DAVE STEWART LAUNCHING ‘THE VOICE FOR SONGWRITERS’ AS HE SIGNS TO BMG

Some read the news above about Dave Stewart and tweeted that The Hardest Working Man In Showbiz was back. But he’s never left the building with Elvis, or given up keeping on. Possibly the only thing he hasn’t done is collaborate with Kanye West on something or another, but maybe he has? Like the Scarlet Pimpernell, he’s here, there and everywhere and LinkedIn and Twitter and Facebook.

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Though he has his friendly detractors who, a few years ago, warned me not to get too excited about hearing from “Captain Dave” during a brief period when we were in touch about some possible projects- apart from a Mandarin version of “Sweet Dreams” by China’s Tia Yuan which was never released, nothing passed the email stage-one cannot knock the multi-faceted musician/ringmaster/entrepreneur/storyteller/Agent Of Change/ for his unbridled enthusiasm. It’s bloody infectious.

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Okay, Dave Stewart, a little like Damon Albarn, might, say those who have worked with him in the past, is “a lovely guy who has a new idea every day and few go anywhere”, but surely this is better than having no ideas, and just giving it all up, slipping on a smoking jacket, and with only a pipe for company, watch the sun set from the verandah of the Galle Face Hotel in Colombo and sing, “What’s it all about, Alfie”?

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What should never be forgotten was the first time we heard “Sweet Dreams” by Eurythmics- and then watched the accompanying video and heard the always amazing Annie Lennox, the greatest Pop/Soul/Singer’s Singer toute le monde.

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Eurythmics were and remain brilliant with David A Stewart, the Spiritual Cowboy, its creative heartbeat.

Though some have dismissed his solo recordings as “wannabe Bowie outtakes”, I bought them, still play them whenever the mood takes over, and believe his track called “Lily Was Here” with saxophonist Candy Dulfur to be an underrated classic, which should be re-recorded as a mashup with the riff from Gerry Rafferty’s equally underrated “Baker Street”.

His work with Sir Mick, A.R. Rahman and Joss Stone as the very short-lived super group named Superheavy, and before these projects, a duo with songwriter Kara Dioguardi, who became increasingly obnoxious when a relatively unknown judge on “American Idol”, and a mawkish song when America was chanting, “Yes We Can”, held some curiosity appeal, but the good Captain’s productivity, no matter how hit or miss, could not be ignored.

And now there is this show dubbed “The Voice for songwriters”. It’s not a new idea, but the Dave Stewart brand has drawing power. And with his roller deck, one really hopes it happens in a way where, unlike The Voice, and the recent seasons of American Idol, have borne very little creative fruit, other than nameless winners of television karaoke shows whose careers have gone pretty much nowhere apart from a few gigs in places like Singapore and the Philippines. This is where, apart from the Midwest in the States, these “reality” shows have the biggest television audiences. Television audiences and voting for favourites over a 2-3 month period have nothing to do with a long-term career in music.

Will this, “The Voice for songwriters”, give the world “the new Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift”?

Let’s hope not as this would defeat the purpose of finding truly original talent. Only if this show can attract truly original songwriting talent, where the celebrity judges don’t take centre stage and it all becomes as meaningless as having someone like bringing in Jimmy Iovine or will i am as a “mentor” for half a day, can it offer something new. And here lies a problem: Most original talent in these DIY days have become gun shy and suspicious about television talent shows, celebrity judges and front men, and the ball-busting contracts needed to be signed in order to become contestants- horrible word that- “contestants”- so as to- another taboo word- compete- against other “contestants”.

One thing is for sure: Before Dave Stewart’s show even gets off the ground, a bastardised version of it will be launched in Mainland China- something as phoney as “China’s Voice”, where artists signed to Universal Music Hong Kong appear pretending to be unknowns to audiences on the mainland while judges, in on the con, feign surprise.

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Dave Stewart is a superb musician with a successful legacy that makes for a strong back-catalogue, portfolio and CV. Time will tell if all this, the global clout of BMG, and the increasingly ubiquitous Adam Levine, are relevant enough in 2015 to make a difference, or if this new show is yet another “formatted” corporate carrot being dangled in front of music fans, who have been let down too many times by the trappings of “celebritydom” and hype to bother and bite. Let’s hope not.

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Hans Ebert
Founder, Racingb*tch
Chairman and CEO
We-Enhance Inc, Fast Track Global Ltd
www.fasttrack.hk