How to make 'American Idol' more vital.
by Dr. Spin
May 29, 2005
I can honestly say I've never really watched "American Idol," nor will I. This is not to say that I'm completely unaware of what happens on the show, who the contenders are and who wins. I do occasionally pause the remote when flipping through channels, and of course entertainment programs such as "Extra" and "Entertainment Tonight" keep me informed about "Idol" than I ever need or want.
You would think after four seasons, "Idol" would have pretty much found all the talent there is to be had in America, but no doubt the show will continue for a fifth, sixth, and who knows how many other seasons, so from what little I've seen of the show (including the "worst" auditions specials) I do have some ideas and instructions for future potential contestants.
- Don't be intentionally bad. Sure, it worked for that one guy who did a horrendous version of "She Bangs," (whom I believe did try his best) but unless you want your fifteen minutes of fame to be reduced to five seconds on the "worst" clips show, don't tank on purpose.
- Don't dance. I have seen many "auditions" on the "worst" reels where the contestant dances. The name of the show is "American Idol," not "Dance Fever." (You're in the wrong decade for that.)
- Even if you're an African-American female, do not sing Whitney Houston's "The Greatest Love." Because it's a cliché. And if you're not an African-American female, you probably shouldn't be singing this song anyway.
- If you're male, do NOT sing ANYTHING by Madonna. Especially not "Like a Virgin."
- Know your material. If you're going to sing a song make sure you know ALL the lyrics correctly. And if you do forget the lyrics midway, don't make them up and don't just keep repeating the chorus.
- Do not in any way, shape or form imitate Elvis Presley. Although it might be kind of cool to imitate Elvis Costello. If you really want to imitate Presley, there's a place for you. It's called Las Vegas.
- Emulate, but don't imitate Frank Sinatra. As much as it pains me to say it, my mother was right; singers before the Rock and Roll period really did know how to sing, much better than most Rock artists. With everyone trying to sound like Shania Twain, Faith Hill and (God forbid) Michael Bolton, it would be nice to hear someone do "I've Got you Under My Skin" or some other classic.
- Dress like a normal human being. Again, this is "American Idol," not "Let's Make A Deal."
- Don't embellish the song. Yeah, it's neat to show the audience how long you can hold a note, but who really wants to hear it? And unless you're Ella Fitzgerald, no "scatting."
- If you can't speak English, don't try to sing in English. This applies mainly to the many European versions of "American Idol." If you can't understand the lyrics, how can you sing them?
- Don't get involved with Paula Abdul during the show. Or Simon or Randy either. And don't write a whiny tell-all about it afterward when you get booted from the show.
Finally, I would like to address the song choices of most of the contestants. We've heard enough versions of Burt Bacharach, Barry Manilow, and that crappy "My Heart Will Go On." How about some new material? Let me give you a short list of suggestions I would like someone on "American Idol" to take a shot at:
- "Sweet Child O' Mine" – I still think this a great song, and (sorry G & R fans) neither Axl Rose nor Sheryl Crow have done it justice. Just don't do that stupid "where do we go, where do we go?" chant at the end; it really ruins the song.
- "Stairway to Heaven" – For most of Led Zeppelin's songs you have to have Robert Plant's voice to pull it off. "Stairway" is no exception, but I think the light balladic voice of the beginning lends itself to American Idol type vocals (again, this could only be done by someone extremely talented). Plus it would be cool to see some poppy singer wind up to the "And as we wind on down the road!..." part.
- Anything by Queen EXCEPT "Bohemian Rhapsody" – "I Want to Break Free," "Somebody to Love," "Under Pressure" are all excellent songs to showcase your talent. And just for fun, how about adding "Fat Bottom Girls" to your repertoire?
- "Money (That's What I Want)" – It's just a great song to cover.
Well, that's all the advice I have for all you "American Idol" wannabes. My ideas may not make you the apple of the eyes of Simon, Paula and Randy, but they will make you better than at least half of the tryouts. Besides, do you really want to be the next Clay Aiken?
About the Author:
Dr. Spin is willing to manage any singer who appears on American Idol. He only asks for a 30% cut.
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