Another day, and another reality show joke contestant who is shocked to learn TV talent competitions aren’t about the talent. It’s been over a decade since Simon Cowell made a name for himself cutting down delusional singers on American Idol. You’d think folks would know better by now.
New York City performance artist, Kayvon Zand, wrote a long piece for Huffington Post complaining about how he was used by the producers of America’s Got Talent for laughs. He’s a serious artist, donchaknow, and he’s had a lifetime of bullying, and didn’t need any more of that, thank you very much.
His act is a lot of spectacle and camp, but the guy can’t sing. If an entertainer is invited on a show like America’s Got Talent with iffy vocals, chances are you’ve been recruited to be a joke contestant.
A couple of interesting bits from the lengthy piece:
Receiving a “yes” from the majority of the judges does not mean that you will make it to the next round. It is really up to the producers. I was told I would be notified in a couple of months. After much anticipation I was sent a generalized email explaining that I would not be sent to the next round. I was disappointed but at least felt good for having made it so far.
So, for some acts, that rush of receiving enough yeses from the judges is short lived, because its the producers who actually make the final decision. Interesting. AGT changed their minds when they knew Piers Morgan was on board for the Judge Cuts (the AGT equivalent of Idol’s Hollywood Round). They’d need joke acts that would allow him to unleash his British snark. After Kayvon performed and earned 4 X’s from the judges, ending his journey right then and there, Piers uttered the obviously scripted line, “If this were obnoxious little brats have talent, you’d be the winner.” This, after Kayvon argued with the judges and told Mel B. that she didn’t sing as well as Whitney Houston (who does?)
Kayvon had a very short period of time to put an act together. When he got to New York, they refused a tech rehearsal until he insisted, and even then he only got 10 minutes. At this point that he realized the producers weren’t interested in his performance being the best it could be–quite the opposite.
The judges critiqued and they were definitely out for blood. I knew this was a part of the competition and the producer with whom I’d been working told me before I went on to defend myself to the judges and fight to go to lives no matter what happened. When Howie told me I was a horrible pianist, I did this very thing and played. I knew my piano skills were something I could prove, as vocal timbre, genre and performance style are all subjective. Although the audience loved it, Howie insisted I was merely a comedy act and smashed the fourth buzzer, ending the competition for me.
The producers instructed him to argue. This is the oldest talent show trick in the book, perfected by American Idol and X Factor. Two members of Kayvon’s queer nightlife community had negative experiences with AGT, and Kayvon still pressed on, because a producer he was corresponding with said the show was no longer about bullying.
After the experience, he wrote a note to the producers, expressing his disappointment at the way he was treated. He had to contact them a few times before he got a response, which was simply that AGT wasn’t about ruining people’s lives, and that Kayvon would be happy with the editing of his segment. AGT premiered, and his audition, which was a positive experience, was left on the cutting room floor. When his episode aired, he was shocked at the editing. Although, the notion that reality shows play fast and loose with the truth is pretty well known.
Finally my segment started, “Vogue” by Madonna is playing. Like any queer artist, I love Madonna. I thought awesome, my theatrics and fun are really coming through! Then I heard the band and my vocals. I knew here that it was going to go left. My performance was edited down, my piano volume was brought down and edited to just a couple of scales. The response of my eyes to the buzzer was faked; I never even heard it, but they had edited everything so amazingly that I was starting to doubt my own vision.
I watched the judges’ deliberations and kept being that person who is on a reality show and telling myself, “Wait, I never said that when this person said that to me.” Mel never said that here, Howie never commented on that, Howard said that later. Lastly, Piers calls me #obnoxiouslittlebrat and the hashtag is shared on TV. Immediately the hate starts. I am receiving death threats, harassment, being told how ugly I am, how much I suck — you name it. (My social media is still full of hate as I write this.) Then I received an email from their social media person, “Your video is up”! I click and the title is “Obnoxious musician Kayvon Zand …” I am in shock. What happened to the whole we are not about bullying anymore, we want to help people, you will be happy with your edit? I could not believe how gullible I had been. With the “AGT” staff, including on air personalities pushing this bullying hashtag, it’s been made out that I deserve all this hate.
Yeah, gullible. And so are the people sending hate to this guy. AGT is a silly show, the freakish step child of more serious fare like American Idol and The Voice. It’s best at providing a platform for Vegas type acts such as magicians, stunt acts and splashy stage acts, but not so great for singers. It’s awful when acts are tricked into thinking that the producers are taking their act seriously when really, they’re just meant to be fodder. But at this point–buyer beware. When his friends were treated shabbily, that should have been a warning sign for Kayvon that AGT wasn’t the right venue for him. But he persisted–maybe the lure of being on TV in front of millions was too hard to resist.
AGT contacted him with what they called a “hand out.” If he made a video apologizing to Mel B., they’d post it as a way for him to redeem himself. “A producer has confirmed to me that the show is scripted,” Kayvon wrote, “and told me not to think of is as a talent show, but a game show.” WELL DUH.
He decided to write an editorial for Huff Post instead, along with a dis track called “You Ain’t Better than Whitney,” which is, fair warning, fairly unlistenable. Click to listen.
Sidenote: I didn’t just happen upon this item. Somebody representing Kayvon contacted me with the links. So, there you go.