Late last night I discovered Raptus’ comments and ensuing discussion on Timeka Marshall. It got me to thinking and that is always a dangerous thing. Timeka, you’ve been warned. If you are of fickle mind then you’ll be best advised to complete reading the next paragraph and move quietly along.
Purely as a patriotic Guyanese I hope that Timeka becomes a megastar for I believe that the many wrongs suffered by Guyanese, especially within the region, can be best righted through dominant superstars in music and sports. It is through these that Guyanese are more likely to be seen in a favourable and positive light. Let’s draw on a topical example and call it ‘the Usain Bolt effect’.
However at some stage reality must kick in. I have often thought in pity of Kerwin Bollers (her manager) and whoever else is financing and investing in Timeka. What is it that convinces them that she will bring favourable ROIs? I am at a loss for a positive answer. Investing in her, seems to me, to be unwisely placing money in a deep, dark hole followed by profuse brow mopping.
Given her style and look she is competing with the likes of Tami Chin, Tessanne Chin, Jovi Rockwell, Brick and Lace and others. What then convinces Bollers and others (inclusive of GT&T as apparently that company is dumping cash at her ‘development’) that she will make it big on, at least, the regional stage for any prolonged period?
I doubt that, thus far, she has made back enough money to cover for even one of her frequent trips to Jamaica where she records and shoots her music videos at great expense. As far as I am aware, she has not secured any record deal with any notable company, has not been enjoying lucrative album sales and has not been booked for numerous shows nor has any meaningful tour been activated outside of Guyana.
Moving up on the RETV charts means little more than zilch unless it is accompanied by a simultaneous boom in album sales and/or numerous high paying bookings. So from all appearances she is yet firmly entrenched in the developmental phase and it does not appear as though this phase will be ending anytime soon unless she happens upon a megahit in the near future. And such a scenario appears rather dim for several reasons.
An obvious drawback to her music is that she appears to be her own lyricist and her skills and talents in this area do not particularly exceed her well lamented vocal shortcomings. It may be that she produces the core lyrics and whatever review/support team she has, brushes up and sharpens them. On the evidence of her two most recent offerings – All night and Hush – her lyrical (and I hesitate to use the word) substance is both deficient and superficial.
Worse, her lyrics appear very much copy cat. She seems to be a mimic singer who is looking at what the current fad is and trying her best to replicate same with whatever words she can muster while stirring in a liberal dash of garishly veiled sexual innuendo. Her songs remind me of Patrick Swayze’s box office failure ‘Road House’ – a hefty dose of action, some fancy cars, the obligatory sex scene and hope for the best.
This is a recipe for anything ranging from moderate success to outright failure. It has been the bitter experience of the Road House producers and numerous others following fad to pocket a buck. Timeka is not an artist vigorously being true to her craft, which great singers always are, she is, instead, a good looking young girl who, perhaps because she knows she is above average looking, is desperate to live the glitzy life and who will upturn every stone along what she either perceives or has been brainwashed to believe is the most practical route to achieve her castle in Spain life.
I fear that in her quest she could, in blinding gullibility and denial, fall victim to cunningly ruthless exploitation. For her sake I hope it is never the case and if it is that her handlers recognize it post haste and nip it in the bud.
In her videos and in her songs Timeka is disturbingly estranged from her music. Her acting in the videos is always a zombie-like display by a woman more obsessed with how her hair is pinned and how her bustier is fitted rather than an emotional connection with her audience. In short, she, not Madonna, would make the ideal actress in the music video for ‘Material Girl’. Timeka’s persona therefore is two decades late.
Timeka succeeds only in achieving a palpable disconnect, an unfeeling, undramatic chasm between artiste and music. Listening to Timeka is like tasting the result of someone attempting to make fruit punch by blending coconut husk, kerosene and water. A distasteful mess quickly ensues.
Lyrically Timeka either needs to take time to mature or she needs intense direction. Left to her, she appears likely to worsen the shallow banality of her apparently unremarkable private life. Timeka is yet to understand that the accomplished singers, providing, of course, that they can actually sing, tell stories of intense anguish, uncontrollable love, unbearable emotion. Timeka’s music is rooted not in these but in the flights of fancy, sexual fantasy and moral looseness of a mid-teen schoolgirl yet to discover who she really is in this big, wide world of potholes disguised as opportunities.
The limitations of her singing have been discussed at length just about everywhere by just about everyone and while the view that she is below average has some merit, that alone cannot preclude her from potentially hitting on the big times. There are numerous generally below average singers out there who either fortuitously or perceptively found their niche, capitalized on it and enjoyed one hit, consistent or major successes. This is particularly true of the reggae and soca genres.
So with all her limitations there is still a theoretical possibility that Timeka can make it. But commercially will she fly? Let’s put ourselves in the shoes of the commercial thinkers at major record companies. Why choose Timeka over Tami, Tessanne, Jovi etc? What does Timeka bring to the table which these other, more accomplished singers do not possess?
It can be argued that Timeka is aesthetically more pleasing to the eye but she is not far superior to any of the aforementioned and with the miracles of make-up and air brushing I cannot see any record company boss choosing her over the others whose vocal capabilities far exceed Timeka’s. In any event good looking chicks with melodious voices are flocking to studios and record companies all across the globe by the hundreds of thousands. What will make Timeka stand out to any record company boss? I can’t think of it either.
Then Timeka, being from Guyana, a country which is neither known nor cared for in the international music markets which matter, is a difficult and problematic commercial sell. On the other hand, selling Tami, Tessanne and Jovi would be a cinch. Jamaica has ‘recognisability’ and goodwill. It is the land of Bob Marley, Shaggy, Sean Paul and so many others with a rich musical history. The Jamaican women are likely to be welcomed and endeared whereas Timeka, internationally, will be met with a combination of scepticism and diffidence.
When Rihanna burst onto the international stage with Pon De Replay, that she was from the romantic isle of Barbados gave her credibility. People knew Barbados, it is a preferred tourism destination for the world’s rich and famous and pretenders everywhere. She, and her handlers did not have to laboriously explain that she is from Guyana, which is in South America and which is different to Ghana which is in Africa, as Guyanese in the first world often feel obliged to.
I hope I have gone some distance in disabusing persons of the misguided notion that music stardom, in its infancy, is about the ability to sing and looks alone.
There are numerous other commercial factors and I cannot see Timeka emerging at the top of the pile on any score.
Should all her stars align therefore, she could aim for a hemispheric smash hit – the likes of Brick and Lace’s Love is Wicked and milk that for all it is worth. Paramount to achieving this would be securing, not a hot shot music video director, a dancehall/reggae star collaboration or a booking at a world famous Jamaican studio (each is a dime a dozen), but the services of a genius lyricist. Timeka will also need someone to coach her on how to not only relate to her song but to project that connection to her audience both in voice and video.
Timeka, and her people, will do well to pay heed to a bit of advice I had, puzzlingly, shared with me when I was a teenager but which was and is of no relevance to me personally: “good looks will get people in the door but they better have substance to back it up once they’re in”.
Realistically then, Timeka might want to seriously consider the rumoured Facebook petition to urge her to enter the Miss Guyana Pageant. All things having been studiously assessed, pageantry seems the most viable route to stardom for her.