Dorian First Look
Thursday Aug. 26, 2021 – Hollywood, CA – Actor-singer Morgan Mallory, who made it to the blind auditions round of season five of The Voice way back in 2013—and was, alas, quickly booted—knows that even a little TV exposure can give a career a big boost. After his appearance, he landed lots of fans and bookings, and in 2016 released his first album, 2016’s Manifesto, an acclaimed mix of original pop tunes and ballads produced by Grammy-winning engineer Phil Allen (who’s worked with Pink, Adele and Leona Lewis). Today, Mallory counts five albums in all under his rocker-appropriate leather belt.
But his ensuing success didn’t come because Voice judges Adam Levine and Christina Aguilera wound up asking Mallory to join them on tour. His brief appearance on the talent contest simply proved a wake-up call.
“Going out for The Voice was both my greatest failure and the biggest turning point in my career,” reflects Mallory. “The reason (none of the show’s judges) turned their chairs for me was because I was so generic back then. I had no discernible musical style, there was nothing special about me. They didn’t even have anything constructive to say about me when my performance (a cover of Jason Mraz’s ‘I Won’t Give Up’) was over. I was absolutely crushed.”
Once his frustration and disappointment lifted, “I felt like I had been given a chance to go back to the well and really figure out what makes me special,” says Mallory. “That’s what TV does, if you know how to process it. It’s like a mirror. It shows you all these things and lets you decide what’s important to you: life philosophies, how flawed characters seize the opportunity to grow—or don’t, what human qualities you’d like to parallel in your own life.” From seeing himself on The Voice to enjoying his all-time favorite shows like Star Trek: The Next Generation and Arrow, “TV has helped mold me to be curious and optimistic, even when the chips are down.”
So when his friend, groundbreaking LGBTQ radio broadcaster and entertainer Karel, recently called on Mallory to help write and perform a song about the power of TV to go in, yes, a TV awards special Karel was both hosting and producing, the singer snapped to it. Mallory composed a catchy melody. He and Karel collaborated on some genuinely affecting lyrics. The result: “Flickering Life,” officially debuting this Sunday in GALECA: The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics’ Dorians TV Toast 2021.
The pre-recorded 2-hour-plus special, featuring appearances by Olivia Newton-John, Jennifer Beals (The L Word: Q Generation), Patricia Arquette, Tituss Burgess (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), Fran Drescher (The Nanny), Jim J. Bullock (Too Close for Comfort), bounce music sensation and reality star Big Freedia, Saturday Night Live cast member Punkie Johnson and RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant Gottmik, airs Aug. 29, 8pm ET / 5pm PT on Here.TV and YouTube’s Planet Out channel. This isn’t the pair’s first collaboration; Mallory sang, composed and help write both GALECA’s official theme song, “A Toast!,” a cozy Irish pub-evocative ditty which debuted in the critics group’s first TV awards special in 2020, as well as “Look Into the Light,” a wistful pop ballad about the beauty of movies that he performed in the Dorians Film Toast kudos show that aired in April.
“Karel will start producing the Dorians show and say he needs a song, and he’ll shoot me off a set of lyrics,” says Mallory with a bemused giggle. “It’s very Elton John and Bernie Taupin. He’ll tell me the style of music he hears in his head, and then he leaves me to it. I’m free to write some lyrics of my own, rework others and take the music wherever it leads. The first two shows really challenged me to explore new genres, new orchestrations. This time was no different.”
Well, maybe a little different. “Karel wanted this Dorians show to have a retro TV feel,” says Brandon Riley Miller, the toast’s coproducer and editor. After Mallory filmed himself singing “Life” from various angles, Miller had the idea to give the video “a vintage MTV” look. “The song’s great,” says Miller, “and I think the video really fits in with the show’s theme about our relationship with what people call the little screen.”
“People also say necessity is the mother of invention,” adds Karel. “It would be great to have a tribute to favorite TV themes in our show, but as an all-volunteer nonprofit group of LGBTQ entertainment critics, GALECA doesn’t have much of a budget for music clearances. The answer: make music. Writing lyrics is fun for me, but I just never had anyone to put them to a melody. Now, with Morgan, I do!”
Karel, an ever-thinking-and-dreaming sort, also asked his friend, dance music legend Thea Austin, to compose and sing an EDM version of “Flickering Light.” Austin, of the bands Snap! and Soulsearcher and cowriter of the seminal ‘90s club hit “Rhythm Is a Dancer,” came up with an almost eerie beat that can be heard in part over the upcoming Dorians TV Toast opening credits. For last year’s special, he united with Las Vegas rock band The Black Donnellys to create a hard-driving version of the aforementioned “A Toast!” Says Karel: “I think it’s interesting to have musical variations on the same concept.”
Maybe these guys could whip up a disco version of the Cheers theme.
GALECA: The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics’ Dorians TV Toast 2021, celebrating the past TV season’s best performances and shows, mainstream to queer+, airs 8pm ET / 5pm PT on Here.TV and YouTube’s Planet Out channel. The songs featured in the various Toast specials, including the versions of “Flickering Life” by both Mallory and Austin, will soon be released by Karel.Media through Tunecore as an EP.