When I was a kid, I was fascinated with reality television, specifically the singing competition type. I grew up with an interest in music and auditioned for the school choir as early as I could (it was 3rd grade) and continued to be in choir until I graduated high school. It was never about being in the spotlight or liking the attention on me, I actually always hated feeling eyes on me when I was trying to hit notes and stay on key. It was the act of learning something challenging that isn’t easy for everyone and taking pride to push myself to be better in a creative field.
I used to joke (sort of) that when I was old enough, I would audition for American Idol. I was enthralled with the idea of being some sort of undiscovered talent, waiting to blossom on TV, win the hearts of voters, and win the entire show. You may think I sound ridiculous, but people do it!
When I actually got to high school and that same thought was laughable. I had horrible stage fright and never wanted to be on TV, so that was the end of that. I also learned more and more about how those sorts of things worked, and how winning a singing show means you are locked into bad contracts that can be unfair to the winner (see here). The show eventually ended…then came back. I’m not going to give you a history of the American Idol reboot, so all you need to know is that 25-year-old Alejandro Aranda, AKA scarypoolparty, was the runner-up of this year’s season, losing to Laine Hardy, a 17-year-old country singer. Alejandro’s initial audition for the show went viral for his impressive guitar-playing skills that left the judges speechless. It currently sits at 15,000,000 views on YouTube.
While he definitely had (and still does) the talent to win the show, his off-kilter style of performing and “emo-y industrial folk” music wasn’t the most palatable for your average viewer of American Idol. He was also the only finalist on the show to perform original music. Even though Aranda didn’t win the show, things worked out for him post-idol quite well. He quickly signed with Hollywood Records and began working on a debut album, also being added to the Lollapalooza lineup earlier this summer after Calpurnia had to drop out. This was the first time an Idol alum was ever on a Lolla lineup.
I hinted to this before, but I am not really that surprised that Aranda didn’t win Idol. And I think that’s a good thing: he now has the opportunity to create what he wants under a label that supports his vision, and thanks to the handy dandy interwebs, he’s created a dedicated fanbase after nobody knew who he was 10 months ago. His show at The Vic Theatre earlier this week was a sold-out one, people piling in off the streets on a chilly night. His set started promptly at 8:30PM as he whipped through a 65 minute set with 12 songs. Out of those 12, only six are available to stream on Spotify. He also has other songs he did not perform on his Soundcloud page.
Scarypoolparty (once I figure out why he performs under that name, I’ll update this post), has a wide range of sounds in his music. The first couple songs performed, called “Black Cross,” and the newly-released track, “Diamonds,” flirt with being rock music. Songs like “10 Years,” “Dance The Night Away,” and the infamous “Out Loud,” are slower, acoustic tracks that showcase his incredible guitar-playing skills. You wouldn’t have expected these varying sounds from the performer who appeared on Idol and sang covers of Justin Bieber and Post Malone songs. Scarypoolparty’s music post-idol showcases a different side to his talent that probably wouldn’t have ever been at the forefront if he were to have won the show and signed a more restricting contract.
Like I said before, a lot of the tracks that he performed are not on Spotify, so I went into this performance fairly unsure of what was coming. My favorite song that I was unfamiliar with prior has to be “Millennial Love” and of course, my favorite moment was hearing “Out Loud” live and being able to witness such incredible musicianship.
In 2019, you don’t have to win a talent competition to pave the way for yourself. Being on the show certainly helped Scarypoolparty reach more people with his music, but maybe it’s true that “second is the best.” Just a couple songs into the evening, Scarypoolparty took a moment to thank the crowd for coming, mentioning that just a couple months ago, he was nervous to perform his music in a coffee shop to a handful of people. Now he’s selling out venues of 1,000 people and making Stevie Nicks cry. Funny how the world works.
All photos were shot by me for Chicago Haze.