Hello, I’m Rachel and I’m the Worst Pop Singer Ever

Hello, blog readers, if there are any of you out there. I’m Rachel, and I’ve just become a real person. By that, I mean I graduated college three weeks ago and decided against grad school, so here I am in the big, harsh world.

A few months ago, my post-grad plans consisted of moving back home, picking up my well-worn tour guide job, and spending one last summer with my family and the few friends that were still in town. But then, SURPRISE, I got a job in Philadelphia, which is possibly the best thing a grad can ask for these days, beyond stepping off the stage, tassle turned, directly into their dream job.

What am I doing, you ask? I’m a waitress. It probably comes as no surprise to you that I am also an actor; the two have gone hand-in-hand since the beginning of time. I think even Thespis waited a few cracked, ancient Greek tables in his day. But I’m singing waitress, so that’s kind of close to my dream job, right? Maybe? Well, it’ll do for now. After all, I need to eat.

And so my summer plans changed. Rather than living at home and guiding people through chilly rural caverns, I took a room in the Philadelphia suburbs and drive or take the train into the city proper to serve drinks, dessert, and sing my little heart out a few times a week. In between shifts, I audition, audition, audition.

I’ve been here for eleven days. I moved in on the 25th, the day before a giant apprenticeship audition at a very famous theatre. I did not get it. However, the harshness of the acting world is something I’m fairly well-acquainted with. It’s the other real-life things I’m not so good at. The following are things that I have discovered in the past eleven days:

-I am a messy, messy person. My room at home (or… my parents’ home? That sounds wrong) has always been messy. A day after I clean it, I’d be knee deep in STUFF again. At college, I was a little better; I was messy, but kept it to my side of the room. Here, I only have one room to myself, and behind that bedroom door, my things have EXPLODED all over the place. I’m embarrassed to leave the door open. I didn’t think adults needed to take days to clean their room, but I do.

-I still hate cooking. I’ve never been very good at it. Fractions confuse me, often leading me to add in 4/3 cup of whatever as opposed to 3/4 cup. It doesn’t make for good eating, and I also fail to see the point of spending an hour making something when you’re just going to have it disappear into your mouth. I lived in London for five months last year, and since I didn’t have a meal plan, my mom made sure I knew some of the basics before I went over. I managed to feed myself for five months, but hated every second of it. And now I’m back to it, and, well… my microwave is my best friend. And I burned myself on the toaster oven.

-I spend money like water. I am, and always have been, a very privileged person, and within reason, my parents have always gotten me what I wanted. Even now that I’ve moved out and am determined to pay my own rent, they’re paying for a lot of other stuff. I’ve never really had to watch my cash flow, and if I have money, I’ll spend it. This is a habit I need to stop.

-It’s taking me awhile to adjust to being an adult. Because I couldn’t afford the rent on an apartment, I am paying to stay in a room in this woman’s house. It took me about a week to figure out how to handle myself. My first weekend here, my friend Jess invited me to come to her mother’s ordination about an hour away. She proposed that I stay over the night before, and at first I was reluctant. Wouldn’t that be being rude to my landlord? I hadn’t even been there for forty-eight hours. Eventually, I decided to go and I figured I should tell my landlord where I was going. The following monologue ensued when I found her washing dishes in the kitchen:

ME: Hi… Um. Remember I- my friend Jess is- I mean her mom is having- so Jess wanted me to come early because I- so we could- and I thought it would be a good idea, and it- so I’m gonna go.

It’s been weird for me to realize that I’m not an exchange student or the surrogate daughter of the house, or even really a guest. I’m a grown-up person renting a room, and I don’t have to ask permission to do stuff. Strange.

-I’m still a terrible pop singer. Today was the ultimate proof of this. As I mentioned, part of my job includes singing. When I auditioned for this job, it was suggested that we bring two contrasting pop songs. I brought two show tunes. Because here’s the thing: I can sing. I even consider myself a singer. But unlike the people on Glee, I can’t automatically belt out a song of any genre. Then again, I don’t have Autotune monitoring my every syllable. My genre is Broadway/show tunes, though I can manage songs in jazz, country, opera, and a few other styles. But pop? No. I’ve never been able to perform them, and I hate almost 95% of pop music, so I don’t really go around singing it for fun.
But they sing pop where I work. And hey, they hired me, so I was game. I’m an actor! I know how to rehearse, how to adjust! Bring it on! I was given two songs to work with: Who Says by Selena Gomez and Lover’s Concerto by The Toys. I kind of let Lover’s Concerto fall by the wayside, but that was 60s music, much easier for me to sing. Who Says, though, I started rehearsing as soon as it was suggested to me in mid-April. I felt pretty comfortable with it, I thought I’d figured out how to place it so even I would be able to make it work.
At my workplace, you have to have a one-on-one rehearsal with one of the managers before you’re allowed to sing, Basically, they just need to make sure you can sing your songs. When I sat down with the manager, she asked, “So what are you singing today?” I was a little confused by this- after all, hadn’t she assigned me my songs. But she deals with a lot of people in a day and that was almost two months ago. So I told her the titles. “Let’s hear them.”
The minus track started for Who Says. I started singing. Dogs started barking. Windows cracked. Okay, maybe not in reality, but in my head, that’s what was happening. Because I sounded awful. I kept hitting a wrong note every five or so, my rhythms sounded unnaturally polished, and when I reached the belting part, I was basically wailing the words. It was terrible. I should also mention that people were touring the establishment, checking it out for their event. I hope they don’t think the singers usually sound like me. I don’t usually sound like I did today. I’m pretty sure the manager cringed.
I sat down with her again. She said. “I didn’t realize you’d bring the ones we gave you.” WHAT? I could have done something I could actually sing?! “I don’t think these songs are quite right for your voice,” she continued. I applaud her tact. “Why don’t we try something else?” she suggested, pushing the binder of songs toward me. “See if there are any on this list you could do.”
I’ve mentioned I hate pop music. The only time I listen to the radio is at Christmas time, and that’s because I don’t own any Christmas CDs. So I looked down this long list of songs and either didn’t know them or knew there was no way on earth I would be able to sing them. I told her this and she looked pained. She’s going to fire you, a voice in my head whispered. You haven’t even officially started this job and you’re going to be fired.
But thankfully, she didn’t fire me. After suggesting a few things and then me suggesting a few things, we found common ground with Let’s Hear it For the Boy. While it’s still scarily close to pop, it’s also technically Broadway, and I’ve worked on it with my voice teacher at home. We tried it, and thank God, it rests right in my range, including belt. I saw the strain leave my manager’s face and instead of firing me, we worked on the song for another twenty minutes, it getting better and better each time. It’s a fun, up-beat song and I’m really excited to perform it. Sadly, these one-on-one approval appointments don’t come along that often, so I have to wait another two weeks until I can definitely perform. *sigh*

Oh, well. At least I still have my job.

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