Tuesday, March 11, 2008

American Idol - A lesson in performance

Yuk! I hate to admit it, but I've become an American Idol fan. What an amazing place to launch your career. It's also a great place to study song arrangement and performance.

On song arrangement - First, all songs short are cut short. I didn't time them, but I'm guessing around 2 minutes per song. The singers then arrange them however they like. What becomes very clear is those that build to somewhere and those that stay pretty flat. After watching a few shows, it's very clear that those that build in energy as the song progresses, typically get the best reviews.

They repeatedly say that it is a singing contest, but what clearly becomes important is the performance. Tonight for example, the show was clearly stolen by Chikezie. While I'm not sure he's the strongest singer, his performance tonight was outstanding. What came across was his joy and love of being on stage. One of the best singers, David Archuleta, was off tonight and even though he has a great voice, he looked uncomfortable and I felt uncomfortable watching him. I keep being surprised and impressed by Brooke White's passion for her songs. She had tears in her eyes after singing "Let it Be" and from what I felt listening to her, it was very appropriate. She shows the importance of being authentic with what you sing. Finally, my favorite, Carly Smithson, combines high energy, passion, with powerful vocals. I'm expecting her to win.

I've also found the judges comments to be very helpful. Randy will always notice if you're out of tune or out of the groove, you can always tell that he's listening intently. Paula is the coach, always providing positive reinforcement and helpful tips. Finally there Simon, the critic. Each contestant wants his praise. When he gives you a thumbs up, you know you nailed it. If you didn't there's no place to hide.

All the contestants in this later round are excellent and I'd love to have any of their voices, as well as their courage to put themselves out there in front of millions. If only I was 20 years younger, had a great singing voice and nerves of steel...

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