Singing with Style, Singing with Feeling
It wasn’t until last night’s Idol results show that I finally realized what was missing for me this season: a contestant who could both sing with style and sing with feeling.
It was listening to first Idol winner Kelly Clarkson duet on her hit single, busting out the big notes while also packing a big ol’ emotional wallop. You hear the longing, you hear the desire.
It was that kind of singing that seduced a huge following of Archies who built a formidable fanbase that landed David in the finale. And when listening to Casey and Haley duet on that jazz song, I couldn’t help but think: yes, this is great vocal precision (can you imagine? Precision in improvisation? Jesus!), but where’s the soul?
So, I really hope that folks, who are paying attention, know the difference. I was out of the country last week, so I didn’t get to see the episode in which Pia Toscano, the admittedly best singer for Season 10, was voted off. Am I stunned she would be discarded so soon in the competition?
Am I surprised that she already went?
After 10 seasons, after Kelly, after Ruben, after Clay, after Kimberly Locke, after Fantasia, after J-Hud, after Carrie, after Daughtry, after Elliott (and keep in mind folks, we haven’t even gotten into the seasons that delivered what I consider to be the best singers Idol ever featured – Melinda Doolittle and David Archuleta), there’s no going back to singing with precision… but with no style and no feeling.
So, sorry Pia. Great potential there, but you’re being measured against some vocal Idol greats.
Unfortunately, with Pia gone, we’re now subject to a string of contestants whose vocal skills are limited at best, “pitchy” at worst.
Say what you will about Paul McDonald finally getting the boot, but despite his weak vocals, he was the most vocally interesting of the contestants in that Bob Dylan-can’t-sing-but-what-a-sound kind of way. The rest of the contestants are so generic in their chosen genres. While all talented, I’m just not getting the stylization nor the emotive skills that David wowed us with. Scotty is so generically “country boy,” Lauren is generically “country girl with pop crossover potential,” Casey – while I like his style – is still generically “jazz boy,” and Stefano’s perpetual overwrought emotive R&B “soul singing” reminds me of why I sooooooo fell in love with David’s effortless vocal runs and restrained notes that only his lovely tongue and one-of-a-kind vocal chord could make. Speaking of overwrought, Jacob Lusk, please tone down on the gospelization of every song, and Haley Haley Haley, those growls must stop. They’ll ruin your vocal chords! I’m shocked James still has his voice left after all that screeching! With those three, we’ve got “generic gospel singer,” “generic sex kitten,” and “generic rocker.” Yawn!
And that’s what’s left for the rest of the season.
No wonder I’m missing me some David or a Melinda Doolittle type contestant. (That, plus missing all the energy that used to come with anticipating his upcoming performances. Oy veh, this Archudrought is a killer!)
I actually blame both David and Melinda for the past three lackluster seasons on American Idol. See, Melinda’s vocal craft made it difficult for any other black girl to ever go far again. I loved me some Naima this season, but while she commanded a stage, she could not command the voice, which is a shame (and no, I wouldn’t blame racism or sexism as the reason why the first five eliminated contestants were all girls – beginning with the racial minorities – except to say that, when all things are even, talent wise, “America” is far less tolerant of women and minorities who don’t measure up before they get tired of the white guys). They are sadly being compared to past great contestants, and they just don’t measure up.
Now that the guys are starting to get voted off, David Archuleta is the shadow cast on their fateful end. After “Imagine,” they have big shoes to fill with regards to singing with style and singing with feeling. Not a one of them could touch David, and that will inevitably be their downfall.
They’re lucky that, on TV, much of their charisma – and not their musical abilities – will take them far this season.