S-Boys: Episode 12 – Training

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We’ve been training. I’m talking pre-dawn dance practice, all-day singing practice, work-outs in-between, and no rest for the idol.

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Yeah, training’s important. But the skills, essential as they are, aren’t main benefit of the training. The magic is in the bonding.

You try dancing all morning, every morning, with the four guys you live with, and you’ll find you end up with four close friends, too.

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If I’ve learned anything about boy-bands, it’s that it’s the friendships that make the band.

Fans crave that. They want to watch those candid moments and see some genuine affection. That’s what brings them into the magic circle, and that’s what we’re aiming to do. We want to make people happy. Make them feel like they belong. And the only way to do that is with love, and love can’t be faked.

Vee-Jay wants to make music. Of all the guys, he’s the one who puts his heart and soul into it. He works the hardest. After everyone else has moved into the kitchen for vegan tofu breakfast wraps and hot coffee, he’s still on the dance floor, lost in the song he’s writing, feeling it move through him. This maknae’s gonna be our best dancer yet.

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Now Joey, he’s focused on being an idol. It’s not the music, it’s the adoration of the fans that drives him.

“I’ve got the look, right, Tony?”

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“You gotta nice, smile, bro. Cool mustache. You got the swag. But you could use more definition.”

“Hey, man. I am definition. I am the definition of swag!”

“Not the kind of definition I mean, Joey.”

Tony has taken on the role of fitness coach for Joey.

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He’s the most qualified.

But Joey? I’m not sure if he’s got the discipline and dedication his coach demands.

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As soon as the scent of fresh popcorn wafts up the stairs to the gym, he runs down the stairs and sits himself behind a mega-bowl.

“I think tank tops are over-rated, don’t you, Akira?” he said. “Where’s the cool? Vest, scarf, sleeves–know what I’m talking about?”

Akira winked at me and began to chuckle.

“Working out is for more than muscle definition,” I told Joey. “You need stamina if you wanna be an idol.”

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I heard singing coming from the great room.

“That a new song?” I asked Akira.

“It’s one of Vee-Jay’s. He’s working on a unit for him and Rylan.”

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Rainbow Apollo,
Down where
the river flows

You go
where I go
Rainbow Apollo

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It was a ballad.

The boys stopped when they saw me.

“Oh, Sierra,” said Vee-Jay. “I’m still working on it. It’s not done. I’m kinda stuck.”

“I’m sure you’ll get it,” I said.

“I’m not. I was kinda hoping… I shouldn’t ask. But, you think you might want to write it with me?”

“Co-write it?”

“It’d be an honor,” he said, shyly.

“The honor would be mine,” I said, and I meant it.

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Rainbow Apollo
Sun spots
and ice flow

Iris calls you back
with a message
for the hero.

Will you go
where I go

Rainbow Apollo?

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We worked for a few hours. I hadn’t felt that jazz of inspiration for decades, not since writing songs for my own albums.

We’re getting closer. Everyday, we’re getting closer, and Vee-Jay keeps pulling that debut date towards us with his great big stage hook.

It’s gonna take a lot of pots of coffee, but we’re getting there, and quicker than I thought.

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S-Boys: Episode 10 – Honest Assessment

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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.”

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“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?”

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“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.”

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“And what about chemistry with the other members?”

“Yeah. It’s good,” said Akira. “Everybody likes him.”

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I’d noticed he was popular.

“Especially Joey,” Akira added.

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“They look good together, don’t they? Cute smiles.”

“You could say that,” Akira said.

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“And how’s his singing?”

“He looks good behind a mic,” Akira said.

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“And does he sound as good as he looks?”

“Well, when he looks goofy, yeah,” said Akira.

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“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.

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“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.

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You’re so freaking special
Do you know it?

I’m just happy near you
Dare I show it?

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“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.”

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Akira (rapping): Daddy always told you
never did he scold you
said you were his princess–
can’t you take a hint, sis?

Joey: Boom–sis!
Catcha boom, sis!

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(Simultaneously)
Akira (hard singing): But do you know it?
Dare you show it? You’re so special
Freaking special!

Joey (sweet singing): Like a snowflake
take my heart babe
Like a snowflake
Piece of cake babe!

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(In unison)

Akira and Joey: Freaking special
ain’t no joke.
They call you joking
Let ’em choke
Cuz you’re a snowflake.

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I wasn’t so sure. The mix of voices sounded off to me.

Earlier, I’d heard Joey and Vee-Jay practicing.

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Now that had more potential.

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Joey: When you were a little kid
It was all about you.

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Vee-Jay: You thought it was just a joke
But little snowflake, it was true.

(In unison)
Joey and Vee-Jay: It ain’t no pejorative
I know all that only
you can give.

Special snowflake
Babe it’s true.
No one else
Just like you.

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They looked OK dancing together, too, actually.

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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.

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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.”

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“And his singing?”

“Let’s just say… he’s pretty focused,” said Akira.

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I liked the way he looked with Joey and Vee-Jay.  They didn’t sound good together yet, but there was hope.

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“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.”

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“And strength?”

“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.

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S-Boys: Episode 7 – Vee-Jay’s Vlog, Outtakes

One thing I loved about the cameras in every room was that we got to keep footage that might otherwise be edited out. This was especially the case in the computer room where the guys shot their vlogs.

If you’re a fan, you’ve probably watched Vee-Jay’s first video journal dozens of times. I mean, how can you not, right? He’s just so cute in it. But there was a lot that he cut out.

Here’s some of what you missed…

***

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Vivaan:  Hey, everybody! It’s me. Vivaan. That’s right! It’s not Vaneer. Viram. Vivoom. Viroom. Vizam. Not even Vee-Jay. Vivaan Ramesh.

Yeah, I said, ‘Ramesh,’ not Rameesh.

Vivaan Ramesh.

It’s a good name.

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Vivaan: My mother’s father was named Vivaan. And my father’s father’s name was Ramesh, so it was my father’s name, too.

But I do have a lot of other names, too. Popcorn, Bhalu, Bhai, Bahadur (mostly for fun), Chickna (also for fun), Motu, and Tapori. And Scout.

So, okay. Maybe not such a big deal to be called Vee-Jay and Varoom. But Vaneer?

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Vivaan: Give me a break!

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Vivaan: You want to know which is my favorite of all my names? Well, after my real name. It is Bahadur, but not because I am actually brave, like the name would suggest.

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Vivaan: No, it’s because I am not brave, not at all.

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Vivaan: When I signed the contract to become a trainee, part of me was terrified. Okay, all of me was terrified, except my left pinky. My little finger was excited. That’s where all my inspiration is!

But the rest of me? What if I can’t come up to speed by three months? What if I’m the first one cut? What if, even no matter how hard I work, I can’t do it? What if I fail?

But what if I don’t fail… what if I succeed. That’s scary, too, but it’s a different kind of scary.

Focus on the music.

You make me feel
Like a unicorn, baby.

What if I make it, and we become a hit, and I’m the next maknae and we have adoring fans? That is positively terrifying (though my right little toe feels kinda happy).

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