The System is Broken: Why Philippine Show Business Should Stop Pushing the “Triple Threat”
GT’s viral performance has us thinking about Philippine showbiz at large
Listening to Sam Smith’s How Do You Sleep will never be the same. Not because it’s a great track––although to be fair, it does have great recall––and not because of the dramatic music video that saw the musician putting on his dancing shoes either. No, I credit my newfound inability to listen to the song without breaking into an amused grin to a different dance rendition––one I’m sure everyone and their mom has seen, shared and, unfortunately, laughed at. At this point, does GT’s performance of the track even need an introduction anymore?
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Some measure the impact of news by its social relevance. Others, by whether or not it earns a spot on the evening news. As a twenty-something whose skills proudly include an impressive skim-and-scroll rate and the ability to tweet with my eyes closed, I tend to measure headline relevance by its talkability all across social media––and well, it’s safe to say that local pop group GT’s rendition of the Sam Smith hit delivered on that front. Everyone talked about it. People abused their Facebook reaction buttons over it. It spawned countless parody covers. It became the stuff of comedy gold, the struggle vocals festooning the comments section in laugh-cry emoji combos and the out-of-sync arm movements being likened to those clocks that never seem to match up at Western Union. It’s unfortunate (or impressive, if you’re more of a glass half full kind of person) how a 4-minute song and dance number birthed a thousand memes so quickly.
If that performance is any barometer of GT’s abilities, it would be easy to say flat out that the group sucks. Notes left unhit, choreography all over the place, formations an obvious mess; I’ve subjected myself to watching the video tens of times over, but I’ve yet to find a redeeming factor buried somewhere under the chaos. Despite all GT’s misses, I’m inclined to think a lack of talent is the only issue. The performance was a trainwreck, sure, but it would have been salvageable with training and ample practice.
Yup, ako may sala. Aminado ako. That definitely wasn’t my day. I’m sorry for that. Ngayon lang ako naganyan sa 3years ko sa GT. Eh kayo kailan kayo magiging sorry sa kaka shame niyo ng tao na walang ginagawa sa inyo? ☺️♥️ I wish you all nothing but happiness and contentment.
— Chienna Filomeno (@ChieFilomeno) August 16, 2019
Let’s shift the focus to my self-proclaimed area of expertise for a second: K-Pop. Training is rigorous to an almost unbelievable level, with pre-teens and teenagers practicing in agencies for up to a decade in the hopes of getting the chance to even debut in a group. The system is far from perfect, but the perfectionism and unrelenting attention to detail that is instilled in trainees during this period––to put it simply, we need some of that.
Somewhere the daily noontime dance numbers and the thickening influx of celebrities filling the scene, we lost touch with the notion that every performance is make or break. We ought to dial things back and hold our performers to a higher standard.
Another point: The performers aren’t the only problem. It’s the system.
My mom pointed out a while back how success these days can’t be assured with just a job––instead, people need to have an expansive set of skills that will allow them to flexibly mold into whatever they need to become. The same is true for Philippine show business; being multifaceted is the norm. We saw it when Cara Delevigne had that singing stint a few years back. We see it whenever K-idols transition from music to movies. But nobody does it like they do here.
Here, a hefty premium rests on the idea of the so-called triple threat. Here, a singer can’t just sing. Here, actors need to add dancing to their repertoire of skills to solidify their spot on ASAP and Showtime. Here, being put in a house for a reality television show assures you of a showbiz career. Here, A-listers who murmur or yell their way to accurate notes record studio albums and hold concerts in arenas.
At this point, it’s a no brainer that celebrity status is laced with the privilege to perform on stages that trained performers work years to stand on. But it doesn’t stop at privilege. There is a quiet, ceaseless pressure to spread themselves thinner, to do more, to become the triple threat performer.
And that’s how GT’s How Do You Sleep performance was born. So where do we go from here?
Art Alexandra Lara