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.

Picture 1Perhaps 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!

imagesYes, something as simple as your outfit can make all the difference between being background versus foreground.

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!

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Posted on June 18, 2013, in current trends. Bookmark the permalink. 70 Comments.

  1. Very interesting post, HG.

    I will admit that I was impressed with Judith at the beginning of the season but bad song choices and the lack of anything to really connect to lost me as the weeks went on. Her vocals were great but I just wasn’t excited by her performances.

    “Don’t tell me David is not about appearance when he wears those dramatic scarves.” HA! So true!

    I feel like David would have to possess ego to get up there and perform — especially the way he owns it when he digs into a song. I have seen that confidence in himself grow in the time since AI. I have to say that’s been one of the joys of following an artist who is so new to the limelight. To see videos of him performing during the AI tour or early shows during his first solo tour — and then to watch him performing during the MKOC tour or some of the events he did in the Philippines before leaving on the mission. It’s quite a difference. Most importantly, I feel like there is still room for growth there too. As you said, HG, the talent is polished. Now to continue the evolution of presentation.

  2. HG, I totally agree with you that David has the IT factor. But he is shy and has never liked “pushing himself” on other people. Thats why he always says he enjoys his solo concerts the most. I’m hoping that this missionary experience will help him become a little bolder and more willing to perform in front of different audiences.

    • I think he can push past his “shyness.” Shy performers – think Michael Jackson, think Beyonce (who is often described as such when NOT performing) – have certainly done this. I think they have to completely transform themselves into a whole other person when they’re on stage, and with David, we definitely get glimpses that he does this.

  3. I have been very impressed with Usher as a Coach this year on The Voice. Even if Michelle does not win tonight (although I hope she does but it probably will be Danielle) Usher was an amazing coach to her. The duo of Usher and Michelle singing “One” was to me the performance of the night on The Voice.

    • I agree! Actually, both Usher and Blake were really keyed in on bringing out their contestants’ personalities this season (which is why their horses are still in the running).

    • Michelle is dynamic. I like that she has the ability to demonstrate both strength and vulnerability in her performances. I’m rooting for her!

  4. Another winner post Hg, thank you.
    I too agree with what you said, David does have the IT factor. If talent was the only bases for success, David would be a superstar right now. That magic combo needs to be in place for David to have the kind of career that he deserves…GREAT songs that are relevant, GREAT management, GREAT label and David willing to be flexible, not giving in to all the demands, but understand that with anything that is worth having there has to be some sort of compromise. Presentation is the perfect word as to what David needs work on, he’s got everything else going for him.

  5. From my sketchy viewing of The Voice, Judith Hill never made an impression on me at all. I totally thought Sasha Allen was going to win, from seeing her just a couple of times, and I have no clue what happened with her.

    From this recent description of David on his mission, he’s got some kind of amazing self-confidence to be able to do what he does, while the other missionaries uncomfortably look down at their feet:

    “It’s really different having Elder A in our zone. I did divisions with him the other day, it was so weird to think I was preaching the gospel with a famous guy. He has a really timid personality, but is a very persistent missionary. I enjoyed it. He didn’t like to talk much, but I told him you guys bought his CD. It must really bug him to hear about his fame. It really is true that he expresses himself with music. The awkward part was when offered to sing I’m a child of God to a contact. The whole street was wondering what he was doing, and we all kind of stared at the ground not knowing what to say or do. He sounds exactly like the CD’s in real life.
    He’s a very obedient missionary, so I’m glad to have him.” (Elder Wirth)

    • Yeah that was such a weird statement to me, uncomfortably looking down at their feet. Bravo for David, just keep singing!!! Keep those vocal chords fine tuned. And, why in the world would it bug him to hear about his fame, I would think it would be more disturbing if no one even mention it..that would give me the idea that I was yesterday news and that my music career is gone, omo.
      hum very obedient, wouldn’t think David would be any less, but then again I thought that all missionaries were obedient.

    • 😆 What a story! See what I mean? David KNOWS what’s up. Imagine just bursting into song on a door-to-door mission. Yep! I’d convert if David Archuleta was singing at my doorstep, are you kidding me?! 😀

    • From all the different blogs by missionaries about David, it does seem like the fun factor is not there for David. Can’t relax and just have fun, what a shame and guess what, nothing to do with fans.

      • I don’t know that that’s necessarily true. I think the blogs we’ve read where they’ve talked about David have mostly been people impressed (or noticeably UNimpressed) with his fame. They wouldn’t be commenting about him otherwise. David is very astute about that. I would suspect that he acts differently toward those who treat him “differently”.

        I remember reading in a blog a while back that he was never assigned a “gringo” as a companion, so that his companion wouldn’t be starstruck. I wonder how he acts with those companions — the ones who don’t know him as David Archuleta, famous musician but at David, the missionary. There’s really no way to know because the only reports we’re getting back about him are from the very people that he’s probably less likely to be himself with.

      • You are probably right Ali, don’t know a thing and shouldn’t make assumptions. As far as star struck goes, wouldn’t that go away after they got to know him as a person…anyway jmo.

      • LOL I wasn’t saying you were wrong. I was just saying who knows. He could be dead miserable for 2 straight years. 😉

        It just seems to reason that the ones he makes friends with probably wouldn’t be writing in blogs about him. Or maybe asking their families not to post the part of their letters that mention him. I haven’t seen a blog yet from anyone who spent much time with him, just passing references. So that either means he doesn’t spend time with anyone or the ones he spends time with don’t post about him. Could go either way I guess.

      • Something that we probably will never know. Heck, I just want him back working on his music career (selfish fan, I guess). In a way the no communication things just makes the whole thing even more mysterious, lol.

      • And now I’m hearing a dramatic movie trailer voice in my head, “David Archuleta, International Man of Mystery!”

      • I do remember a gal in the Missionary Training Center who wrote something like, “Yep, we’re still friends,” referring to David.

        It is kind of a puzzle why the David we know to be so talkative is always described as so quiet and shy.

  6. Harrison Craig and Seal perform “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother”:

  7. fabulous post.. thank you HG. I
    agree David has ‘It’ just think he needs to work on his presentation.
    I am assuming what music he chooses to put forward is part of that?

  8. Bah. Harrison’s winner’s single is not even a new song.

  9. HG, thanks for bringing awareness to that documentary! I had not heard of it; I’m adding it to my “must see” list. One of the women featured in it is Tata Vega. She is “the voice” behind most of the songs in the movie “The Color Purple” (e.g., Ms. Celie Blues, God’s Trying to Tell You Somethin, etc.)

    Regarding M.Doolittle, her natural hair style makes her seem more current now than she appeared in 2007 when on Idol. If she had worn the natural hair with brighter clothing, I think she would have appealed more to a younger Idol viewers.

    Regarding David, his IT factor can be seen in his live performances and tv appearances. As many here have said, couple his talent with good material and the right team and he will soar beyond his past achievements.

    • Hi Desertrat, did not know that about Tata Vega. Thanks for this tidbit! 🙂

      Sigh. I’m a bit bummed Michelle Chamuel did not win The Voice. What a different kind of artist we could’ve gotten. I understand Danielle’s appeal, but she’s just a younger version of Carrie Underwood or Taylor Swift (and still doesn’t hold a candle to either gal).

      The continued reign of blandness continues. Congrats to her, though.

  10. Just read that Michelle Chamuel didn’t win The Voice. bummer 😦 I wasn’t watching the show because the NBA finals are on at the same time. Go Spurs!

  11. I really enjoyed The Voice finale. So far no one who has won The Voice has gone on to do very well in the music business so far. If Usher continues to help Michelle maybe she will see some success even though she came in second. You never know……

    • The Voice finale was great even if Michelle did not win. Very entertaining show. It is always interesting to see how they will all do after the show ends. Danielle is country and has Blake behind her but I just do not see the great talent. Time will tell.

  12. I guess country music is in now. I don’t follow country music anymore but I thought Martina McBride had a beautiful voice. I am a little sick of Taylor Swift,

  13. The Voice was good last night.. all three are talented! my favorite performances were from Bruno Mars and Hunter Hayes. you can tell these guys are talented and they ‘present’ very well! pros!
    I think Danielle has all that is needed to do well but she has to work some on her stage presence and show.
    she is only 16 so it makes sense she may be able to pull it off. that is if she gets the right team, label, etc.
    I guess like Carrie Underwood did or Kelly Clarkson for instance? raw talents who worked things out and are doing very well indeed!

  14. There will always been new talent emerging as good as David, plenty of room for good singers, but with that being said, also the field gets crowded and some of them will be forgotten. David has the it factor, so does a lot of others.
    Once again will he be able to make a come back two years after being out of site/mind by most of the world…imo he is going to need a heck of lot of PRENTATION to pull it off.

    • Everybody loves a great comeback story. David’s a great singer and he’s a likeable guy. He got a lot of press after his announcement and it was surprisingly (for me) positive press. If he sells his story well (focusing on the inspiring aspect of his mission, the life changing experience, the risk he took by leaving regarding his career and his popularity as a pop star, etc) and if he works with the right persons (producers, songwriters, manager), he’ll be able to make a good comeback imo. I hope he’ll take all the time he needs to work on his music and I’d love a collab with a popular and/or respected singer just to remind those who forgot about him that he’s back working on rebuilding his career.

      I also hope that he’ll be able to define his sound, he already has a unique voice but his music doesn’t allow him to showcase well his singing skills imo. And about the presentation as an artist, i think that now that he’s older and that he had 2 years to grow and mature outside of the music world, the image he’ll present to the public should match his talent. What I’m trying to say is that i always felt like there was a huge gap between the unassuming young pop star and the incredibly talented singer. When he’ll be ready to resume his career, i hope that he’ll show more of his artistry and his greatness. Humility is a great quality but too much humility is a disservice imo.
      And finally, i want to add that i hope that now that he’s serving a mission for his Church, he’ll put less pressure on himself. For example, he stated numerous times that he wanted to be a role model and i think it’s a good thing but i also think that it prevented him from taking more risks or from stepping out of his confort zone. I don’t really know how to explain my thought more clearly in English but it was just an example about the pressure to do good that i think he put on himself.

      • Excellent comment!

      • Great comment with a lot of good points.

      • agree.. excellent comment and thank you!

      • Two points that might be a little hard for him to do is one, the luxury of time to make the right music. Other artist have taken their time, but they are already big stars (with a lot of money) with big time backing behind them, don’t know if David has that kind of cash or that big time backing. Second, he might need to thread carefully how he relates the religious aspect of his mission, not all fans are Mormon and would completing understand, jmo.

      • I agree. Great comment.

      • thank you ! I wasn’t really sure to be able to convey my thoughts with my broken English.

        Cq, I don’t think that it would penalize him that much if he takes his time to produce a good album, in the contrary, I think that it’s absolutely necessary for him to really work on his music if he wants to make a good comeback. I already said this here but for me, quality is more important than releasing something in a rush just to please the fans that are still waiting for him. IMO, it’s one of the major problem regarding David’s career because it seemed to me that too often, the aim was to please the existing fanbase instead of trying to spread his music. It was kind of confidential. Also, he left for two years, some more time won’t do much of a difference imo. I understand that as fans we can’t wait for new things from him but the waiting we’ll be easier because he’ll be able to communicate again with us via twitter and vlogs.

        About the religious aspect of his mission (the most important one lol), I don’t think that it will be such a big deal. You almost elected Mitt Romney for president and he’s Mormon. Also, David’s not the first religious person in the music biz, and some don’t even hide it. Many singers wear cross necklaces or thank God publicly for their success. It’s even a selling tool for some country singers (at least, for the older generation). I think that David is clever enough to know how to present his mission and his religion in general. Just take one of his last vlogs where he explained why he decided to leave. The message was more spiritual than religious imo and he always tried to convey a universal message. I don’t think he’ll need to talk about the proselytism aspect of his mission. Like I said in my previous comment, he can talk about his misssion in a more global way that will include people instead of exclude. And TBH, people in general don’t care about the artists’ religion. It’s not a major factor when you listen to someone’s music. I’m not Mormon and it doesn’t prevent me to not like David. I’m not even Christian and I don’t search about singers’ religion before deciding if I can like or not their songs.

      • I forgot to say that the general public only know Crush from David. He has the chance to come back as a new artist and to distance himself from the other young singers he was compared to and more importantly from AI. He can reinvent himself and present the image of the artist he wants to be. It’s a real chance for him and I hope that he’ll take the opportunity to finally show who he is and let behind him all the stigmas that were attached to him. That’s why the quality of the music he’ll release is important, it’d be the new reference for those who don’t follow him as closely as us.

      • Again you make great points Zara. What I was saying about taking his time wasn’t because I felt he needed to get a whole bunch of new music asap, I was saying only because of finances. Yes, with him here and maybe an appearance every once in a while, would be good for us few remaining fans.
        You brought a good point about religion and other artists, yes, almost every artist that gets an award for his/her work does thank God, again, not saying that he shouldn’t bring some of that into the conversation, it’s him and I do respect that. I was just referring to the number of converts he has made, that’s where I think it would become kind of uncomfortable for some, again jmo. Anyway can’t wait to resume the wonderful David Archuleta career ride, I think it’s going to be even more fun than before.

      • I agree Cq, it will be more fun for me probably because I don’t want to be the stan I used to be lol. I don’t want to get involved as much as before and even if I have great hopes for him and his career, I have considerably lowered my expectations. I’m just really curious about his comeback to music and the decisions he’ll take to rebuild his career. He said he has some things already planned and to be honest I’m not really excited about it but I’ll wait to see. I just want to buy his music because I really like it than just because it’s David and I want to support him.

      • I don’t think he’ll talk about the number of converts he made. It’s a really private topic and it’s not like him to talk that openly about his private life imo. You can take his book as an example. Even if it seems that he shared a lot, he didn’t really talk about his private life.
        (also, I don’t like the proselytism aspect but if we’re honest it’s not only a Mormon thing, all religions practiced/are still practicing it to expand their doctrines and sometimes in not a really peaceful way like going from door to door lol. I’m not Mormon but I believe in the right for every person to practice freely the religion of their choice or to not believe in any religion)

      • Absolutely, anyone has the right to worship/not whoever/whatever they choose. Yes a lot of religions proselytize, of course, they all believe that they are the only true church, so stands to reason, but you got to admit that the LDS church is huge in that department, not that there is anything wrong, it’s there right. I just don’t like door to door proselytizing by ANY religion. Actually only two religions have come to my door, Mormon and JW, not that other don’ t also do door to door.

      • FYI, none of the churches I belonged to believed in proselytizing. Sure, you would possibly invite friends to talks or special events, or your kid’s Christmas pageant, but not much else.

        In my years as Sunday School teacher, especially when they were trying to grow the Sunday School, they would say to emphasize relationships. I think that’s what happens in the missionary work. People get friendshipped and get attention from these enthusiastic young missionaries, and naturally get drawn in, no matter what the doctrine might be.

      • Come to thing of it cchalo, I was/am somewhat Catholic and I don’t remember any proselytizing program either.

      • I don’t really like to talk about any religion specifically but I just want to say that religions in general expanded because of proselytism and that it wasn’t unique to Mormonism. If we go by History (and just to try to add some clarification to my comment even in my broken English) there are many examples of proselytizing. Imperalism, colonialism, etc had political, economical, social and also
        religious motives and without the intention of generalizing, some of the humanitarian work done in poor countries by religious organizations is also used as an opportunity to “promote” the religion.

  15. Re David’s meek behavior on his mission. I can remember watching videos of his friends commenting on how David is quiet when around other people. Does not like being the focus of attention. However, when he is performing, or being interviewed one on one, or with HIS fans, he is very animated and personable. This is a strange dicotomy, but its part of who he is and what makes him so fascinating.

    • You’re right–even on his mission, when performing, he sang “Eye of the Tiger” and acted like a boxer, and did a number with his white hat, according to gladys.

  16. Music seems to be his best and most comfortable means of cummunication. When it was mentioned about him just belting out a tune on a street corner in Chile, reminded me of the video of him belting out a song for kelly clarkson during the first season of AI and not even hesitating. Yet there were times he couldnt put two words together when not signing…the power of music!

  17. It seems to me that a big part of the “it” factor for David is his ability to connect with the audience. Missionary work requires constantly connecting with people, I imagine that this will improve his stage presence, as well as his ability to network among those who could help his career.

    I agree with Zara; the quality of the music he puts out when he gets back is much more important than rushing it out. In fact, I think it will be critical. He will only have one chance to make a new “first” impression that will show the world what kind of artist he is.

  18. Yes, I agree with everyone about quality, not quantity, but sometimes just magic happens and it doesn’t take a whole lot of time. Quality music that a lot of people like for sure.

  19. Which audience David connects with in the future will be very telling. I am trying to think outside of my David bubble that I live in with his other more visible fans. There is a different world out there from this one, this one where we all love him, his voice and David the very special young man.

  20. what do you guys call quailty music, if davids is not???????

  21. In regards to giving enough time for quality music, it got me thinking. Actually my least favorite (I still do like) is TOSOD and that was the album that David worked on the longest. Sometimes a long period to over thing is not always best.
    I just hope that he has that foundation built and is ready to work on his music career.

    • Goes to show how subjective music is. I loved TOSOD, except Elevator.

      • TOSOD is my fave too, as an overall album.

      • Yeah, I might be in the minority, the songs are good and do like them in general, but the whole album just seem to hit me over the head to look at the bright side of things in very simple way. I just hear such depth and emotion in David’s voice and somehow I got the least of that from this album.
        However, being a diehard fan, I’m glad I’m in the minority.
        Hoping that all will be in line when he comes back…songs that have depth, emotion that match his voice and throw in a few real catchy fun songs for the heck of it, lol.

      • Not to stereotype but on the whole, of the fans I talk to/see comments from, generally the younger ones say TOSOD is their favorite while the more mature fans chose another album. Now I’m not saying that holds true for everyone because obviously tastes vary from person to person but that’s the trend I’ve observed in general. I’m not sure why. Maybe the younger fans relate more to the message of TOSOD. Or maybe they respond more to the pop vibe. I think it’s the most pop of the albums he’s released. It is interesting to see the different sides/shades of David that we’re all drawn to.

        While TOSOD is my favorite, it doesn’t mean I don’t like the others. I just meant that it’s the one that I listen to as a full album the most.

  22. Ray-I dont think its so much the quality of Davids music, its what is (or isnt) captured in the studio. For me his records fall seriously short of the live quality of his voice. Regardless of the direction he chooses what he sings and releases needs to be relevent and current.

    • Yup, for me I think one of the most important pieces to the puzzle will be finding the right production for any future studio work. Whether it’s one producer for the whole album or several to give variety in sound — there are different schools of thought as to which is best but David has yet to put out an album that I’m completely happy with the production values on. He needs someone who really ~gets~ him and knows how to showcase his abilities.

      • I totally agree that whatever direction David goes in that the releases need to be relevant and current. Also agree that he needs to find the right producer.

    • and what do you call relevent and current,,if you are talking about burno,pitbull and cher on the voice ,forget aabout it could not understand what they were saying,and all just had the same beat, thats just making noise,take away all the flash and you have nothing jmop

      • Adele is current and relevant and her album is fabulous and she can be understood. Anyway that is the kind of current and relevant that I mean. She’s huge and it’s not because making just noise and flash, she is a true artist and I believe David is in the same caliber and deserves the same big career, jmo.

  23. A “kinda” new pic that Matt Clayton posted on his blog:

    We saw a cropped version of that (that was photoshopped into blue) as the cover art for Don’t Run Away but this must be the full picture.

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