I asked Akira to be team leader.
“You’re the natural pick. You’ve got the most experience, you seem to be the most level-headed, and mature, even. All the guys look up to you. It’s a no-brainer.”
“I dunno,” he replied. “Should we, like, vote on it or something?”
“This isn’t a democracy,” I said. “It’s a business, and I’m the CEO. Sure, consensus is nice, but I think the really important business decisions fall to the manager. That would be me.”
He agreed. Not that I left him much choice.
“So, as the team leader, I want your honest appraisal.”
“Honest appraisal? Of what?”
“Of everything! Of the band! How’s everyone doing?”
“Well, they’re all great guys,” he said.
I wanted more.
“Okay, Tony for example,” Akira said. “He’s got the potential to be our star dancer. Every spare moment, he’s working on his body. He’s got the fitness, he’s got good rhythm, and he’s got the brains to learn the moves.”
“And what about chemistry with the other members?”
“Yeah. It’s good,” said Akira. “Everybody likes him.”
I’d noticed he was popular.
“Especially Joey,” Akira added.
“They look good together, don’t they? Cute smiles.”
“You could say that,” Akira said.
“And how’s his singing?”
“He looks good behind a mic,” Akira said.
“And does he sound as good as he looks?”
“Well, when he looks goofy, yeah,” said Akira.
“But do you think he’ll get there?”
“Oh, yeah. I do. He’s got enthusiasm and drive, so yeah. He’s teachable.”
He did have enthusiasm.
He practically ambushed me in the kitchen after one of his rehearsals.
“Did you hear that song?” he asked.
“I did,” I replied. “I couldn’t really recognize the tune. Is it something new?”
“Yes! Vee-Jay wrote it! What do you think?”
I hadn’t been able to understand the lyrics or decipher a melody when Tony sang it. But not long after, I heard Vee-Jay practicing it.
You’re so freaking special
Do you know it?
I’m just happy near you
Dare I show it?
“I want to know what you think,” I asked Akira. “That song that Vee-Jay’s working on? ‘Dare I show it’?”
“You mean ‘Special Snowflake’?”
“Is that what it’s called?” I asked. “Is it any good?”
“Heck, yeah,” said Akira. “He’s got parts for all of us.”
Akira (rapping): Daddy always told you
never did he scold you
said you were his princess–
can’t you take a hint, sis?
Catcha boom, sis!
Akira (hard singing): But do you know it?
Dare you show it? You’re so special
Joey (sweet singing): Like a snowflake
take my heart babe
Like a snowflake
Piece of cake babe!
Akira and Joey: Freaking special
ain’t no joke.
They call you joking
Let ’em choke
Cuz you’re a snowflake.
I wasn’t so sure. The mix of voices sounded off to me.
Earlier, I’d heard Joey and Vee-Jay practicing.
Now that had more potential.
Joey: When you were a little kid
It was all about you.
Vee-Jay: You thought it was just a joke
But little snowflake, it was true.
Joey and Vee-Jay: It ain’t no pejorative
I know all that only
you can give.
Babe it’s true.
No one else
Just like you.
They looked OK dancing together, too, actually.
Vee-Jay had been working so hard, and I guessed he’d already lost about ten pounds. Still, he had this quality of innocent geekiness, like he was dancing as if no one was watching. And I hoped he would always keep that.
As for Joey, he thought he was cool, but he was as big a dork as any of them. He just made dorkiness look cute. So, geeky and dorky, it was a really good mix.
During our team-appraisal confab, I asked Akira what he thought about Rylan.
“He’s good with the guys,” Akira said. “Like, for example, if they start getting too high-strung, he brings this calm.”
“He’s pretty focused,” I added.
“That he is.”
“And his singing?”
“Let’s just say… he’s pretty focused,” said Akira.
I liked the way he looked with Joey and Vee-Jay. They didn’t sound good together yet, but there was hope.
“So what do you think are our chances?” I asked Akira. “What’s our greatest strength? What’s our biggest weakness?”
“Who can tell about chances–that’s why they’re called ‘chances.’ But weakness? No offense meant to him at all, but it’s Joey. I’m just not convinced he’s got the dedication to hang in there when the work gets tough.”
“Without a doubt, Vee-Jay. Man. Vivaan has been putting in the hours, working out, dancing, singing, composing. He lives and breathes this stuff, man.”
“Plus, he’s kinda cute.”
“Yeah. That’s a plus,” said Akira.
They were all cute, in their own way, without a doubt. But Vee-Jay, he could lose himself in the music, and sometimes, when I watched him, I found myself thinking, “Dang! I wanna feel like that.” And, I know, through experience, I know this thing: If there’s one quality that makes a star, it’s that ability to get the fans to want to feel what they feel, especially when they’re feeling something akin to bliss.