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The death of "Rock and Roll" concluded with the beginning of a new era. This new era was a generation focused on two things. Appearance and voice.
The music itself no longer mattered. With an era of electronic, pre-recorded music ushered in, the need for instrumental talent died out. Those able to write their own music, sing, and play, were no longer required, and there was no longer an appeal. As long as there was somebody good looking enough with a nice voice, there would be an opportunity for them, and there would be an appeal. The start of VoCal, X-Factor, The Voice, and the much older American Idol had been able to trigger the revolution.
It didn't come without consequence however. Many popular musicians now would cite rock bands just opening up now. How difficult it would be, a dying genre attempting to appeal to the dying audience. The only thing that made a difference was the name and corporate image. A band signed with Epic Records. A band signed with Roadrunner. The 'Stones and The Who, Motley Crue: The Final Tour, The Big Four of Thrash Metal. Desperate gimmicks to make money. The bands died out fast.
It didn't come without its negative impact on those with voices, either. It became competitive, to a savage level. Much like Broadway Acting in the golden age, people would fight for the sponsorship. It became a competition of being discovered, and being paid to sing. They could no longer edit the voices to sound nice, like they did in studios. It had to be a pure sound with a pure-look person, especially when performing live. Live, where it mattered.
You wouldn't understand just how competitive vocal signing got unless you did it yourself. When Michael Jackson modified his face, it had the opposite effect, and it was merely what he wanted. Nobody cared, because they went for the music.
For the vocalists, however, extreme facial modification was the difference between getting signed and being deemed too ugly for Reality Television and live shows. It didn't mean shaping eyebrows, getting face lifts, heavy make-up, or fixing your lashes. It didn't mean going on a diet to lose weight, or going sugar-free to get rid of acne. It didn't mean getting laser-shaved to keep the body silky smooth and almost shined. None of it was sponsored by companies, and it all had to be self-done. After all no hair stylist or salon expert would consent to slicing under the skin to permanently remove hair, or to slice the eyelids off with a straight razor and replacing them. No expert would comply to a request of having one's nose or ears shaped, or having their eyes burned to turn a different, more appealing color. To getting implants in the throat to articulate.
Some of the underground surgeons made more money this way. They found people willing to pay money to have their lungs enlarged or their tongues skinned and thinned. People willing to pay money for plastic implanted inside their faces. To have the fat surgically removed from their bodies and the skin and flesh removed and tightened down. For men to have their testicles removed, sliced right off, to have a less masculine appearance. Very few people had the professional skills to do so without making it a messy job. A messy job with visible evidence. The results needed to be visible. How they were achieved, if visible, could jeopardize your chances.
Even then, it was still a competition. This was the way to root out the devotees. The ones who truly sought this out. Once devotees invested thousands and tens of thousands of dollars into their body modifications, thousands of dollars in practicing and perfecting their voices, the games began. Singers and prospects would hide out at illegal spots waiting for others to drop by and have work done. The vocalists would track eachother down and eliminate eachother. It wasn't murder, it was self-advancement. They would kidnap prospective vocalists most of the time. Killing them on the spot was messy, and was a convenience only few could afford. If you had a fortune and any humanity, you were clearly sacrificing it for fame. Sometimes they would inject battery acid into the throat, or remove the tongue, just to really torture their competitors. After all, they were deliberately in the way of the vocalist's contestable and hypothetical success.
Some of the people were a bit more brutal than just slashing the throat, tying a plastic bag around their head, suffocating them with a pillow, or forcing them to take some poison. Others would inject varieties of painful drugs, or open them up and dissect these competitors. Some slashed the vocal chords and buried their victims alive, or severed achillies tendons, restrained the arms, and drowned them.
You couldn't just kill one competitor. You had to ensure that your signing was secured. If any competititon arose, even close to the prospective level of yourself, you had to deal with it quickly. They might get an opportunity before you. Companies, groups, and organizations knew, but did not care about the methods so long as they achieved results. And results they achieved. Once a singer was signed, they went through an even more painful process. Billion-Dollar companies could afford more expensive surgeries and modifications to make sure that they had a selling product. Although the cost of investment was rather high for each product, the profit was often five times as high. Once the companies secured their product, they made sure it was treated like one, taking out innumerable-amount insurance policies on the product. They provided and implanted tracking chips. Heartbeat monitors. Pain initiators.
Pain Initiators were a relatively new device initially designed for maximum security high-risk prisoners. The initiators were implanted in vital areas with nerves, and were designed to inflict the most extreme levels of non-lethal pain of the prisoner. Often to keep them controlled. Although illegal except for government use, most labor corporations employed the rather inexpensive pain initiators, which merely sent a burning, arcing, shocking pain through the nerves, designed to start a chain reaction through every nerve in the area. They were often implanted in the neck area. Test subjects who were paid rather highly to test the initiators nicknamed them "Hell on Earth". One second would cause enough pain to send a grown man writhing on the ground, screaming. Three seconds would send a man into shock or unconsciousness. Five seconds later, it would wake him up. The use of adrenaline, to keep the subjects awake during a thirty-second test, had fatal results as it sent the hearts to a hyperspeed culminating in myocardial infarction, cardiac arrest, and death. The best part about Pain Initiators was that they left no trace of anything ever happening, save for a rather unusually fast heart rate.
Obviously, tools to keep the product in check. If they acted up or resisted use of drugs, surgery, diet, or even a mere public appearance, it was a minute, locked in a room, gagged, restrained, and left on the ground. A minute of a little Hell on Earth. For the more high-dollar groups, it was three minutes. If one singer acted up, it could very well jeopardize the whole group, or even organization. It might spawn an insurrection of sorts. It had to be immediately quelled and resolved.
Some singers weren't born with natural voices, or good looks. Or both. Whole groups of people would visit the crossroads for contracts. Unlike Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, or Janis Joplin, who were able to get the deals solo, the man now only sold contracts if the entire group signed. It *had* to be a group of four or more, or there was no agreement made. When the standard for music changed, so did the devil's standards. If even a single member of the group was dubious about the deal, they would correct that immediately. As often as not, he or she could easily be murdered, so long as there were always four guaranteed devotees. All of them would sign their souls over in exchange for vocal talent and good looks. What they didn't understand, but the devil did, is that inevitably, the perfection they sold their souls for would be modified by insecure organizations anyway. The irony was that they could make anyone have a good voice and look presentable, but merely couldn't accept everyone, or simply take a person off the street. It was unprofessional.
Don't think for a moment that there wasn't competition in the soul exchange. People would ambush those who had signed their souls over already, thus cursing them to hell immediately, in exchange for better deals with the devil. A never-ending a cycle of this, until the last few were left with a solid deal, and they became the most talented, popular cappella groups. They never achieved as much fame as the rock bands before them, that went down in history, and never made nearly as much money. The fame that the vocalists achieved was merely valid in the generation that created them. They lived in abusive, neglected, drugged squallor for the first few months until taught that it was called "The High Life". They never achieved luxuries that modern celebrities had, instead quartering in cramped labor-force apartments. They drank cheap wine, microwave dinners, and were constantly harassed and tormented. If they ever failed to produce, the companies would simply make their conditions more desperate. If that didn't work, they were killed by a little overdose of "Hell on Earth". They lived in fear of pissing off rival cappella or vocal groups, and finding themselves zip-tied on the floor of their apartments with plastic bags around their heads. Regardless of if they died from the drugs, conspiracy murder, depression, or suicide, They often died before ever reaching 40. They didn't even have that luxury that the dying famed rockstar did.
They all died young.
Written by Scorch933