in live performance. Many recording artists avoid auto-tune and release albums of live recordings to great success. They give us the benefit of their perfectly imperfect, naked voices without the digital injections of false perfection. They don’t need to. They are vulnerable.
And besides, they rehearse.