25 days of cats

Talking Cats With The Niche Content Creator Behind YouTube’s Best Musical Compilation Videos

Yes, that is Céline Dion, in full cat costume and makeup, singing “Memory.” Photo-Illustration: Vulture and YouTube

There’s a weird corner of the internet where I have spent more time in my young life than I am proud to admit. In fact, my life is not so young anymore. That’s how much time we’re talking. It’s a corner where people make videos compiling clips of singers performing specific short segments of Broadway songs so that they can decide who sang it better. Think of it as a “Who Wore It Best”–style channel, except instead of a particular Versace dress, it’s seven women’s voices pitted against each other as they belt “Fiyero!” in “No Good Deed” from Wicked. (The clear winner here is Alice Fearn. That option up! My God! I will not be taking any questions at this time.)

Presiding over this weird corner of the internet is Mister Golightly, a YouTuber with 100,000 subscribers whose videos I find myself returning to time and time again. Including, you might have guessed, a compilation of people singing the climax at the end of “Memory” from Cats. I have my own thoughts, but what I really wanted to know was who the mystery man behind the channel would deem the winner. So I asked him.

Hi! I guess first we should probably establish who you are. Who are you?
My name is Agustin and I’m 20. A friend once called me Gus, so I go with that name since it’s more easy to pronounce. I’m from Buenos Aires, Argentina, born and raised. I’ve had a lot of “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” and Evita references thanks to that. My main tongue is Spanish. I used to love video games and TV shows growing up, so I learned English through that.

Do you have a background in music?
I finished high school last year and I was studying tourism in college a few months ago, but I decided it wasn’t really what I was into. I play a bit of piano, though I’m not an expert. I don’t have any “formal” training. I’m quite self-taught. 2001 [the height of Argentina’s financial crisis] wasn’t a good year economically for the country, so I didn’t have the opportunity growing up to experience a bunch of things I wanted. I watched a lot of videos and read a plethora of books about vocal pedagogy and kind of forged my own ideas. It’s very interesting. Caruso’s Book [Caruso’s Method of Voice Production] by Mario Marafioti is fascinating for a reading.

When did you start your YouTube channel? What inspired it? 
I started the channel, as funny as it seems, October 3rd, 2015. One of the first videos I ever did was a vocal range for Selena Quintanilla. I had a bunch of free time that year and I used to love videos where people study vocals in depth. I still do. I realized there weren’t videos for her, so that’s when I started the channel. Theater is one of my favorite things ever (no pun intended) so I decided to also add that into the mix and that’s when I did the “On My Own” video. I was quite obsessed with Les Miz and I would hear different people singing the same song over and over. It was so amazing how even though the languages they sang were different, the same feeling or vibe was there. Vocally there were quite a few talents. I recommend listening to singers that don’t speak or sing in your own language. I just love musical theater, and, I’ll admit, I’m quite dramatical myself. It’s a huge part of who I am.

Let’s talk about Cats. Are you excited for the new movie?
I’m not a huge Cats fan, to be honest. However, I like the show and have mad respect for it and what it achieved. I wouldn’t say I’m “excited” for the movie, but more curious as to how it’s going to turn out. The CGI is my main problem with the movie. It just looks off. When you’re watching the stage version you know that these are actors as cats, even though it has oversized trash cans [in the background]. But, from what you can see in the trailers, it just looks like they digitally put fur on T-Swift and turned her into a weird human-cat.

You’ve got a “Memory” climax video I’ve watched a million times. There are a lot of people in there I didn’t expect. Like I didn’t expect to see Céline Dion in a full furry catsuit. What do you think are the key elements to a good “Memory” performance?
Well, first of all, God bless Céline. I love her. The performance however was plain hideous. Vocally totally oversung and inappropriate. But, from what I read, she learned the song while not knowing English, so she’s forgiven. I think some key elements for the song to work is both range and interpretation. This is not a happy song. Let’s say it’s not about a washed-up cat [like in a stand-alone concert performance] even if you have the voice, the lyrics alone demand emotion and sensibility. Which I think is what happened to young Céline.

I’m curious. Who do you think gives the best performance?
I like Elaine Paige. Both acting-wise and vocally. I love how she’s in total character as Grizabella and she’s singing the song beautifully in pain. The vocal sob in her voice at “all alone with the memory” followed by “of my days in the sun.” That soft vibrato really adds that extra something the song needs to me. It’s a marvelous example of having the range, vocals, and interpretation of the song. I think what makes Elaine’s version so amazing is that she feels and emotes the lyrics with the right emphasis on certain words. She’s not belting the song just for the sake of showing off.

I have to give a special mention to Betty Buckley. A very close second in my opinion. Also a shoutout to Keri René Fuller, who’s not on the video due to the time I edited it.

And who do you think gives the worst performance? 
I don’t think there’s an actual worst. I have a few on my mind that aren’t as gracious as the rest. Céline Dion’s version is definitely one of them. Nicole Scherzinger at the Olivier Awards is also one I don’t particularly enjoy. But I’ve seen her other performances and she’s amazing, that’s why I used the clip I used on my video. John Barrowman’s take on the song is also weird. I feel he didn’t really connected to the song. Beautiful voice though.

Back to the movie. Do you think it’ll be any good?
It will be … interesting. I can’t really say because I’ve only watched the trailers, maybe the actual movie will surprise me. But I don’t really have big expectations. I’ve seen it has dialogue in it so, sigh, who knows.

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