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Confessions of an American Idol Virginby C. Brian Devinney -- 08/14/2002
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Okay, okay, okay. Sue me. I haven't watched a single episode of American Idol. I've been tied up unraveling the identity of The Mole (with some of help of course) and it's taken up just a bit of my time. Of course, it doesn't help that The Mole 2 and American Idol happened to be airing on exactly the same night at exactly the same time. Therefore, tonight was my first chance at seeing the five recording star wannabes strut their stuff for my edification.
Now before we begin with my assessment, let me state my qualifications to be giving out said critiques. I was a member of the Mandarin High Men's Chorus. I was also a member of the Jacksonville Gay Chorus and performed in front of 5,000 people in Tampa, Florida. I have performed musical theatre. I took voice lessons with a heavy emphasis in Italian arias and opera. I know my stuff. I come with qualifications.
This week is Burt Bacharach Love Song week and personally, if I was singing in this competition I would take a little known Bacharach tune called "Out of My Continental Mind" (which I first heard sung by the incredible English jazz starlet Claire Martin) but alas I am not on this show (and my singing voice isn't what it used to be) and no one apparently knows of this song because no one chose to sing it.
So let's start with Kelly and her choice of "Walk on By." First of all, this is a classic song that even if you sang it in your head you can hear that classic voice of Dionne Warwick resonating in your head. I totally agree with Paula and Randy when they said that she took the song and made it her own - not an easy thing to do when the original is so closely identified with one person.
Now, Kelly did a great job of singing "Walk on By" but I have say that what she has in her vocal capabilities does not make up for the lack of stage presence in the song. There was just something missing from the performance that kept my "wow" from becoming a "WOW!" Her arm movements and poses were so well rehearsed that they looked… well… rehearsed and that, for me at least, took away from the performance.
Vocals: B+. Staging/Presence: C+
Next up is R.J. and, thanks to my fellow writers, I have heard nothing but horrible things about RJ and how he should have gotten the boot last week. Apparently, his boyish looks and that cuter than cute smile is what is keeping him in the game so far. He chose to sing "Arthur's Theme," which most people think is called "The Moon and New York City" or "When You Get Caught (Between the Moon and New York City)" or some other derivation.
My main complaint with R.J. is not in his voice, vocal tone, or his sound. It's all in his phrasing. Phrasing, as taught to me by my voice teacher, is taking a line from a song and singing it not as individual words but as a complete thought and expression. With R.J., there were too many pauses between the words. There wasn't anything to connect one word to the next to the next. I can empathize with R.J. because this was one of my problems when I first started taking my voice lessons and it was a hard practice to break. I think I caught him taking a few breaths in the middle of his phrases as well, which if I did it during some of my voice lesson I would have gotten more than a stern rebuke from my teacher.
On a positive note, R.J. does have nice voice. It's not a spectacular voice and it clearly has room for improvement and development. Simon is right when he said that R.J. did an okay job with "Arthur's Theme." He definitely lacks the stage presence to give an effective and evocative performance. And, for the record, I think he was the worst dressed person on the show - shocking considering what Nikki was wearing, but true. He looked Amish, in my opinion.
Vocals: B-. Staging/Presence: C-.
Tamyra, who I think if she doesn't win it, will get signed by Simon or someone else and make more money than the actual winner, came out singing "A House Is Not A Home." Oh. My. Heck. Chills. Down. My. Spine. That voice. That incredible voice. Cut yourself a CD now, Tamyra and I will be the first person in line at the Virgin Megastore in Times Square to get it. Compared to what I had seen before, Tamyra has the package. My only complaint lies in the fact that the song itself ends on such a low point compared to the rest of the song which is sung with such passion and feeling. I don't know if this is her interpretation or how the song is actually written.
Now, everyone remaining in the competition please direct your attention to Tamyra and her stage presence. Everything she did was natural. It made me think of that line from Valley of the Dolls when Neely O'Hara was rehearsing her TV special and the director wants her to map out how she is going to move. Neely tells the director that she moves on the song based upon how she feels during the song. On top of that, she feels it differently each time. You can see this in Tamyra's performance. Her movements are natural and based upon the emotions she is putting into her performance - something I haven't seen in anyone's performance so far (and for the record I didn't seen it in the rest of the show).
Vocals: A+ (isn't there something higher?). Staging/Presence: A+ (ditto).1 2 Next-->
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