Veteran vocalist MANDY LION, the man behind WWIII and THE MANDY LION BAND, also known for his work with guitarists George Lynch (LYNCH MOB, ex-DOKKEN) and Jake E. Lee (ex-OZZY OSBOURNE, ex-BADLANDS), is a regular contributor here on METALEATER. He writes about life issues from his perspective and shares those thoughts right here in The Lion's Den.
Recently someone posted on this page that I should look up Orianthi if I wanted to see one of the greatest guitarists of all time. What this person did not know is that I am very well aware of Orianthi and her talent. A few things were said which made me want to address the issue of talent. First of all it is not always the "best" guitarist which is the best fit for any given project. I think we can all agree that while CC is not on par with SRV as a player there is no one better suited for Poison than him. He is the "best" guitarist for this particular job. And what does "best" or "great" mean anyway?
If we are 100 percent honest then we can say that the average person does not know the difference between a "good" guitarist, singer, drummer, bassist and a "great" one. I don't mean this as an insult to the average person because like everything else in life unless you study something to death you only know what meets the eye. Most people think in terms of what they like without considering vibrato, phrasing, attack, tone, feel and so on. This point is proven beyond a shadow of doubt when one looks at who today's biggest selling musical acts are. I am sure that we can all agree that our music charts are littered with sub par talent and no one seems to care. People just enjoy listening to music without feeling the need to become expert talent scouts. There is nothing wrong with that since everyone has areas where they aren't experts. One does not need to be an expert on music in order to enjoy it just like one does not need to understand electricity in order to enjoy the benefits it provides.
I, for example, don't know much about horses. I adore them and I think they are magical creatures but I could not tell you what is a great horse (as far as breeding is concerned) or a good one. I can tell if a horse is not put together right of course. I can tell an obvious fault but I am unable to distinguish between a good horse and a great one. I have friends who can take one look at a horse and they know the level of breeding behind it. I don't feel bad about this because there is not a person on this earth who knows everything about everything. I know some folk who think they know it all but this is fodder for another blog altogether.
I do, like most of us, have areas of excellence where I really know what I am talking about because when I am passionate about any certain subject I want to learn everything about it. If something gets me interested I become ravenous about any bit of information and I am never satisfied until I know everything there is to know about said subject. So I am an expert on some areas while in some others I am downright naive. One of the things I don't do is try to argue the point with someone who knows more than I do on a particular subject. Unless I know my stuff inside and out I simply sit back, listen and learn from someone who knows more. Unfortunately some people insist on arguing even if their knowledge is questionable at best. People also often confuse their "opinion" and or personal taste with a fact based conclusion. Unfortunately opinions are often formed without facts or enough knowledge to back them up. I believe in not forming an opinion until I have gathered enough information to eliminate the need for an opinion because I now have a fact based conclusion.
My areas of excellence are dogs, martial arts, high-end mechanical watches, music and a few other areas which are too involved to get into here.
As most of you know I have the pleasure of calling some of the greatest musicians of all time my band mates. This is a great gift not only for the obvious honor of sharing the stage with these tremendous talents but it enabled me to soak up a wealth of knowledge in regards to what makes the difference between "good" and "great" on any given instrument.
Let's talk about "great" guitar players. Please forgive me if I don't mention one of your favorite guitarists because for obvious reasons I cannot mention all of the greats here. I will talk about my own personal favorite greats and explain as to why they deserve to be in a class above most other players. Without a doubt SRV is my favorite of all time. Not only was he a true magician but one of the kindest gentlemen you could ever meet. Of course we have Blackmore, Gary Moore, Brian May, Jeff Beck, Santana, Jimi, Gilmour and so on. These players and others like them are what I call "magicians". Magicians have reached the absolute highest level of excellence and none of them are better than the other. Once someone reaches this level of skill it is all about what sound the listener prefers rather than which guitarist is better.
Beneath this level you will find the players which I like to call "technicians". Malmsteen of course being the best known technician in the genre of hard rock / metal. A technician has incredible motor skills, control and mastery of his or her instrument. A technician can play just about anything and the average listener will think of the technician as being on par with the magician. But to someone who truly understands music on a deeper level there is a huge difference between a magician and a technician. A technician can wow an audience's eye with a million precise notes per second. A magician can play a single note and make an entire audience "feel" it. Technique is something that can be taught. Magic cannot. Technicians of varying levels can be found in gaggles in every music school all over the world. Magicians are a one in a million exception. Excellent technique can be achieved by most people through hard work and repetition. Magic is something one is born with and cannot be taught or practiced but rather must be cultivated very carefully in order for it to grow stronger. Magicians and technicians are very different animals altogether.
So let us talk about Orianthi now. I have read on numerous occasions that some people think she is on par with Santana, SRV and so on. What I am about to say is not an attempt to diminish Orianthi's talent in any way, shape or form. I am just not OK with diminishing the true genius of REAL magicians like Santana and SRV by comparing them with someone like Orianthi. Please don't misunderstand my meaning. Orianthi IS talented for sure. But to say that she is on Santana's or SRV's level is like saying that a Lexus is on par with an Aston Martin.
I have also seen the arguments people use in order to pump up Orianthi's talent to make her look like she is in the league of legends. People often ask me why would Santana endorse Orianthi if she is not such a huge talent? The answer is simple. Santana is a VERY intelligent BUSINESS man. Look at it this way...let us suppose there is an audition for a huge Hollywood movie in the making. Which actress do you think will be most likely to get the lead role.
1) The best looking female with no skill.
2) The best looking female with enough skill to get the job done.
3) The best actress with zero consideration in regards to her looks.
With almost 100 percent certainty the girl with the best look and acceptable skill will be chosen over the better actress with a less commercial look.
This, of course, is obvious and proven with every single major motion picture being put out. Is Kate Beckinsale the best actress we have ever seen? Of course not! So why does she have all of these reputable people backing, pushing, promoting and putting her into one huge movie after another? Why does a gorgeous girl like Kate with average acting skills get all the jobs? Because she is marketable.
This is the reason why Santana endorses Orianthi. She is MARKETABLE. If she had the same skills she has now but had a less commercial look she would most likely still be trying to get somewhere just like the tens of thousands of equally talented guitarists all over the world who are waiting for THEIR break. Let's be honest and admit that we often judge "artists" with our genitals rather than our hearts and minds. Why do women swoon over Brad Pitt? Because he is the world's greatest actor??? Or because he is a fantastic looking male with a perfect body? Why do men go see Kate Beckinsale in her movies? Because she is sooooo talented? Or is it because she is a perfect specimen of a beautiful female? When one is truly honest with oneself the world all of a sudden becomes a very different place altogether, doesn't it?
This is called the music BUSINESS for a reason. It is all about selling a product. If we are being real here then we must say that Orianthi is most certainly a valid and most importantly marketable talent. We must also admit that her talent is not nearly as exceptional as the geniuses she is often compared to.
If we put everything into perspective we must give her the proper amount of credit without diminishing it or blowing it way out of proportion. We must acknowledge the fact that if she wasn't an attractive female her skill level would have never taken her this far this fast. We must understand why people like Santana endorse a potential money maker. Santana is a great guitarist AND businessman so "hyping" a talent like Orianthi is most certainly not a surprise but rather a necessity to sell the product.
Unfortunately it is not talent but money which rules the entertainment world. We live in a time where Britney Spears makes more money and has more success than Jeff Beck. For this very reason it is also more likely for another Britney Spears to get the support from people who want to make a lot of money rather than backing another Jeff Beck. Let us appreciate artists for what they are rather than what they aren't. Let us appreciate Orianthi for what she is. A talented young lady about to make a career and name for herself. But let us NOT diminish our true giants by comparing them with flashy new commercial talents no matter how well packaged and promoted they are because that is simply not fair to THEM.
I do hope that we will find a few new talents who can truly carry the SRV, Santana, Blackmore etc torch. I would be the first one to sing the praises if I saw a new legend rising, but as talented as Orianthi is this torch is worlds beyond her reach.
Until next time...
Your friend M. Lion