Her name is Elissa, a very famous singer from Lebanon. People started to know her when she appeared on a duet with super star Lebanese singer, Ragheb Alama, in 2000 – according to Elissa, she was already reached fame before appearing on that white linen video clip. She made 6 albums, appeared in different advertisements and commercials, such as for Pepsi a couple of times, and for a jewelry business. In addition, she held a performance at the pyramids of Egypt as the opening act for British superstar Sting. She was also the only Arabic artist to perform in front of the former U.S President Bill Clinton at the Stars Charity show in Dubai, where among other guests present were Queen Rania of Jordan and the Crown Prince of Dubai, Cheikh Mohamed Bin Rachid al Maktoum. Her stardom reached to another level at the end of 2002 when she inaugurated the opening of Kuwait's Virgin Megastore with Sir Richard Branson, the founder of the famous stores. Finally, the success of Elissa has been included in the book '100 Pioneers of Lebanon' alongside Lebanese music legends such as Fairouz and Wadih el Safi, according to Wikipedia.
A couple of days ago MBC satellite channel broadcast showed a concert of Elissa from 2007, but before talking about that I want to give some background information on Arabic music nowadays: Most of, if not all Arab musicians/singers record their albums using digital (or virtual) instruments in addition to live musicians, and with the advanced technology of synthesizers they can make great quality mixed and produced albums. For that reason, to me, watching a live concert of any singer is like going through the ultimate test: either that singer proves to be good on stage and deserve the title of a super star; or to consider that singer pathetic, where he or she would have no option but to keep failing musically and on stage in front of their fans or those watching him on TV. Some of those horrible performers (shame to call them singers in the first place) create a sort of a status que to let the audience accept them with such failure. With a lot of money being poured on such people, by consider them some commercial product that would gain a lot of profit through their image rather than their musical quality, they would remain to be seen on TV talk shows, their songs would be played every single hour daily on Radio stations, and their photoshop-manipulated pictures would be on the covers of magazines for years to come. Elissa is one of those samples.
I watched Elissa live on TV a number of times before… two conclusions: First, Elissa does not know how to sing; second, Elissa does not have any presence on stage.
The concert I watched on MBC a couple of days ago did not make any change in opinion: As it is the case with most of her live concerts; Elissa came out from back stage wearing a long elegant party dress with an eye-popping cleavage (her ultimate weapon – well, maybe this time it was a bit bigger than previous times!) She walked with the same look on her face: absorbed, lost in some thoughts far away from time and place… or shall I better describe it as a look of a dump? She stopped in the middle of the stage, nervous, maybe worried? Suddenly, as if she remembered something and before it was too late she turned her head to the right to greet the maestro who was conducting the group of musicians playing her songs on each side of the stage. During the whole concert Elissa did not have any interaction with the public, except for a few cold smiles here and there. She was most generous with the bearded maestro where she exchanged smiles and gestures. Oh yes, to be entirely fair: she exchanged smiles with the chorus standing in the dark at one end of the stage.
On every intro of every song she bursts into a deafening “aaaaaahhhhh” with eyes closed and mouth wide open – is she trying to tune her voice with the music melody played in the background? Or is this became another dump habit of hers? It can happen once, twice, but not with every intro on every song she begins whining and moaning loud as if to give a fake impression of being deeply emotional when hearing that melody.
I don’t think that having the flu made me so agitated by Elissa’s voice that night, because all who were sitting in the same room with me were became extremely upset with such joke.
Truth hurts: Her face was not of a very happy person (or shall I say hidden rage) during an interview on MBC’s celebrity talk-show, Al Arrab (The Godfather) when asked by host, Neshan Der Haroutiounian, when he told her “According to critics, when someone listen to an album by Elissa, it is depicted as some gorgeous bride on her wedding day; all pretty with the most beautiful dress and everything, and people listen with joy to your voice … on stage it is another story… after some half an hour of singing live some critics put your voice in the category of those singing out of tone, and other critics refer this to some poor or limited ability to sing in the first place.” Elissa’s admitted that “in the past I used to sing because I like to sing, and I used to go out-of-tone… I do that because I couldn’t listen to my own voice when singing… and it is not only me, all singers do that” A super star, as she claims, the second richest female signer in the Arab world (from sales of her albums) is saying that she is still learning how to get over the fact that she is tone deaf?
A lot of critics I read on the Internet or while watching TV about the deteriorating status of Arabic music, compare to the old days when the focus on music as a prestigious art used to be the highest priority, rather than focusing on the boobs and curves of female singers. Again, don’t want to be misunderstood, there are good female singers around, take Yara, for example, I didn’t like her last album but still love to attend her concerts or watch her on TV, why? I watch her and enjoy her music, because I feel that Yara is righteous to her music, and to her fans, to say the least. If Elissa can read this post, maybe it is useful to take a look and learn from this guy, how to stay on the same melody without going out-of-tone.
I started this post mentioning Ragheb Alama, just for the information; there is a guitarist in his band, a big man with light beard and moustache playing a red and white Fender Stratocaster. That guitarist plays very good, my compliments goes to him. He used to be the guitarist in Elissa’s band some years ago, and I watched him beautifully playing Elissa’s songs in different live performance on TV. Speaking of TV, would like to thank MBC, because since the end of Ramadan and on every night the past week, this TV station gave me the opportunity to watch a number of concerts of different Arab singers and musicians. I liked the concert of Lebanese female singer, Nancy Ajram. I can’t say that I enjoyed it 100% because the overall sound of the band playing (except for Nancy’s microphone) was extremely low and too much echoed. I don’t know if the acoustics on that venue was the right place for music shows, or is it the fault of those filming the show: no experience on how to mix the sound well and bring it right for TV viewers! However, I am not a fan of Ajram, but her new band, led by the great Basim Rizq (this man is a genies) did a wonderful and enjoyable performance.
Back to Elissa, in 1992, Elissa was still seeking for fame, so she participated under the name “Allisar” in Studio Al Fan, a sort of Super Star broadcasted on Lebanese TV in the 1990s. Elissa was asked about the most important factors for a singer to be always remembered by his fans. Her answer was “first of all the voice; second is good presence when going live on stage; third is good performance; finally musical knowledge. “ This is very sad; because I don’t see any of the four apply to this singer in a way or another. My suggestion is to focus and stick to one sort of performance; she did that on the Mission Fasion 2007 show. Another suggestion: I beg you, Elissa, please don’t sing covers of old Arabic songs; you butchered the whole melody from start to end.