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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2 Comments:

At 3:18 PM, OpenID gmsiamovie said...

Yeah, it's a singing performance, and a marathon, and a search for a very specific type of performer. You could be a very specialized and well nigh perfect rocker, but if you flamed out in jazz night or ABBA special, they you are out.

I have not watched this year, but in the two years I watched I enjoyed the judges a lot. Simon plays his role by being over the top. Randy is inconsistent. He is often wowed by side issues. Paula is the all compassionate earth mother.

Only Simon focuses on the real question: Is this person a singing star, yes or no.

Of course it's part of his schtick to be shockingly brutal about it.

It's a bit like a decathlon. At the Olympics, they usually declare for a brief minute that the gold medal winner in the decathlon is the "Greatest Athlete in the World".

Well, maybe. But do you remember who the last decathlon winner was? Would you think they were a better athlete than say, Michael Jordan, who is clearly a specialist in basketball...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems as though only Kelly Clarkson has stepped up into her own space fully as a performer. I know that the country singer from Oklahoma sold some records...Carrie Underwood, but I don't think she really made it.

Then there was Ruben and Clay. (I guess I watched it more than I thought!) Have either of them really succeeded as a stand alone entity? Have they transcended the show?

Yes, you have to be a good performer and a well rounded performer to succeed on Idol...or get there fast as some of the very determined participants have been able to do.

But singers on cruise ships also have to be good performers, as do wedding singers who perform at prestigious weddings.

In the end, Idol is very good entertainment and good training for singers. The performing skills required to succeed on the show don't seem to translate to significant mainstream success.

Tom St. Louis

 
At 12:57 PM, Blogger med said...

hi jeff,

i work for a PR firm looking for blogging specialists in your field of interest. if you would send your email address i would love to speak with you further.

thanks, madison dunn

 

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