Have you heard (about) the Starling?

Have you heard (about) the Starling?

Warsaw : Poland | Jun 26, 2012 at 10:55 AM PDT
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Michal Szpak in X Factor

Nowadays we know plenty of musicians. From pop stars like Madonna whose songs are played in night clubs to alternative rock artists or bands like Jack White.
This abundance of genres and celebrities makes it harder for talent show participants to succeed. Usually a pure talent is not enough for producers to help them record a decent album. The promising start in a talent show simultaneously turns out to be an end of their career in the music industry. After the whole fuss made by the media they have to do their successors a favor by sinking into oblivion. What should they do not to make their star fade away? What features should they have to stand out? Is it possible at all to become an independent and a respected artist after taking part in a talent show?
As an example, I am going to take Michal Szpak (Michael Starling) - a participant of the first edition of Polish X Factor.

Like in many other countries, talent shows are very popular in Poland. However, the conservative society has much more difficulty with accepting oddness and eccentricity. Michal, a 20-year-old participant from a small town would have much to say in this case. Dressed in a red jacket, wearing make-up, jewelry and long curly hair, he met with the audience’s hostility from the very first minute on the stage. Nevertheless, when he put the microphone near his mouth and started to sing, people went speechless. And, after uttering the final word of the song, he received standing ovation. What made his performance so extraordinary? His looks? His voice? Or perhaps both?

The song he chose “Dziwny jest ten świat” seemed to be made especially for him. Lack of understanding, hate, sadness, rejection…he had all of these factors written all over his face. The already almost historical performance touched many people’s hearts. Since then, some have started to perceive him as a misunderstood, sensible artist , others have claimed he is just an another untalented freak who is trying to stand out and become famous.


However, as a runner-up, he got the chance to take part in one of the biggest music events in Poland-needless to say-Orange Warsaw Festival. He performed at the same stage as Moby, The Skunk Anansie and My Chemical Romance. And, although his show was merely a support, he proved that he knew how to warm the public up. With his expression, charisma and unpredictable bodily gestures he seems to change into an animal every time he steps on stage. Despite slim and quite short stature, Michal can not only make all of it go together with a strong, sometimes even gravelly voice, but also vary his singing by adding some high-pitched “opera” sounds of sorrow or desolation.


In numerous interviews the artist has always emphasized that he perceives the stage as an arena in which to act, a theatre. By this I mean that he tries to entertain people with unconventional costumes like masks, capes or wedge-heeled shoes which help him create a certain atmosphere. He wants to be a musician, an actor and a dancer at the same time.
Some people claim that the uncommon elements prevent them from focusing on Szpak’s voice. Yet, they still come to his and his band’s concerts. Why? Out of pure curiosity. And although they blame him for an excess of bizarre details in terms of his looks, the very exaggeration (as they often call it) makes them want to come to see his performances.
Yet there are others who not only appreciate his ability to play a certain role while singing and his quaint mannerism, but also like the fact that his voice makes them experience emotions they would never experience. Moreover, although a bit conceited and domineering on stage, privately Michael is a modest, adorable boy who tries to devote hundred percent of his free time to his fans. He treats them with respect, signs autographs with extreme patience, smiles and laughs.


Although he gained fame as a reproducer, Michal tried his hand as a producer as well. His first album consists of 5 songs which are only a foretaste of what he wants to present on the long play. Many people were astounded when, instead of glam-rock sounds they associated Michal with, they heard fresh, electronic beats. Michael himself claims he wanted to try something new, face a challenge and break the mould as people expected him to stick to the previous, more niche repertoire. Even those who know that Szpak always goes against the flow seemed a bit surprised. And that indeed was Michael’s intention.
Together with the EP, a video was released. Again, the setting and the plot create an unusual unity. In Poland the majority of musicians do not pay much attention to video clips. However, Michal does not belong to majority. In his video to the song ‘Revolution’ he impersonates a vampire who possesses a time machine and is trying to bring back his previous forms. Set in a hundred-year-old palace, the video in question provides the viewers with memorable and mysterious atmosphere.


At the moment, the artist is working at his second album which, as he announced, is supposed to be completely different from the debut EP. Despite the fact that some have written him off in terms of the musical output, I believe his creativity, originality and - above all - his voice will enable him to gain success.
People disturbed by Michael’s dualistic appearance often forget about the scale of his voice that spans almost 4 octaves. The media create a false image of Szpak as a narcissistic, self-confident celebrity. In fact he is an underestimated, humble guy who works hard to make his dreams come true against all odds and attends singing classes in order to improve his vocal ability.

Undoubtlessly, Michal is at his best when he sings live. When the stage is his, he can captivate even the greatest sceptics of his talent. Very optimistic and full of ideas, he is tries to change the schematic thinking of many Poles every single day. With the help of his band, he changes his performances into real rock spectacles. However, this is not the only thing he has to do with rock. Namely – he is going to rock the world.

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Michal performing the touching song 'Dziwny jest ten swiat'
ClaudiaSh is based in Bydgoszcz, Kujawsko-Pomorskie, Poland, and is a Stringer on Allvoices.
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