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Week In Review

The 168 Turnaround: Freddie Mercury Meets YouTube

THIS WEEK: September 18 – 24, 2011

The Week At Large
When it rains, it pours.  Early in the week, NASA admitted that, yes, a redundant satellite would be falling back to earth, and, yes, what’s left of it might in fact hit and kill you—squash you like a bug, actually.  Panicked for our lives, many of us took solace in the pleasures of television, only to find that the new Charlie-Sheen-free season of Two and a Half Men was considerably less amusing without the infamous warlock at the wheel.  But while we sat and wondered who at ABC should be fired for hiring Ashton Kutcher, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg stepped up to the podium and announced that, yes, once again he would be changing the site’s layout.  A collective groan was heard all around the world.  So, when it rains, it pours, but all those showers have a way of washing away all the muck and litter from the past week.  And in the wake of such filth, we’ve found the voice of an angel…

The Close Up

The late Freddie Mercury

And by angel, I mean the late Freddie Mercury… or at least somebody who sounds a hell of a lot like him.  As far as I’m concerned, the former frontman of UK band Queen is a god among rock vocalists.  To find someone whose voice is very near identical to Mercury’s is both startling and delightful.

On Tuesday, Marc Martel (of Juno-winning band Downhere), submitted a video audition for the Queen Extravaganza, a talent search led by Queen Drummer Roger Taylor that will culminate in a North American live tour (click here for more).  After Martel’s audition was posted to YouTube, it made like H1N1 and went viral.  As of this writing, Martel’s video has had more than 1,600,000 views.  You can view the audition below:

Perhaps a number of you are wondering how this qualifies as news?  After all, videos go “viral” on YouTube all the time.  Hell, if I really wanted to talk about music (which I rarely do), why not, for instance, discuss Arcade Fire’s recent Polaris Prize win or how this week marks the 20-year anniversary of the release of Nirvana’s album Nevermind?

Truth be told, I could talk about those topics.  In fact, I probably should, given the poor state of my music credibility.  But there’s something riveting about YouTube that I just can’t ignore.  The popular video sharing site has the potential to greatly diversify Arts and Entertainment culture by exposing the world to new and surprising talents.  With YouTube and sites like it, “Industry Standards” no longer dictate the kinds of art available to us.

We imagine, we create, and we share—boardroom executives need not apply.

Granted, Marc Martel’s YouTube video is not the end, but a means to the end: what he really wants to do is sing on stage and tour across North America.  But by posting his audition on YouTube, his video becomes more than just an audition—it becomes an artwork all on its own, and one he’s shared with the entire world.

Whether or not he makes it through the judging process and onto the big stage, Martel’s voice has been heard and marvelled at.  Before YouTube, he (or someone like him) might very well have been just another person singing alone in his bedroom.  And with a week of miserable, rainy news, who wants to stay cooped up inside, anyway?

The 168 Turnaround is a week-in-review column, a place for me to reflect on the week’s most interesting pop culture news items.  If it mattered to me or I think it might matter to you, then it will be here.  If I’ve overlooked an important news item, or if you have a comment or question, please leave a response below.  Thank you for reading.


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