Monday, February 12, 2007

YouTube SuperStar

The latest mysterious internet web sensation is a karaoke singer known as ysabellabrave. She has a couple of dozen videos on YouTube where she sings old showtunes or torchy songs from the big band era with a smattering of classic rock tracks. She interprets the songs rather broadly and has huge expressive doe eyes. Her hair color ranges from brown to an allegedly natural blonde.

On and other places, there is a fair amount of controversy about whether Maryanne/ysabella is genuine or some sort of Astroturf creation like lonelygirl15. On the “genuine” end, the technical quality of the videos is definitely amateurish. Each song is a single unedited take done by a webcam. The only lighting is a desk lamp that she points right at her face. In some videos, if you look closely, you can see the standard YouTube issue messy bedroom in the background.

On the suspicious side is the quality of the singing. She claims to have never sung publicly until a year ago, but she has all the lyrics well memorized and her little vignettes are cleverly rehearsed. She has access to a pretty big library of karaoke tracks to sing along to. Those things aren’t cheap, and that is ostensibly the reason for her Paypal donation button. Also, the complete lack of personal detail about her is curious. In this let-it-all-hang-out MySpace/Xanga world, the only info about her outside of her fan-run webpage is a LiveJournal account that is heavily Christian themed.

She also claims to be an American Idol reject. This is perfectly plausible, since the show likes to focus on the future contestants and the abysmal train wrecks. Maryanne has a very nice voice, but her videos lean away from the poppy ballads Simon and the gang seem to want. My verdict is that I’m still suspicious, but I'm willing to give her the benefit of the doubt since her story seems to be internally consistent so far. I wanted to know how easy it is to duplicate her video format.

My singing talent is, at best, sorely wanting. Most everywhere I go, I eventually get banned from singing, particularly at home. Only once has anyone ever requested I sing. In high school I worked at a Wendy’s and one of the guys there loved to get me to do my particularly tuneless version of Foreigner’s “Hot Blooded”. I knew he was laughing at me and not with me, but I liked the attention.

Thanks to the miracle of the intertubes, the pain and suffering associated with hearing me sing is no longer restricted to family, friends, and coworkers. My voice can now annoy complete strangers anywhere in the world.

My other YouTube videos have been edited from camcorder footage or compiled from photos slideshow style. For this video I tried out the movie function on my new pocket digital camera, a fairly inexpensive Canon A540. What you see here is one hour’s worth of work on a weekend morning. I took three takes altogether, mostly getting the camera placement right and setting the zoom setting correctly. Like ysabella, I used a desklamp pointed at me to avoid the zombie eyes common to most basement filmed lipsynch videos.

I tried to sing along to a midi-track, but I couldn’t stay on tempo, so I went completely acapella. I usually don’t get much past the first verse before people shut me up, so I printed out the lyrics which you can see me looking over at. Even then, I still flubbed the second to last line.

Maryanne claims to have no editing software. The raw 640x480 footage from my camera was 300MB, so I had to use Adobe Premiere Elements to shrink the .avi file to a more manageable 30MB .wma file suitable for uploading. Since I was in Premiere anyways, I went and added a title since that is one of the few things I know how to do. Otherwise, what you see is what you get.

Unless I achieve some of William Hung level of notoriety, this video will hopefully remain obscure. At best (or worst, depending on your point of view), someone in the real world will recognize me and use it to tease me mercilessly. While I have successfully demonstrated that any idiot with little equipment can get a video shot and uploaded, it still takes some talent or lucky break to get noticed. Maryanne, whether or not she is a real person, clearly has more talent than I can ever hope to have. Good luck to her, and if you watched all three minutes of my ear splitting caterwauling, my apologies.

Blatant Comment Whoring™: Share your talent or point me to somebody even worse than myself.


Jeff and Charli Lee said...

Holy crap!

I'm pretty sure a good 30 seconds would have been just fine. But hey, thanks for the extra 2 1/2 minutes!

Mooselet said...

Excuse me, I need to stop the dogs from howling...

Not only are you the whitest white man alive, but you can't carry a tune in a bucket! I especially liked the little "oomph" at the beginning.

You are a brave man for putting yourself out there like that... now please for the love of all that's holy put it away! Please. :-)

Impetua said...

I actually cannot bring myself to play the video. I just know that it is better this way. Plus, the baby's brain is still developing and I don't want to distract her from watching "Shrek" for the four billionth time.

Brave? Cruel? Suffering a narcissistic personality disorder? Only a qualified mental health prescriber can tell us for sure.

But we like you anyway.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Just -- wow.

Elizabeth said...

Oh my!

yellojkt said...

Probably the wisest choice you have ever made in your life.
The rest of you,
You WERE warned.

Anonymous said...

Hi! Interesting article. 2 things:
I have been singing WELL for a year, before that I could only sing very very poorly, or not at all (as opposed to your 'publicly'); that is, I couldnt sing at all about a year ago. Secondly, that is a messy living room in the background, not a bedroom. :)
With love, ysabellabrave AKa MaryAnne

trusty getto said...

If I were an American Idol judge, I'd vote fer ya !

Anonymous said...

You should try songs by someone who is more in your vocal range--Leonard Cohen, perhaps?

Nina Simone?

HRH Courtney, Queen of Everything said...

You managed to point out how incredibly STUPID that song is, thanks!

Can't be any worse than my bumbling guitar playing. Wow, I suck.

Anonymous said...

Karaoke tracks can be downloaded via the IRC nowadays. But that would *ahem* be illegal and all that. Anyway, they're not as expensive as they used to be.

ysabellabrave isn't bad. It's the raspberry at the end of "Anything Goes" that makes it art. And hey, I'd be willing to duet with her one night at J.R.'s. Because yes, I am a karaoke whore. Despite that, I give you points yello, because I'm not singing on YouTube. I sing better when the audience is drunk.