There’s no denying reality singing competitions have struck a polarizing chord (no pun intended) in the hearts and minds of the creative community. It shouldn’t surprise you that I have mixed feelings about this type of entertainment as well. (Did anyone see that Black Mirror satirical take on the culture in the episode entitled “Fifteen Million Merits”? Yikes.)
After many seasons of American Idol I swore I’d never watch another singing competition until I (accidentally) witnessed Javier Colon perform his acoustic soul cover of “Time After Time” on Season 1 of The Voice. I was hooked again. (No surprise he won.)
More recently, my dear friend and colleague Courtney Harrell, made a decision to audition for The Voice after writing many songs for huge superstars (Chris Brown, Mary J. Blige) and still not being able to support herself. (Do you think we need to raise those streaming rates?) She was concerned about her teenage son’s future and her own future for that matter.
After the season ended, through the window of Courtney's Facebook page, I witnessed someone who didn’t win get very busy anyway. Last week my phone dinged. It was a text from Courtney asking if I'd participate in some kind of spinning (indoor cycling) event. What?
I have a session that day!
"C'mon! We’ll spin to your songs along with the songs of other hit songwriters and producers." It was a fundraiser for MusiCares—a foundation that helps musicians in financial, medical or personal crisis.
I’m getting an MRI next week for a left KNEE crisis! I can barely do downward dog at Yoga. Howmi gonna ride a bike? But…it was MusiCares. And it was Courtney. And, it’s my year of Yes! So I said Yes.
Day of I stuffed my best luluemons and a tube of Viva Glam (just in case there were—you know—photographers) into one of those very useful Free People sacs (ladies, you know the one), and off I went to my session. After the session I headed over to DragonFly Cycling. There were cameras (so happy I brought that lipstick) and lights and very busy people scurrying about…and snacks! (I love snacks).
I pulled Courtney into the ladies room (where deals are made, secrets are divulged, lipstick is applied), and she gave me the skinny…
She said she fell in love with spinning after a friend signed her up. Her first class was the morning after a late session with the Stereotypes...3 hours sleep. She was electrified. She began going regularly and when the instructor happened to play a song that was written or produced by a friend (or, her own song), it was as thrilling as hearing it on the radio. She explains how the music, the synchronicity between strangers and the motivation from the instructor, inspired a vision.
Soon, she created the "The Cyc Ward" to bring three of her loves together: indoor cycling, incredible music, and the amazing people who make it. She also wanted to emphasize the importance of staying fit while working in a very stressful industry.
Well done, girl. I’m ready as I’ll ever be. Let’s get started. (If my leg falls off mid class, I hope you won't regret having called on me.)
Some lovely young thang snapped my spinning shoes into the peddles and our fearless leader mounted a bike on a platform front and center next to Courtney.
My fellow cyclists included The Stereotypes, Da Internz, Harmony “H-money” Samuels and William Larsen, (of Bruno Mars, Ariana, Rihanna, Bieber, Chris Brown, Florida Georgia Line fame) and Darby Anne Walker and Sonyae Elise of The Voice and Platinum Hit. (Umm...Sam Hollander—You should do this. “Handclap” would be perfect.)
The kickoff song was “What a Girl Wants.” (What this girl really wanted was to be home watching “This Is Us” in my PJ’s with a pint of Haagen-Daz by my side. Clearly, that wasn’t going to happen.
After a 5 minute warm-up instructor instructed us to raise our butts off our seats. For the remainder of the class! Was she joking? Everybody (except me) obeyed and peddled twice as fast as me to boot.
All good. My relatively new Yoga practice has taught me acceptance and to embrace my own (more senior) pace, whatever the activity. I smiled through it. I even found humor in the optics of my fingers in my ears as, being closest to the ginormous booming speakers, I thought my brain might explode. Listen, I was thrilled to be burning calories (albeit half the calories of my junior compatriots) and raising money for MusiCares…and remembering that once, I had a #1 song.
Chalk up another adventure for team Shelly. Thank you Courtney.
Winning is something. But it’s not everything. Perhaps it's what we do with our almost that counts. If you're a runner up you may be, as Twitter calls it—“verified"—a "person of interest.” You have fans. You can influence people. So will you disappear into singing competition obscurity or will you choose to make a difference?
Courtney chose to make a difference.
Every ride in The Cyc Ward series will help to benefit a charity. She hopes to take it to other cities. Other cyclists. Other songs. If you're recording artist, a songwriter, or producer who wants to ride in The Cyc Ward please contact her at email@example.com