On Christina Grimmie and the connections musicians make

Christina Grimmie performing at the Alabang Town Center on 4 October 2014. Photograph courtesy of Mika Ayson.

I have not had much interest in Christina Grimmie. She joined The Voice at the time when I stopped watching singing competitions altogether: she finished third in its 2014 season, by which time I was very much done with writing about television for a living.

Shalla knew her, though. When news of her fatal shooting began trickling down on the Internet, she talked about watching her song covers on YouTube a good few years before television came calling. “She also had original songs at the time,” she told me. “Her covers are better than her originals, though.”

I do know she went to Manila. I was at Glorietta on the day of her mini-concert there, a few months after she finished her stint on The Voice. It was still early in the day, but there was a huge crowd amassed. A friend of mine, Mika, was a fan of hers, and took photographs of her in another mall show on the same day. I will admit, I still haven’t listened to her stuff since. I told you, I wasn’t that interested.

Yet I felt quite affected when authorities in Orlando confirmed that she died from her injuries.

“She worked very hard,” Shalla told me. “And she died so young.”

It may seem very easy to get a start in music nowadays, but indeed, it still is very hard work – even if all you’re doing is uploading song covers on YouTube, like many others are doing. Sure, part of it is still down to luck, but you don’t get noticed – and you don’t get catapulted to such a big stage – without doing your homework and being a bit savvy when it comes to fostering your following.

As I write this, we can only speculate about the person who shot Christina. Is the shooter an obsessed fan? Someone she knew from the past? Nobody can tell, at least not yet. We do know she was shot while signing autographs after her concert with Before You Exit in Orlando. It’s safe to assume it was an opportunity for people to get close with their idols. It’s something we quietly, inherently, demand to get – a moment with our favorites. We look for that cool story to tell our friends. I know I’ve done this a few times.

Music has always had this weird effect on us. It’s easy to say that we can relate to some songs, but on a deeper level, when the circumstances just click into place, a song, a singer, can speak to us like nobody else can. Sometimes we have the urge to reply back, to initiate a conversation, or whatever amounts to it. That’s easier nowadays, with social media being an essential part of any singer’s arsenal – or at least any singer who’s serious about making it big. You manage your following, so to speak. You make sure you don’t look snobbish. You cultivate an image that makes you relatable enough to be liked.

It’s also why, when the opportunity comes, we have this need to get ourselves a chance to say hello with our idols, meet them face to face, even just for a minute. It’s not just about the memento of a signed album and, perhaps, a selfie. It’s being able to have that moment, however meaningless it ultimately is, with a person we admire. Don’t we all? It’s partly for bragging rights, sure, but it’s mostly us reaffirming ourselves about… something. Whatever that is. It’s why people go gaga when meet and greet passes are offered at some Instagram contest.

Christina’s murder is a wake-up call, first off, to those organizing concerts. Of course, nobody wants to be in a situation when someone pulls out a gun and harms the star of the show. But everybody knows that shutting acts off completely – especially if they’re not those A-listers like Tay and Bey and Ri – is not going to end well. Fans will feel let down, and maybe the acts, too, who want a chance to say hello to at least some of them.

It is, also, a wake-up call to the acts themselves. But it’s a harder spot for them. You can’t look aloof, but you have to watch out for yourself as well. You can only hope none of these people following you on Twitter is, say, an obsessed stalker with “issues”, to oversimplify it. At the same time, you can’t help it if they find themselves connecting to your work, to you, in a very intense manner.

Nobody wants to be in those shoes.

I have not had much interest in Christina Grimmie, but her death – the manner, the circumstances, the fact that she’s just 22 – has affected me more than it should. You can only say unfortunate things happen. If it’s your time, it’s your time. And yet, you just know it should not have gone like this. [NB]

[Many thanks to Mika Ayson for letting us use her photograph.]

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