Daily Archives: May 21, 2010

The Singer vs. the Songwriter

One of the reasons why I think the songwriters who’ve been working with David (you know those dudes who’ve been teasing us by bragging about him) have been promising that David’s new songs will be amaaaaaaaaaazing and all that has everything to do with their true and genuine excitement that they’re finally working with a Voice.  And especially a Voice that knows what to do with it.

As folks would say, after a killer performance, David is The Truth!

So, while I’m intrigued by what David might develop as a potential songwriter and how he would flourish as one, to be honest, I don’t really care. 

Because, to me, David doesn’t have to be a songwriter because he’s a singer – and the best kind – through and through.

Not to mention that, when I once read that he was encouraged to pursue songwriting because it made him a “more serious” musician, I just can’t be bothered with whoever gave him such advice. Because, honestly, that’s just silliness.  Who in their right mind could seriously listen to The Voice and then say, “You sing beautifully! But make sure you take up songwriting so that Voice can get taken more seriously!”

That’s like telling Frank Sinatra or Barbra Streisand or Whitney Houston or Billie Holiday: “You sing beautifully! But make sure you take up songwriting so that voice can get taken more seriously!”

Can you imagine anyone saying such drivel to any of these vocal masters and not get slapped?

Obviously, I don’t think David needs to be billed as a “Singer-Songwriter” to be taken more seriously. In this current pop music scene, the major plus I see is that he’ll get paid better if his songs become a hit.  But other than that, pffft!

So, case in point: Season 9.  One of the reasons why people are so disappointed with this year’s contestants is that they’re actual musicians. These are the singer-songwriter types.  They are not singers.  And, for good TV, you need real singers (or at the least, really high-performing musicians).  Singer-songwriter types are low-key type performers.  I do not doubt that either Crystal Bowersox or Lee Deewyze would make great songwriters, but they will never be great singers. 

If anything, I hope people have learned their lesson from this season and have developed a better appreciation for the vocal masterclass.  Because, during Season 7, when people went gaga over the “rearranging” musician – aka David Cook – and made that preference over the real singer – aka David Archuleta – the producers got the wrong message and decided that what audiences wanted was the rearranging types (this message definitely hit home when “Heartless” rearranger Kris Allen, with his guitar, won over the more theatrical screamer-belter Adam Lambert). 

Of course, what they failed to see – beyond the popularity – was the obvious during the final 2 performances when Cookie was up against David.  Had they paid attention, they would have noticed the most important thing.

Despite Simon Cowell’s efforts to clear U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking for” so that Cook could have a genuine “moment,” while David got saddled with the tried and true staple that was “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me,” what they should have realized was that it didn’t matter what the song was; it only matters what that singer does to a song.

And that’s why Simon Cowell, trembling a little (he couldn’t help himself), and Paula Abdul, who whooped and hollered (she couldn’t help herself), had to call it right and declare that David was the “knockout” who blew Cook out of the water with a “tried and true staple.”  When a singer does what the singer knows best, that’s where the “moment” comes (not with back-up choirs, trumpets, and tympani drum rolls).  It also helps when that singer is placed in an arena-type setting, like the Nokia Theater, where the voice is echoed and amplified. That’s when singing really counts!

David is a singer.  And that’s enough for me.  If he writes songs, good for him (hope he makes good money doing so), but I hope he never loses sight that he’s first and foremost and always will be a Singer and a Vocal Master at that.  No songwriter credentials necessary.