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: