Standing next to each other in a row, we all gazed up at the building we would be entering soon. On one of many floors, in a room probably bigger than any house I'd ever get the chance to live in, held the 6 important people who would decide our fate if they thought we were worthy of being signed to their label. My neck started to ache from bending it to look up at the tall building, so I settled for looking through the big glass doors with the name of the building written in a fancy font on them, 'UPTOWN RECORDS'. It sounded familiar, but I couldn't put my finger on where I had heard it from.
"Alright, This is it, girls," Nikki said after checking her watch and informing us that we had 10 minutes to get in there.
We walked in sync with each other. If you'd had seen us you would have thought we were something out of a movie. That all ended when we reached the doors. It burst open and out came another batch of hard-working white folks on a mission. They came out so fast and bumped into us so hard that we got mixed up with all the people and got separated. When it was finally clear and we all made it back to each other, we stood there stunned.
"I know people in Cali can be rude, but that was a whole ‘notha’ level of disrespect." Heather’s California accent was slipping through as she was brushing her clothes rid of the imaginary dust with a disgruntled expression on her face.
"It doesn't even matter, what matters is getting to the auditions before they're over." snapped Toya
Heather turned her face up to her like she was about to argue, but she instead chose to keep her mouth shut.
Noticing we just about wasted about 3 minutes standing around, I rushed into the building with the girls right behind me before the possibility of us getting trampled again was in question.
Running up to the front desk we stopped all out of breath. The front desk lady looked at us and smirked. She must have known what we were here for because before any of us even opened our mouths she was speaking.
"Auditions are being held on the 11th floor, Good Luck."
"Thank You" we all but shouted in the busy lobby. Our shoes made loud noises as the came in contact with the floor. Just making it into the elevator, I caught a glimpse of her chuckling and shaking her head as it was closing.
The elevator was quiet for the most part with the exception of a woman pressing herself into the corner breathing harder than a dragon. Just to be petty I gave a huge sarcastic grin and blurted.
"And how are you on this fine day?" She looked spooked that I had the nerve to say anything and clutched her purse tighter to her chest and turned away. I looked at the girls and we all stifled our laughs.
Once the doors opened and revealed the 11th floor, our jaws proceeded to drop. It just as big as the lobby, if not bigger. On the walls were pictures of a bunch of different artist, and other companies associated with the label, some of which I knew just from being a fan of 90's R&B. The whole room was decorated in white, and if it wasn't white it was glass.
There was another desk with a lady behind it, but she was the complete opposite from the one downstairs. The lady downstairs was a white woman with blonde hair and green eyes. She looked like she was in her mid-thirties, but was still gorgeous. The receptionist up here was a black woman with curves to die for. Her makeup was done lightly and you could tell she didn't need much to exceed the limits of beautiful. She caught sight of us walking up to her desk and immediately asked us if we were here for the audition.
"Jeez, Is it that obvious? Fran snorted with humor in her tone.
"No, of course not. It's just that's what everyone has been here for. Are you not here for that reason?"
"No, we are" The lady laughed and began typing on her computer.
"I'm guessing you are the 3 o'clock appointment?" She questioned
"Yup, That's us. Can we go in yet?” Impatience was leaking through Nikki’s words. It was obvious by how she was bouncing on the balls of her feet and wringing her hands together.
"Not at the moment. The group before you are still in there, so the wait might be a little longer."
"Thank you," I said and we made our way to 4 seats conveniently sitting side by side with another one in front of them facing the chairs.
Nothing was said as we sat down, me in the single seat facing them. Nervousness was practically spilling out of us onto the white tile floors. Toya, who I have never seen be so quiet, was taking deep breaths and rubbing her hands up and down her thighs. Fran was bouncing her left leg and her eyes were rotating around the room. They were stressing. Not that I wasn't but we needed to be calm if were we gonna do this right, without any errors.
"Hey, Hey!" I called for their attention
"We all need to just calm down, ok. If we go in there scared and nervous, we’ll bomb this and then it will definitely be over." I said the last part looking at Heather. She took several breaths and nodded to show she was calming down.
"We need to go in there with our heads held high and a confidence out of this world, and then we'll blow whoever's in that room away."
The name 'UPTOWN RECORDS' was still sitting in my head, trying it's best to connect to something. I had heard that name before. I was a little bothered by not knowing who we were singing in front of. What if they stop us in the middle of the song and sends us on our way? What if they tell us that we're not ready for stardom? While all of this as going on in my head, I had to make it look like I had it together, so practicing what I preached, I took a deep breath making sure it went unnoticed by the girls.
" You know what, she's right. What's the worst that could happen, huh?” Heather had gotten herself together and now was helping situate everyone else. But as soon as she uttered those words, two girls came out of the room bawling. I'm talking about full on crying, snot running out their noses, and screaming
We all looked at each other with a fearful expression. Fran shot up and tried to run to the elevator, but we caught her before she could actually get somewhere.
"NO, let me go. I can't go in there Did you see those girls?" She was back to square one. Her eyes got bigger than anything I’ve ever seen and her hands shook like she was a tambourine player.
Nikki got in front of her trying to console her. "We're not them, ok. Just because they left in tears, doesn't mean we will too, so please I'm begging you. Calm down."
Fran didn't have a choice but to do so because the receptionist was soon calling out that it was our turn to go in.
The walk to the door seemed as if it went on for hours, when in reality it was seconds. Finally, we made it to the door and right before we went in the room a picture caught my eye. It was of four people wearing orange coats, and when I took a closer look, the faces became clearer. IT WAS JODECI! This was the record label they were signed to. That's why the name sounded so familiar. I loved Jodeci and when I was back home, I made it my mission to know everything about them. Including the record label they were signed with. I looked to the girls to inform them of what I found out, but instead turned around to see 10 pairs of eyes looking at me already. 4 of which were my girls, 2 from two old men, and the last 4 were…
They were 4 of the 6 people who would be watching us audition.
One of the old guys, the black one, raised his eyes and spread his hands and turned his wrist in an impatient motion then questioned us.
"What are your names and what will you be singing"
Nikki responded back nervously. "Uh, Yea, we are. We're gonna sing 'End of the Road' and I'm Nikki Johnson.
Next was Heather "I'm Heather Malik"
"I'm Toya Lamar"
It was my turn and I was frozen. Fran tapped my hand and I managed to squeak out "Denny Smith" I figured it was best to stick with the name the girls knew me by.
It was quiet after that and I took that as my cue to start singing. I opened my mouth, but nothing came out. I sat there like a fish out of water just opening and closing my mouth. Heather on the other side of me noticed that I was having a hard time and intertwined our fingers and gave them a squeeze.
The other old guy became irritated quickly and intervened "Look, we don't have all day. In case you haven't noticed we have more people to lis-" He was cut off by the light-eyed monster Devante Swing. I noticed how his eyes never strayed from me from the moment walked in, but I didn't want to make something outta nothing and fool of myself.
"Give them a chance, Bruce. I'm sure she's just a little scared" He gave me a smile. The right side of his mouth was raised higher and my heart dropped right down to my stomach. He had always been my favorite and to be in the same room as him (and the rest of them) was a dream come true.
"Alrighty, D, whatever you say"
I blew out air and sang exactly like how we'd been practicing.
"Will you love me again
Like you loved me before
This time I want you to love me much more"
"This time instead
Just come to my bed
And baby just don't let me go
Although we've come (Ohhhhh)
To the end of the road
Still, I can't let go
*(Fran and I) "It's unnatural
You belong to me
I belong to you"
*(Nikki and I) "Although we've come
To the end of the road
Still, I can't let go"
*(All) "It's unnatural
You belong to me
I belong to you"
We all sang louder and harder. To prove that we're the ones that deserved to sign that contract. Fran and Nikki sounded better than before and Heather and Toya were definitely holding back all the other times we sang because I was blown away myself by their voices.
I squinted an eye open and was surprised to see them sitting on the edge of their seat and mouths agape. All of them looked that way except Devante. He was now slouched in his chair, one leg over the over and a heart melting smile on his face.
"That was wonderful ladies-" The old white guy had started talking but K-Ci had cut in.
"You got the contract," He said smugly with a shrug of his shoulders like he didn't just make someone's dreams come true.
All of our eyes widened, including the 2 old guys.
"Now wait a darn minute K-Ci, that's not your call to make."
"It isn't? Cause I thought this here audition was being held by us, Jodeci. And I want to sign these beautiful creatures, don't Y'all? He asked Devante, JoJo, and Dalvin.
The room filled with commotion, as they responded by hoots and hollers, meanwhile, us girls were still in shock. Had they really made up their mind that fast? The 2 old guys looked flustered and tried to talk them out of the decision, but they weren't hearing any of it.
K-Ci got up and made his way towards up and reached his hand out for me to shake. "Hello, I'm K-Ci, as you probably already know, and welcome to Uptown Records"
I shook his hand "Thank you?"
"Why you sound so unsure of yourself ma? I'm being serious. So, Y'all got a name?
"We gave Y'all our names before we started singing."
Devante then walked beside K-Ci and shook his head while reaching for my hand where he placed a kiss. "Not your governments, your group name babygirl" I swore my heart was two seconds from jumping out of my chest. He must've known exactly what he was doing because a sly smirk made it's was on his lips. Those same lips that had me zoning out into another world when I would lay on my bed and stare at his posters. He clasped his hands and leaned back to the right. Tilting his head back also, he looked me up and down before meeting my eyes.
I took a step back and rubbed the back of my head and let Nikki answer this one.
"We don't have one at the moment."
Both K-Ci and Devante's eyebrows shot up and they looked appalled, to say the least.
"So Y'all came up in here, singing like your life depended on it and you don't even have a name? Y'all so crazy." JoJo exclaimed from the back.
Nikki looked at me the same time I looked over at her and told them.
"We don’t have a name because we didn't even think you'd take us as serious as you are now."
A Different Era