Young opera singer proves goth culture can nurture

Is it so surprising that a young goth man could have such talent?

The country is abuzz about Andrew De Leon, the 19-year-old who wowed the judges during an audition in Austin, TX this week on “America’s Got Talent.” Two things about De Leon have gotten people talking: his impressive, self-trained falsetto opera voice, and his goth-rock look.

The entertainment press is making a big deal of the fact that someone with his looks and style would sing the way he does. In fact, his look is making headlines everywhere, as though there weren’t tens of thousands of kids who dress similarly, inspired by the same shock-rockers who meant so much to De Leon growing up. This singer’s shy, isolated, outcast upbringing is typical for goth kids, both in the sense that he didn’t feel like he fit in, and in the sense that he turned to music and culture that nurtured him. Clearly his self-directed interests paid off, giving him the time and space to practice his talent — and knock the socks off everyone when he finally shared it. Here’s what he said about his adolescence:

“Growing up, I was a huge fan of Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie and all these different rock stars. They really became an escape for someone like me, who felt that I was an outsider. Growing up, I was alienated because I was never interested in athletics or what everybody else in my family was interested in. Singing was always an escape. It was always a comfort zone. Being on ‘America’s Got Talent’ is a huge step for someone like me, who’s never sang in public before, never sang in front of even my family. I think my days of being shy and of being an outcast have reached their end, and I’d like to be able to really show what I can do.”

Getting on that stage was clearly a moving experience for him — and for the audience. When Howard Stern asked him what he was thinking after he sang, he said, “I’m just so used to being rejected, and I’m not really good at anything, so this is amazing.”

(I have to wonder what was running through Sharon Osbourne’s mind, watching him, recognizing that the bloodlines of her husband’s work led directly to this young man singing before her. She had to have been proud.)

Here’s the thing: listen to him talk. He knows what he likes. He knows what he’s into. He knows why he got into it, and he knows why it was good for him. He’s not a 40-year-old with 25 years of hindsight; he’s 19, and he knows. Clearly, he amassed some confidence, enough confidence to get up on that stage and reveal his talent and ability, something he’s obviously worked on.

In a culture where some believe “Goth Will Destroy Your Child” or “God Hates Goths,” where people still believe Marilyn Manson is still somehow responsible for the Columbine High School massacre, De Leon is living proof that goth culture can be profoundly nurturing, too.

EDIT: A new video has surfaced of Andrew performing “Ave Maria” a capella — probably in his bedroom — in corpsepaint, a Misfits shirt, and skeleton gloves. Maybe he’s less pure goth and more shock-rock. I suspect we’ll find out more as he performs on AGT. Check it out:


6 responses to “Young opera singer proves goth culture can nurture

  1. I am curious about your statement that the goth culture was nurturing to this young man. What is it about the culture that supported him in his passion to sing opera? It appears he kept it hidden. There was no revelation, and thus no support. It speaks more to me about his own sense of self and identity, and his incredible courage to be vulnerable and take a chance at this age and on that stage. I have to wonder where that came from. I was moved to tears at the sight of him getting support and validation for doing something he truly loves. It was a beautiful moment that overshadowed even his performance.

    • Hi Laura, thanks for asking. By embracing a music and culture that was true to who he was, I think it helped him gain confidence in his identity, even though mainstream folks wanted nothing to do with him. Even though he kept his talent hidden for a long time, he didn’t give it up — he developed it, singing only for himself for a long time. Yes, it was great to have that talent validated by the outside world, but that’s not what matters. What matters is that he developed the internal resources to recognize who he was, and to embrace that, even if nobody else did.

  2. Awesome, Andrew, go you! I’m one of the very old-school ones, punk first and then goth, and I am now 52 with an 11yo boy who’s emerging a very kewl taste in music 🙂 And I turned out just fine. I have almost 18 years clean and sober. I don’t smoke anymore. I have a house and a Subaru and I’m doing fine. You know– the goth, IME, never entirely goes away. Nobody who looks the look “recognizes” me anymore (as one of you) because I kind of look like a soccer mom– but not all the way. People always peg “something different” about me. But it’s all good. And to the ones who– well, there’s plenty gothic about Ave Maria 😉 We used to listen to Mozart’s Requiem and Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D-minor along side of Misfits and SOM. Don’t let the eeejits get you down, kiddo.

  3. I thought Andrew De Leon was Cris Angel for a minute when he first took stage. This young 19 year old has the whole world buzzing about his awesome performance. This isn’t something you see everyday and I think Andrew could be the next Susan Boyle. Americas Got Talent happens to be one of my favorite shows during primetime and now I can enjoy TV more. I can watch all my PrimeTime Anytime shows with the option to skip those annoying commercials. I was amazed at this feature, after my coworker at Dish showed me how it worked. Now that the new Auto Hop feature is available, I can choose to get back to the fun stuff or watch annoying ads. Now I won’t wear out my remote or batteries like I did all the time.

  4. In-training opera singer

    As long as he doesn’t decide he is an opera singer, then he could do well as what he is. A crossover singer.

  5. Pingback: Top 10 backward messages of 2012 | Backward Messages

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