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How Do I Deal With The Bullies? "I Carry on Singing."
April 14, 2008 8:15 AM   Subscribe

13-year-old Andrew Johnston, bullied at school for his singing and taste in music, brings audience members and a judge to tears with his rendition of Pie Jesu [video | 4:43] at his first audition for Britain's Got Talent.

Will he follow in the footsteps of last year's winner, mobile phone salesman, Paul Potts? Potts' initial audition, singing Nessun Dorma [video | 4:10]. Previously.
posted by ericb (82 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wow.
posted by jquinby at 8:21 AM on April 14, 2008


One of these days I should put together a talent show called Look What We Dug Out Of The National Junk Drawer.
posted by bicyclefish at 8:25 AM on April 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


[fixed FPP typo and related lulz comments - carry on]
posted by jessamyn at 8:31 AM on April 14, 2008


3.14159265†
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 8:31 AM on April 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


bullied at school for his singing and taste in music

That performance is, sadly, only going to make things worse. He's got singing talent, the wuss, but that's not the kind of talent that's gonna help him on the walk home from school.
posted by three blind mice at 8:31 AM on April 14, 2008


The kids voice is great, but the editing of the clip looks like it was done by someone with severe ADD while on cocaine. Jumpcuts! More jumpcuts! The more abrupt the better!

"Do you get support from your friends?" ::CUT::"...I get bullied a lot but-"::CUT:: AWWWWWWWW

/weekly snark.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 8:32 AM on April 14, 2008


He's a beautiful singer, but the whole situation is so fully contrived (especially the reaction shots, which are blatantly intended to prompt you to feel something) that I can't help but recoil.
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 8:32 AM on April 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


Oh exactly, hermitosis, that too.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 8:33 AM on April 14, 2008


This is why we can't sing nice things.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:33 AM on April 14, 2008 [5 favorites]


This was beautiful, thank you.
posted by nonmerci at 8:37 AM on April 14, 2008


What a great voice. I hope he does well.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:39 AM on April 14, 2008


Oh yeah? Two year old singing "The Lord's Prayer"
posted by ColdChef at 8:40 AM on April 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


He's got singing talent, the wuss, but that's not the kind of talent that's gonna help him on the walk home from school.

But it may help him meet girls, which could negate the bullying.
posted by jonmc at 8:42 AM on April 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


I've got to love this kid? Is that what this means?
posted by Pecinpah at 8:45 AM on April 14, 2008


So cloying that I'm choking for air. Metafilter is so arch about the constructed reality of The Apprentice and Survivor and what-not, but this opens the faucets? Come onnn. If you absolute blouses desperately need a bullied-kid-comes-good narrative to weep over, watch the Karate Kid, it's way awesome. Cobra Kai would just tear this wobble-faced chorister apart.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 8:47 AM on April 14, 2008 [5 favorites]


Paul Potts was an absolutely average singer that wouldn't have made it without the "OMG he sells mobiles for a living?!" story, and I can't help but feeling the same about this guy. Nice voice to be sure but go through a few school choirs and you can find just as good if not better.

And I agree with those who've said that this certainly won't keep the bullies off his back. I reckon he'll probably have to be twice as careful when walking the streets at night from now on.

Yes I'm still bitter Connie didn't win.
posted by ClarissaWAM at 8:47 AM on April 14, 2008


Kids these days just love the Requiem Mass.
posted by brain_drain at 8:53 AM on April 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


So he sang for all of, what, 30 seconds? I'd need a little more to properly assess the little guy.
posted by monospace at 8:57 AM on April 14, 2008


I still can't tell if he sings well or not. But thank goodness that the incessant, swelling background music, swooping crane shots and cutaways to sobbing audience members told me how I was supposed to feel. I'd love to actually hear his voice.
posted by chococat at 9:05 AM on April 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm going to save my tears for the fat bullied kids who can't sing.
posted by rhymer at 9:06 AM on April 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm with monospace. That was entirely pointless due to its brevity.
posted by GoingToShopping at 9:12 AM on April 14, 2008


I'm mesmerized by Piers and Simon actually saying something nice to someone at the same time.
posted by konolia at 9:15 AM on April 14, 2008


Lots of snark here, which this isn't meant to be...but he's 13? How much longer will he have that voice? Unless they did a castrati thing when he was a toddler he won't get much of a career out of this talent. his mum sure is pretty though
posted by dawson at 9:19 AM on April 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


That sweet cherub was simply looking into the camera and asking people if they had a soul. Some of you say yes, some of you say no.
God bless his precious heart and the gift that he has given by Our Saviour.
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 9:30 AM on April 14, 2008 [7 favorites]


After hearing this kid's story and that of Paul Potts, I have to wonder: is there anyone currently in Britain with talent who isn't being bullied?
posted by melissa may at 9:58 AM on April 14, 2008


New patented soul test! Doth thou have soul? Look unto mine child and fill thine ear with his hymn unto the LORD. Then should thee have soul, thy soul will cause thee to bless mine child before the LORD. Should, however, thee lack soul, thou shalt say but "nay" and thou shalt be gruff like the yak of the fields, known to both the Pharisee and Sadducee for his gruffness, insulting to the LORD. Thus thy soul is surely revealed or not as the case may be! Instant results guaranteed for thou and thy whole family! Never wouldst thou again be cast unto the valley of doubt, wondering unto thineself, "Gee, doth I have soul? I doth like James Brown, of that I am convinced. Yet maybe I doth not like him enough, if thou get me." No! Thou shalt have surety upon this issue, Yay, even in the darkest places. Act thee now, for stocks are truly limited!
posted by the quidnunc kid at 10:00 AM on April 14, 2008 [7 favorites]


I am ridiculously easy to manipulate by the media. I watched it, and knew exactly how it was bullying me into feeling moved by this, but gosh darn it about half way through his tiny snatch of song I was nearly crying myself.

I spend a lot of my time trying to remind old angry people that not all kids are violent idiots nowadays but rather actual human beings with their own strengths and weaknesses. Seeing stuff like this really instills me with a sense of smug self satisfaction gets me choked up.
posted by emperor.seamus at 10:29 AM on April 14, 2008


Lots of snark here, which this isn't meant to be...but he's 13? How much longer will he have that voice?

That's what I was thinking. He is not long for the soprano section. The editing was corny, but he did sound great.
posted by ludwig_van at 10:33 AM on April 14, 2008


The unfortunate thing is that within a few days, weeks, or months, hormones will steal that voice away from him.
posted by Dave Faris at 10:38 AM on April 14, 2008


I have no soul. Also, I think that, technically speaking, he sings well. Also also, I cannot stomach this sort of singing. In conclusion, I do not approve of him being bullied.
posted by everichon at 10:39 AM on April 14, 2008


Yeah, they've turned it into a Contrived TV Moment (TM), but let's think about this for a moment. The singing voice isn't faked; he really does sound like an archangel coming down out of the sky. In In the real world, he actually is a thirteen year old and he does actually have to show up for school five days a week. When you were that age, if sounds like that had come out of your mouth, don't you think you might have gotten the shit beat out of you in a stairwell? I mean, I did just for wearing the wrong kinds of clothes.

For me, the whole story is there on his face when he's singing. He's not really sure how this whole music thing happens; he just opens his mouth and it comes out. Confusing, but no less so than everything else in the universe from the point of view of a thirteen year old, so what the fuck. He's embarassed by the reactions; the schmaltz, the "awws," the applause. But again, when you're thirteen, you just have to swallow all this stuff; you don't get to tell a crowd of grown-ups "okay, you're acting a bit like 'tards," even when they are.

And through it all, there's the simple fact that the song is beautiful. I don't think he needs to be turned into a corporate media hero. I just think there's a lot to be said for a kid realizing that a thing can be good even when a whole lot of people want to beat you up for thinking it is.
posted by Clay201 at 10:42 AM on April 14, 2008 [12 favorites]


It's times like this I really hate metafilter!
posted by ramix at 10:58 AM on April 14, 2008


Also also, I cannot stomach this sort of singing.

Yes, I too prefer my singers to be bad.
posted by ludwig_van at 11:11 AM on April 14, 2008


Yes, I too prefer my singers to be bad.

Totally.
posted by everichon at 11:15 AM on April 14, 2008


blatantly intended to prompt you to feel something

The fiends!
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 11:21 AM on April 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


a judge to tears
Has there ever been an act on that show that Amanda Holden didn't cry over?
posted by joaquim at 11:30 AM on April 14, 2008


It's times like this I really hate metafilter!

Ever stepped outside into the real world? I doubt anyone here would actually hit the little guy, or taunt him.

Basically Metafilter would sit him down, say, look here kid, you have a great voice and it's good you enjoy it but in all reality ...

you're not long for the soprano section.
and
they've turned it into a Contrived TV Moment (TM)

All those people love you now, the girls might think you're cute, but it's media, it's contrived heart-string pulling and unless his voice never changes or he starts spending thousands of dollars and countless hours in singing classes, he's not going to be recognized for his singing next year, he'll just be that kid who made everyone cry once.

Shows like these don't make true stars, they make money. As long as he is marketable he will be around.

All that aside, if this was a recorded event without editing and just the kid singing without any backstory or audience reaction, it would just be a nice concert piece and I'd listen to it. As it stands it's pure drivel packaged as poignant.
posted by M Edward at 11:55 AM on April 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


blatantly intended to prompt you to feel something

The fiends!


what was annoying was that rather than let the kid sing for a decent amount of time so that you could actually be moved, or not as taste might have it, they provided a tiny snippet bolstered by endless social cues that all yelled "you ought to be moved!"

It felt like the entire scene was a form of self-congratulation for everyone to show how much they had indeed loved that religious music, but without having to actually listen to it. I agree it was beautiful, but also that it is not uncommon in boys' choirs in the UK and also that he will not be in a boys choir for much longer. And also, I listened to it half an hour ago, so I kinda forget what he looks like now, but somehow he reminded me of the kid from Two & a Half Men.
posted by mdn at 11:56 AM on April 14, 2008


Lots of snark here, which this isn't meant to be...but he's 13? How much longer will he have that voice?

Yeah, people forget that little boys can really sing, especially in the US which doesn't have the tradition of boy's choirs like UK public schools.
posted by smackfu at 11:56 AM on April 14, 2008


especially in the US which doesn't have the tradition of boy's choirs like UK public schools.

Hop on Metro-North, dude.
posted by jonmc at 12:16 PM on April 14, 2008


But it may help him meet girls, which could negate the bullying.

Not very likely. There aren't a lot of girls hanging around boys choirs. He'll do well for overly solicitous choir-masters with an unhealthy interest in pre-pubescent boys though.

doesn't have the tradition of boy's choirs like UK public schools

This kid lives on a council estate -- the UK equivalent of your projects. Chances are that he started singing at his local church, and if he got good enough, made it up to his local cathedral choir.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:22 PM on April 14, 2008


Yeah, I never knew that British TV could be hokier than American TV. I thought "Extreme Makeover:Home Edition" was bad, but this takes the prize. What's up with that horrible music at the end?

And if anyone raised on British comedy was watching this, come on - you had to be wanting, at least a little bit - to see Simon lay into him. I mean, they always give good reviews to kids. Wouldn't it be great to, just once, hear "That was quite possibly the most atrocious singing I've ever heard, I want to come punch you right now."
posted by fungible at 12:22 PM on April 14, 2008


the tradition of boy's choirs like UK public schools

Libera, The Choirboys, et al.
posted by ericb at 12:23 PM on April 14, 2008


I'm with M Edward on this. Shows like this are about pushing emotional buttons in the audience. They cater to the basic desire for a touching story, for an underdog who makes good. And to that end they calculatingly and cynically manufacture a product - the same product over and over again.

None of us knows (unless we were there in the editing room) what the real context of any of this 'Contrived TV Moment' was. Charlie Brooker made a half-decent effort at explaining how these moments are put together, how judicious editing can make any story they producers might want to tell. This story of a bullied child who sings to be free is almost certainly a concoction distilled and shaped by people who are professional manipulators. The real story may well be much more interesting and enriching, but is probably also more ambiguous and complex.

At its best television can reveal truths, open our eyes to the world, and introduce us to people and ideas that touch us deeply. But this isn't television at its best.

British TV of late has been crammed to the ceiling with festering maudlin drivel. This kind of identikit programming is lazy and manipulative. A year from now it'll be cast off to some lower-budget channel where they show re-runs of all the other done-to-death concepts (celebrities in the jungle, fly-on-the-wall crap etc). I wouldn't waste a tear on any of it.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 12:26 PM on April 14, 2008


... he really does sound like an archangel coming down out of the sky.

He does.

And he lives in some monolithic council estate, surrounded by asshats that take the piss day in and day out. They'd pick on him whether he sang or not. Oh, he says that they're on him because of his music, but you know better. So does he. But who really wants to admit right out that they're a target of scorn simply because they exist? Not you. Not me.

And where's Dad? Probably not around, given that Mom is there alone in the wings.

Ignore the jump-cuts, the contrived editing, the double-Seacrests in the wings, the egregious music-beds going into the segment and coming out ... what's left is a boy who sings quite beautifully. The child has a gift. Where's the harm in letting that gift be appreciated?
posted by grabbingsand at 12:34 PM on April 14, 2008 [9 favorites]


mdn, I do actually agree. I was just amused at the thought of the archetypal jaded MeFite hipster folding his arms, pursing his lips, and challenging the world to make him feel something :)
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 12:38 PM on April 14, 2008


Cheap television on other people's misery.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:39 PM on April 14, 2008


MetaFilter: crammed to the ceiling with festering maudlin drivel.
posted by ericb at 1:03 PM on April 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


Who here would like to feel something? Form a queue over here, and the feeling will commence as soon as I ...finish...these...urf...preparations...
posted by everichon at 1:10 PM on April 14, 2008


13 year old treble Andrew Johnston sings Pie Jesu in the new series of Britains got talent.
From the linked video. Apparently he is a treble? Maybe he can continue singing like this.
posted by geekyguy at 1:22 PM on April 14, 2008


"That sweet cherub was simply looking into the camera and asking people if they had a soul. Some of you say yes, some of you say no.
God bless his precious heart and the gift that he has given by Our Saviour."


(vomits)
posted by sharksandwich at 1:47 PM on April 14, 2008


The bitter, bitter people on here. *sigh* I suppose I ought to know better with this cynical bunch.

I thought he sang beautifully. It reminded me a little of the boy countertenor who sang during the Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover. Hopefully this kid's story end better.

A genuinely beautiful voice. Thanks for sharing this with us.
posted by MythMaker at 1:58 PM on April 14, 2008


Cynical bunch here. He sings beautifully and there is a poignancy independent of the show's ham-handed manipulation.
posted by callmejay at 2:00 PM on April 14, 2008


"Treble" here is being used interchangeably with "boy soprano," geekyguy. He'll have this range for another year at most.
posted by Powerful Religious Baby at 2:34 PM on April 14, 2008


Who cares if he'll have it for another year or another week? He has it now, and it sounds wonderful. You think authors, athletes, and other dancing monkeys have their talents from cradle to grave?

Speaking of dancing monkeys... what the fuck was up with those two guys in the wings? Are they on the show all the time?
posted by dobbs at 2:54 PM on April 14, 2008


You mean Ant and Dec the clown princes of British light entertainment! Dancing monkeys indeed...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:03 PM on April 14, 2008


Is there anything stopping good trebles turning into good altos or baritones or whatever when their voices break? I seem to remember all the boys in my school choir starting at 11 and still singing away at 18 in lower registers. (Then again, most of the hardcore choir kids were so spectacularly odd - all ultra-religious High Anglican-bordering-on-Catholic types with the borrowed mannerisms of the spectacularly flamboyant choirmaster - presumably they just had to keep singing in order to have a social life, regardless of how their voices sounded after their balls dropped.)
posted by jack_mo at 3:22 PM on April 14, 2008


Ant and Dec, the original hosts of Pop Idol, who begat Ryan Seacrest and Brian Dunkelman on American Idol.
posted by smackfu at 3:24 PM on April 14, 2008


Is there anything stopping good trebles turning into good altos or baritones or whatever when their voices break?

I think it's very very rare for someone to have an exceptionally good voice both before and after it breaks. I'm sure I've heard that several of the great opera singers were only average chorus singers before their voices broke. And Aled Jones is no where near as good a singer as he used to be.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:46 PM on April 14, 2008


day-um. you people. why all the hate?

oh, that's right. metafilter: home of the aging progressive ASSHOLE. carry on.

ericb, thanks for posting this. i don't watch teevee, so i likely woudn't have seen it if you hadn't FPPd it. and i was moved by this. NOT by the show-generated BS, but by watching that sweet kid's face as he tried to hold it together.

he may not have been perfect, but i found it to be very touching.
posted by CitizenD at 4:01 PM on April 14, 2008


That gave me chills like nothing has ever given me chills in my life.
posted by Jairus at 4:39 PM on April 14, 2008


Holy effing mackerel! That British boy is going to SOAR to the top!!... until his voice breaks. After that, things look pretty bleak.
posted by lukeklein at 4:54 PM on April 14, 2008


Well, for all of you who were 'touched' by this - do any of you actually listen to choir music/ church music very often? Has it occured to you maybe it was just the piece of music? Look, the kid is okay, but perhaps part of the 'ooh, wonderment' is that we just don't see young boys singing very often. At least outside of boy bands.
posted by Megami at 5:09 PM on April 14, 2008


Actually, Megami, I spend a lot of time listening to and singing sacred choral music. The piece of music is from Andrew Lloyd Webber's Requiem. Pretty, but not exactly Bach or Faure. The beauty was that the kid can sing.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:34 PM on April 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


Bullies, bullies, everywhere,
On the web and on the air--
His balls will drop, and so will you;
Snark and run behind the blue!
Time will come and surely take
His innocence, and in its wake
The bitter ones will clap with glee...
(Thanks for this post, good eric b!)
posted by Dizzy at 5:43 PM on April 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


As soon as any kid shows up on a show like this, I start to brace myself for the cloying sentimentalism and clouded judgement that nearly invariably follows. This time, the kid could sing. I'll give him that. But god, the thing was pretty unwatchable for the editing and how everyone reacted.

Dear people of the world, a reminder: applauding, hooting and hollering, etc., is all well and acceptable when listening to noisy, popular music being preformed but for the love of christ stop doing it while listening to classical being preformed. This is not to be interrupted, it is to be actually listened to. You fuckers don't care about the music, you just want to feel good about some kid you're going to forget entirely after the show ends and you go back to never listening to any of this sort of thing ever.

Count me in with the cynics.
posted by Arturus at 5:45 PM on April 14, 2008


Andrew's got a nice voice. But if the Britain's Got Talent folks were honest with themselves about the UK's current demographic realities, they would've had at least one kid reciting a surah.
posted by xthlc at 5:47 PM on April 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Fair call hydropsyche. I too have sung in choirs, listen to a lot of sacred music (though leider is more my type of thing) and wouldn't class ALW as, well, 'classical' music. But it is still a sacred piece. And the kid is nice, but I wouldn't say the best I have ever heard, but that is of course personal opinion. I still contend that a lot of the 'reaction' is people who are just amazed a kid can sing something other than rap or nursery rhymes. I know that in the UK and Australia there is not a huge exposure, at least not in the general community, to children singing traditional/non-pop music.

Beyond television commericals, that is.
posted by Megami at 5:55 PM on April 14, 2008


Kid's good.
Made me stop hating all mankind for a few seconds.
And...it's back.
posted by hojoki at 6:29 PM on April 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


Miserere -- Ennio Morricone "The Mission."
posted by ericb at 6:30 PM on April 14, 2008


How much longer will he have that voice?

Next, Homer sings in the choir, and Abe predicts making a fortune out of him ... until his voice changes.

"Dagnab it!"
posted by bwg at 6:39 PM on April 14, 2008


This kind of music needs more black and white like Frank Bird from my old post.
posted by tellurian at 6:54 PM on April 14, 2008


Nice voice to be sure but go through a few school choirs and you can find just as good if not better.

That's a ridiculous comment. Maybe if you went to school at the King's College Choir School, but no, I heard the King's College Choir sing, and their school boys weren't as good as Potts. Very good, but not quite as good.

You would find singers as good as or better than Potts, among professional and trained opera singers. My husband is a trained singer - he says that Potts is clearly trained and well above average by his voice alone. (Again, not above average for professional opera singers, but that's why they are professional.)
posted by jb at 9:14 PM on April 14, 2008


Sorry - I realised your school choir comment was about the 13 year old.

But my comment still stands -- I have heard one of the better boy choirs in England sing, and this kid would fit right in. Not in any average school choir - one of the best in England.

And Potts is also far from average.
posted by jb at 9:17 PM on April 14, 2008


By some fluke of televisual fate I found my eyballs pointing at this vignette as it unfolded on Sunday evening. What I thought at the time was, yes the boy can sing (for thirty seconds) but stop attempting to manipulate my emotions with the rest of the production. The jump cut interview was contrived and felt scripted. I imagine he has had some training as the mother seems to have a large influence on his entrance to the competition and I would assume she has been pushing him prior to this.

My questions are, what bit of sacred/Andrew Lloyd Webber music is he going to pull out of the bag for the next round? Is he going to get some help for his deportment problem?

When a bully sees someone who acts like a victim it becomes a self fulfilling prophesy with or without the voice of an angel (TM).
posted by asok at 2:54 AM on April 15, 2008


What you can't tell from the clip is this show aired after an hour long special on Paul Potts called At Her Majesty's Command or some such drivel. I'd never heard of this mobile phone / opera singer before, and judging from the programme not only was I the only person on Earth never to have heard of him, but Paul Potts is also the only opera singer on Earth, Ghandi, Pavarotti, Jesus, The Beatles and Tim Robbin's character in Shawshank Redemption all rolled into one.

Both him and the podgy kid are so manufactured I wouldn't be surprised to find "Made in China" stamped on their asses.
posted by SciencePunk at 3:40 AM on April 15, 2008


Rave on all you want about his being "manufactured",
SciencePunk, but calling him fat is offensive.
posted by Dizzy at 6:55 AM on April 15, 2008


I see someone mentioned Libera. They're cool, awesome, and non-traditional. They sound more new-agey than like a church choir.
posted by mike3k at 1:38 PM on April 15, 2008


I hope that Sarah Brightman re-records that Pie Jesu with him, or brings him onstage to sing it with her, or something. That would be swell of her. I've always liked that particular song.
Meanwhile, I hope this does something good for this kid. He has an incredible tone, and it took real guts to get on there and sing, especially given the bullying.
posted by ysabella at 4:00 PM on April 15, 2008


Beautiful. It made me cry too, even with all the TV bullshit. I sure wish I could hear him without it.
posted by ottereroticist at 9:45 PM on April 17, 2008


Daily Mail article with an interview with Andrew and his single mom
posted by Locative at 9:55 PM on April 18, 2008


Hundreds of people flocked to Carlisle Cathedral this past Saturday to watch television singing sensation Andrew Johnston in action. He sings Pie Jesu in full -- video.
posted by ericb at 8:30 AM on April 21, 2008


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