For some reason, I've been having a lot of conversations lately with colleagues and friends about the "IT" factor, and why certain singers seem to shoot to the top, while other, seemingly equally talented singers, seem to have to constantly be scratching to find jobs. Why one singer gets hired to sing the lead role at the Met while another one has to make ends meet by waiting tables across the street at Fiorello's. You would think the obvious answer would be that the one singing at the Met has more talent than the one waiting tables, but that's not necessarily the case. The answer is actually often something much more elusive and uncontrollable: Fate. Luck. Timing. It doesn't sound very glamourous when you put it that way, does it?
This is not to say that the people who do succeed don't have talent - of course they do, or people wouldn't want to listen to them. But the way a singer's career unfolds is very interesting, and having one big job can lead to several other jobs, which can lead to several other jobs, and can mean you're on your way. And in the meantime, a similar singer with a similar voice type who doesn't get that one big job, can get left in the dust, waiting for their big moment. It's exactly the same with hollywood actors - do you really think that Jennifer Aniston is the best, most beautiful actress that ever walked the earth? I'm sure L.A. is crawling with waitresses who are just as good as she is, but who didn't end up starring on "Friends" and then marrying and divorcing Brad Pitt, so who will never find themselves on the cover of US weekly.
A friend and I tried an experiment recently; She turned her computer around so I couldn't see what was on the screen, and played me recordings of three different singers singing the same aria; one who sings at the Met, one who sings regionally, and one who isn't really singing much at all and who has a temp job. She didn't tell me which was which, and my first instinct was that I liked the one singing regionally and the one temping the best, and of course I was immediately indignant, saying "Why aren't these people doing more???" But then I had to remind myself; Fate. Luck. Timing. The sooner you realize you have no control and give it up, the less frustrated you'll feel all the time.
That's not to say that singers should just give up on trying to improve as artists - on the contrary - that's the only thing we have control over, and therefore the only thing we should focus our energy on. But we definitely have to give up on expecting life to be fair, and expecting that just because people who are "in the know" tell us we're good, life will be smooth sailing. And this doesn't just apply to young singers who are trying to make it - many famous singers are always looking over their shoulder at the next young somebody who they fear might be their replacement, and they can get crazy and mean as a result.
My point? Maybe all artists should become Buddhists who live completely in the moment, and accept that now is all we have. Or maybe we should all try to marry Brad Pitt. I mean, he and Angelina are apparently sort of on the outs, so I say strike while the iron is hot, people.