IT’S THE LAST WEEK OF APRIL, a few days before the Septien Entertainment Group’s 2006 Master Artist Showcase, and the master artists are definitely getting tense. Emily Holt, a twelve-year-old pop singer with blue eyes normally seen in Siberian huskies, walks into the Septien studios in the North Dallas suburb of Addison and announces that she’s changing her name to Emi Holt because she thinks the judges at the showcase will find her real first name “like, really boring.” Reed-thin Kimberly Kottwitz, a twelve-year-old who specializes in Broadway show tunes, walks in and declares that she’s worried she’s not going to get over her cold in time to perform. “Someone told me that I should take steroids,” she says. “Or, you know, something like that.”
Deidre Thornell, a fourteen-year-old country music singer with bountiful Reba McEntire—like red hair arrives to make sure her pitch is perfect on a song she’ll be performing called “Good Girl.” “If I miss those notes in the chorus, I will have a complete breakdown,” she says to no one in particular, just as Carley Smith, a sixteen-year-old Debbie Harry look-alike who sings pop-rock herself, shows up with her blond hair perfectly disheveled and her blue eyes haloed by luminous blue eye shadow. She is distressed. She missed her previous week’s singing lesson because her car wasn’t working. “I feel really irresponsible right now,” she says. “Well, on the other hand, that’s what artists are supposed to be. Isn’t that right?”
Then, into the studio comes Annie Dingwall, an impossibly long-legged fifteen-year-old pop singer. Her task for the day is to work on “Survive,” a song she’s written about a young woman haunted by the end of a relationship.
“How do I surviiiiive?” Annie wails, standing in a little glass-walled recording booth, her mouth pressed against the microphone.
Linda Septien, the founder and chief executive of the Septien Entertainment Group, leans back in her chair on the other side of the glass wall.
“Annie,” she says, “you still need to give the line more emotion. A lot of emotion. Tell me, what’s your song really about?”
“It’s about a guy and a girl, and the guy was cheating on her, and the girl still wants him even though she knows she shouldn’t