IT Factor: More Than Talent
I saw this trailer over the weekend, and I’m actually quite interested in seeing this documentary. I’ve actually written about the intriguing way that our culture presents black women’s vocals, which have shored up others in the music business, and which is why they’re often positioned as background singers. Part of it is being “church-trained” (i.e. when you’re part of the gospel choir, that’s the vocal role you have: to dig deep into “soul” and shore up others in song), but the other part is filling in the comfortable role of Mammy-like service that our culture tends to pigeonhole black women into.
So, just on that level of seeing really talented black female vocalists documenting their life-long struggle to step from background to the fore, I plan to check out this film. Still, I felt bad for someone like Judith Hill – backup singer for such legends as Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder – who actually stepped out to the fore (not just in participating in this film but also on The Voice) and demonstrated that, no matter how much talent you have, you need more. You need the “IT” factor to really propel you forward.
And not just to stardom. We’re talking about a friggin’ reality TV talent show like The Voice! Poor Judith Hill couldn’t even do that. So, obviously, the journey “from 20 feet to stardom” is a huge uphill climb. Those of us following David Archuleta’s career certainly know this.
But, honestly, I can understand – when one sees the likes of the Swon Brothers, Danielle whatever-her-surname-is, and Michelle Chamuel in The Voice finale this week – why Judith is not in the finale. She didn’t have much of a personality (and on TV, that matters very, very, very much!), and her coach Adam was too arrogant to realize that talent alone wasn’t going to push her to the front, while he was caught up in his little competition with Blake all season. Had he bothered to nurture her stage presence – when the vocals were already a given – he might have had a horse in the running, while Blake (who is very skilled as a coach in presenting his contestants with heart) has two.
Perhaps Judith doesn’t have the “IT” factor, but that’s something to work on (you know, like how Justin Bieber has a “swagger coach”), just as many argued that Melinda Doolittle back in Season 6 didn’t have “IT” since she too was a backup singer. These kinds of raw-talent gals need mentoring when it comes to presenting their personalities and stage presence. I think their previous roles as polished singers who are there to do support work have kept them from developing their egos.
And boy do you need a helluva big ol’ ego to even make it as a solo artist.
Now, I know that many of you will say to the contraire: But David is different! He’s so humble and so self-effacing, and he still has that special something to shine as a solo artist.
But many who make that argument completely miss the obvious: In presenting and projecting his humble facade, David IS very self-aware of the personality that he’s projecting publicly. That TOO is about having a big ol’ ego in the sense that he is very much involved in shaping that public self he wants us to recognize and embrace.
The backup singers represented in Judith Hill and Melinda Doolittle have de-emphasized their egos altogether. I always believed that, during Top 3 week, if Melinda had worn something red or any kind of a glittery dress (like Candice Glover did), instead of her usual drab greys and blacks (which Mindy Doo wore ALL season long), she would have made the American Idol finale … and won!
Don’t tell me David is not about appearance when he wears those dramatic scarves.
And had Judith not seem so reserved and, yes, I must say it, cold, she too might have made the finale.
I think we all realize: talent is not enough, especially if that talent is already so polished. The next step (in the words of that dorky villain MegaMind) … is PRESENTATION!