You didn't hear the familiar glorified tales of sex, drugs and violence that anchors popular music during Delaware Teen Idol auditions for Sussex County.
Rather than hide behind fabricated stories to puff themselves up, auditioners at Georgetown Middle School made themselves vulnerable in the empty auditorium before a panel of three judges Saturday morning as they performed originals that touched on sensitive positive topics like HIV/AIDS awareness and suicide prevention in hopes of advancing to the 9th Annual Delaware Teen Idol competition, sponsored by AIDS Delaware, at the Dupont Theatre in Wilmington on Aug. 2.
First on stage was the ACR Group, a trio of songbirds who performed the somber "Why Me," a narrative about a girl who contracted HIV/AIDS after she was raped by a family member. The heartbreaking thing about the tune is it's based on a true story and one of the ACR singers, who will not be identified, is living this tale.
"We held it in so long that we needed to get it out, so we put it in a song and sung it," said ACR singer Rachel Bratten-Brown, 16, of Bridgeville.
The judges, who praised all three acts that auditioned Saturday, criticized the girls about their lack of projection. They'd also preach projection to the other auditioners.
Since the judges didn't reveal their scores on Saturday, Bratten-Brown and her ACR sisters were clueless as to whether they'd advanced to the competition. She says if they get the chance to perform "Why Me" at the Dupont Theatre it'll at least show the audience "we [live] what we sing."
'Lost and Found'
Next on deck was singer Brianna Irvin, the only performer who didn't deliver an original song. She sang singer-songwriter Lianne La Havas' "Lost and Found," a tune she says has a beautiful message.
"It's basically her talking to whoever she was with, and how they were saying she was nothing, and her overcoming what they were saying," said Irvin, 17, a junior at Sussex Technical High School.
Aside from a lack of projection, the judges encouraged Irvin to let go and unleash her full potential on the mic.
Since Frank Hawkins, education manager of AIDS Delaware, who's also the director of Delaware Teen Idol, wasn't aware until this week that Irvin's song wasn't original, he said he'll likely be calling her as soon as possible to see if she can perform an original song, which could be sung over the phone. If not, she'll be disqualified from entering the competition.
Page 2 of 2 - 'Stop The Suicide'
Last up was the emcee Brenn "DJ Skittlez" Martin, who delivered "Stop The Suicide," which revisited the sad fates of Amanda Todd and Tyler Clementi, who made national news when they both committed suicide as a result of bullying.
"I actually researched two people, Amanda Todd and Tyler Clementi," explained DJ Skittlez, 15, of Georgetown, an eighth-grader at Sussex Academy of the Arts & Sciences. The judges showed DJ Skittlez love, while also criticizing his lack of projection.
Delaware Teen Idol consists of youth singers, rappers and poets between the ages of 13 to 18, who are required to perform an original song that tackles one of the following Wilmington Health Planning Councils' prioritized health initiatives: access to preventive healthcare, chronic disease prevention: early detection, HIV/AIDS, mental health, responsible sexual behavior, teen pregnancy prevention, substance abuse and violence prevention.
Fifteen performers will be selected for the competition, which will include performers from New Castle, Sussex and Kent counties. The final roster will be announced in late June, Hawkins said.
When asked what this year's prizes will be, Hawkins said the first-place winner usually receives around $1,000 to $1,300; second-place winners usually receive about $700; third-place winners typically earn $500 and fourth place winners usually receive $300.
A celebrity judge, or several, will be on hand at the competition, though Hawkins says this year's judge, or judges, haven't been determined.
"We have a few judges lined up," Hawkins said. "Last year we had Caroline Sunshine who plays Tinka on Disney's 'Shake It Up.'"
For Delaware Teen Idol, AIDS Delaware is in partnership with the city of Wilmington Department of Parks and Recreation, Kiss 101.7 FM radio, Wilmington Health Planning Council, Delaware Prevention Coalition and First State Community Action Agency.
IF YOU GO
WHAT Delaware Teen Idol 2013
WHEN Friday, Aug. 2
WHERE Dupont Theatre, 1007 N. Market St., Wilmington
INFO aidsdelaware.org or call (302) 652-6776