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12 Jul 2014

Tessanne Can't Count On Us

Let us establish a major point early. The Diaspora and maybe a few Jamaican “scammers”

worked tirelessly to make sure that Tessanne Chin would win The Voice and she did. It was a remarkable display of unity and determination by an otherwise disjointed and bickering people. Fast forward to now, when her first album has been voted the worst debut in The Voice’s history selling just under 7,000 copies in its first week. Given Tessanne’s journey to this point, selling 7,000 copies is something I am sure she is celebrating and equally deserves to celebrate. Let me remind you that before the Tessanne Chin wagon factory opened the woman was working hard at carving out a career in the Jamaican music industry reaping little rewards. 

I have seen (read on social media) the collective sigh of every Jamaican gay male from Kingston to the Cockpit Country to New York to Amsterdam and right here in Toronto. They have wept openly in disappointment at the sheer ordinary nature of the album. Some say it has too much reggae, others say it sounds dated; some say she should have re-released her first album. We all have an opinion and clearly this is mine and thanks to byblacks.com, I am able to share it. I am going to offer my humble, tone deaf view (for not even singing in the shower am I good at) on the situation.

1. Jamaicans don’t buy albums (and I want to say Black people on a whole). I have never met, though I am sure they exist, a “white pirate”. A pirate being someone who sells illegal copies of everything and these individuals are lining the streets in JA. We love a good song and we love a good movie, but wi not paying yuh for it. Jamaicans probably feel that Tessanne should all send them free copies. I buy all my music and when I say this to some of my Caribbean friends I often feel I have lost cultural favour.

It is important to note because in response to poor album sales the Diaspora finds itself being called to action. Why? The Diaspora already did its job. She won The Voice. Furthermore, Tessanne Chin is a singer like any other and by sharing a nationality with her I hold no obligation to spend $10 on her. She is subject to the same discerning taste as any other artist on itunes or in the record stores.

2. The Voice is a fail. Remove your Jamaican shades and pride filled opinions and accept the harsh reality that winning The Voice does not a Whitney Houston make. The Voice has never had an effective post-win marketing engine. The show is all about the judges. They just needed to give the judges something to do so it wouldn’t look so obvious that the contestants are cattle, hence why we have contestants. Tessanne entered the competition to gain some exposure, but by the time she entered the top ten, she had entered record deal arena. Her team should have begun planning at that point. We concede that we can’t say for sure that they didn’t, but let us work with this assumption. Tessanne’s win became a national celebration; she was flown home on a branded private jet. All distractions. The corporate entities eager to fund Tessanne should have considered funding a music video for her first single because it doesn’t appear that Republic Records plans to. The homecoming, every international school boy association or diaspora chapter of [insert organization here] should not have been allowed to book her for all and sundry. If as a nation and a diaspora, we are inclined to invest in Tessanne’s career those investments should be tangible and about her career not about us being able to say I saw Tessanne Chin for free.

3. Friends are so bad for business. Clearly, there isn’t a single dress in my wardrobe, but I know what a hot dress looks like and these granny dresses need to go. I am all for supporting my friends, but we also have to be honest with ourselves. Those dresses are historical facts! They are to be locked away in a faraway closet never to be seen again. Image, a little image goes a far way. I won’t tell Tessanne not to be nice or to hold back on the family pride. We need more of that in the industry. I will suggest, though, leaving that ‘nice girl attitude’ outside of the negotiating room.

4. Marketing. Need I say more? I don’t know how her winnings from “The Voice” were or will be distributed. Or how the fees from all these performances will be spent, but surely more could have been spent on marketing and PR. Phone a friend, who knows a friend, who might have a cousin that works in an office in the sales department at NBC Idaho? You get the point. Use all connections! Be a shark.

5. Republic Records. There have been a number of features on the labels page on Tessanne. How many people visit record label pages?

6. The album is too Reggae. Look at all of you Jamaicans, just listen to yourselves. Always ready to declare how reggae is the world’s top music, and how there is nothing like reggae. I distinctly recall social media swelling with pride when Tessanne performed No Doubt’s hit featuring Lady Saw “Underneath it all”. But now reggae is a death grip on her career. She chose to pander to the Caribbean audience for success given the overwhelming support she got during the show and the frontline billing on every small island festival. I refer you to my point in number 1 to clarify why this method presents numerous challenges to success. We created a false sense of security with all that shopping on itunes. We made Tessanne believe "hey we may not have bought albums before, but we will buy yours!" So, she gave Jamaica, a Jamaican album and we vacated our seats on the wagon.

7. The album is safe. I think that point makes itself. Count on My Love features ten tracks, six of which could be considered odes to Michael Cuffe (men, women, anyone in a relationship, take notes. This man is doing MANY things VERY right), but unless you're also in love with Tessanne’s husband you will struggle to connect with the album. The album is flat with little nuance and packing no punch. After seven listens I can’t find one I would like to sing in the shower.

The album’s first single, ‘Everything reminds me of you’ is a strong debut track that leaves you wanting more showcasing Tessanne’s vocal potential. My favourite track on the album, “Loudest Silence” is proof of Celine Dion’s influence on Tessanne Chin’s vocal style, yet we still don’t get the full force of Tessanne’s voice. Reggae tracks like, “I Heart U” and “Count on My Love” do little to help the album. They sound like that other reggae love song the DJ plays warming up the crowd for a Bob Marley or Dennis Brown hit. A decent effort but a far cry from what anyone expected. If you want to take my advice, purchase In Between Words, Tessanne Chin’s true debut album. Count on My Love seems to be an attempt at replicating Tessanne Chin’s Voice journey which is a lateral move on the part of the producers. However, in safety there is opportunity; she just freed herself of that second album omen (I believe in optimism).

'A' for effort Tessanne Chin. You have entered a cutthroat and fickle industry and I for one am not envious in the least of your position. Your people have dealt you the double-edged sword that they do with all their talent exports. “Do well, but nuh ask me fi help yuh pay the bills.”

We support in the name of supporting our own. As Jamaicans we revel in winning and more than that we revel in beating those North of us. We approached The Voice as an extension of the Olympics, World Cup football or any other sporting event. We are quick to criticize and withdraw our support. Remember when Usain Bolt committed that dreaded false start, Daegu and the national came together to chide him for all his off track antics. We are a people full of opinion.

Like Usain Bolt, Tessanne Chin gave us more than just the opportunity to win; she gave us the opportunity to dominate. Yet, too much was bestowed upon this still growing artiste entirely too soon, so instead of releasing her first truly international album, she has released a Jamaican disappointment. But is that the fault of the album or the fault of her supporting countrymen and women?

Remember, Usain Bolt, hampered by a leg injury, didn’t make it beyond the first round of the 200m of the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. That performance was a Jamaican disappointment, but look how that story turned out. This album and our response to it just might be Tessanne Chin’s leg injury on the way to greater glory.

Read 5565 times Last modified on Monday, 10 April 2017 21:17
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Teneile Warren

Teneile Warren is a proud queer mom, writer, chef and equity educator. Her writing has appeared in ByBlacks, Huffington Post and Barren Magazine. She is an editorial advisor and mentor for Textile Magazine. She lives in Kitchener, Ontario with her wife, son and three furbabies. She explores identity, social issues and community through words and food. Find her on Twitter @iamquagmire