I was sitting in the comfort of my older brother’s studio, in one of the booths, listening to one of the latest beats he’d come up with. It was rough, but still gentle enough to be a great instrumental to a hot R&B song. At least that was I was thinking in my mind as I wrote lyrics that seemed to flow.
“Cause I can… give it to you just the way you like. And I… promise I’ll be worth your time… All I need is a…” I stopped and took a deep breath, removing my headphones as I tapped my pen against my bottom lip.
“You know, I’m still waiting on the day you tell me you’re going to start recording and make a name for yourself.”
“People know of me.”
“People know of Melody Lee, the songwriter. They don’t know that you’re up here hitting Minnie Riperton highs and singing Phyllis Hyman lows.”
“Tuh, what does it matter Shayne? In the industry today they’re not checking for songstress with actual talent, we both know that. It’s about what’s hot. And what sells. I’d be a decent underground artist at the most.”
“You know that underground and lesser known artists have some of the most loyal fans. It doesn’t have to be all about the money.”
“I didn’t say I had to be all about that. It’s not about that at all to be honest. If I could work with some of my favorite artists I’d write these songs for free. THAT is how dedicated I am.”
“So be that dedicated about singing. You’ve got it Sis, and you know it.”
I looked at my brother and smiled. He’s always pushed me to do better. If it weren’t for him I wouldn’t even be writing for the celebrities I write for now. He was my backbone, my rock… he raised me to be the woman that I am today. Which for the life of me I can’t understand how I’d become so fearless. At least when it comes to my own singing career.
“What scares you Mel, really?”
“Just because I have the voice … it doesn’t mean that I’m the type that they’re looking for. I’m not like you Shayne, I can’t ignore every single negative comment that comes my way.”
His eyes showed nothing but concern. “You know as well as I do that we live in a world that is superficial. BUT, we also live in a world where there are people who appreciate TALENT and not just looks. Melody, you are one of the most beautiful women I know.”
“You’re just saying that because you’re my brother.”
“Umm… Stacey is our sister and I think she’s one of the ugliest people in the world, so it’s not that.”
“I’m saying. It’s personality with me Sis, NOT looks. You’re gorgeous. Now give me that notebook, take a few deep breaths, and get ready to sing you heart out.”
“You’re taking my notebook, what am I going to sing?”
“Your favorite song. I just want to see how you do when you trust and believe in yourself.”
Later that night I was in my bedroom, looking myself over. I was trying to find the beauty that my brother and my friends saw. I, the product of a biracial marriage, was nothing you’d expect. I had the long, bone straight hair that came from my mother’s side of the family. Her and her sisters were some of the most beautiful Asian women to grace this planet. And my deep honey complexion came from my father’s side of the family, mixed well with hers. He came from a family of some of the most affluent Bahamians that lived in the United States.
I have big, doe-like eyes. Brown, although they sometimes look Hazel if there’s light hitting them. Standing at 5’5”. And as big as house. No, four houses.
I’m not beautiful. And despite what my brother says, if I were to take a singing career seriously, my voice is not something people would focus on for long.
I’ll just stay behind the scenes.
By the end of the week I’d written and recorded six new demos for my brother’s newest find. Gia DeMarco; set to be pop’s next big artist… according to her little following. We were now sitting in a meeting, trying to see which ones she’d choose for her upcoming debut album.
“Damn Sis, you really came with it this go ‘round. You know I’m loving all six, but I can definitely see A Chance, Make Love, and Feel Alright being great for Gia’s voice. Don’t think I ain’t peep that small College Girl sample.”
“Haa, you know I stay bumpin’ Bobby Brown.”
“I know, I know. So Gia, which are you feelin’ the most.”
“None of them.”
Shayne and I both looked at Gia and she shrugged before giving one of her infamous stank looks. She was becoming too comfortable, and too difficult to work with far too early in her career.
“You can’t be serious Gia. I mean, I can see some not being your personal style but you have to at least felt Make Love or Feel Alright.”
“Let’s be real Shayne, all of them are shit. And the only reason you’re giving so much praise is because Melody is your sister. I want to work with REAL writers. And how the hell am I supposed to sing her shit anyway. The way she sings makes it impossible to understand. You’re no Toni Braxton, Melody.”
“Bitch, you’re not even Rihanna.”
Shayne pushed his chair back and pulled Gia back as she charged for me. I stayed seated, smirking. “Little Girl, I could sing circles around you.”
“You couldn’t even RUN circles around me, too damn busy stopping to eat everything in sight.”
“Yo, Gia, you need to chill out. I’m not going to have you disrespecting anyone in my studio. Especially someone trying to help you. And especially my family.”
“It’s cool Shayne. She just better be glad my quota for sitting on skinny bitches has been met for the month.”
Percy, who’d been sitting quietly at the other end of the table laughed and shook his head.
“You wish you could look this good.”
“Gia… CHILL. Mel, she’ll take the three I said.”
He looked at me, his eyes pleading for me to let it slide.
“She can’t have them.”
“Sis, come on. Don’t let ignorant shit stop you from getting paid. You know those are guaranteed hits.”
“It’s not all about the money, remember? And I know they’re guaranteed hits. That’s why I’m gonna sing them myself. Got room on your roster for another artist?”
Shayne’s face lit up and Gia’s jaw dropped. “Hell yeah Sis!”
“Good. Percy, think you can come up with a beat that’s a little slower for Make Love? I want that to be a baby making track.”
“I got you Mel. Shayne, I’ll holla. Gia… tuh…” He laughed and walked out, Shayne following behind a few seconds after giving me a hug.
I was picking up my bag when I felt a presence behind me. “You’ll never make it Melody. You’re nowhere near the standard of what people like today. I mean look at you, looking like a reject version of the old Kelly Price.”
I smiled and nodded. “Funny. That’s one I’ve never heard. But let’s get this straight right now… you may be my brother’s first major artist, but I’m going to be his NUMBER ONE. Oh yeah, make sure you get those zits on your face cleared up before your photo shoot tomorrow. Wouldn’t want your fans to think you’re imperfect.”
Her hands rose to her face quickly and I walked off smirking, working out my game plan in my head.
Unknown to my brother, Percy, and everyone else who worked with us, I already had my first album planned out.
I guess now is finally the time to get it recorded and everything else worked out and executed. What the hell am I… What is my pride getting me into?