What ‘American Idol 2’ Hopefuls Need to Knowby David Bloomberg -- 10/18/2002
Since auditions for American Idol 2 begin in just a few days (October 21 in Detroit, October 24 in New York, October 27 in Atlanta, October 30 in Nashville, November 2 in Miami, November 6 in Austin, and November 17 in L.A.), now is a good time for potential Idols to get themselves prepared for the big competition. But just as in Survivor you can’t (or at least shouldn’t) go in without understanding that the basic necessity is not so much learning how to make fire but learning how to make alliances, you need to know how to do more than just sing if you want to be the next Kelly Clarkson.
What’s that? You thought you could just go in, sing your heart out, and we would all call in millions of votes for you? Sorry, no such luck. Let’s see what you really need to do to win the hearts – and votes – of America.
1) Have Some Singing Talent
Yes, first thing’s first. I know, I just got done saying that being a good singer isn’t enough, and it’s still not. But it is still the most important factor. You won’t get anywhere if you don’t impress the judges with your singing in the first auditions, and impress the viewers after that. At the very least, you should not sing poorly, or else you’ll just end up as one of those embarrassing clips.
2) Song Choice, Song Choice, Song Choice
How many times did we hear it in the first season? Song choice is absolutely key. Several contestants picked songs that they simply could not handle and ended up looking much worse than they really were. You’ve got to find a song within your range and abilities. Not everybody can belt out a song like Kelly, so you have to work with what you’ve got. If you try to stretch beyond your limits and fail, you will look much worse than if you had stuck to something you could handle.
Another aspect of song choice is picking something the audience will enjoy. Have fun with it. Pick songs to get the audience on your side.
3) Be Different
There are going to be a ton of Kelly-wannabes. Don’t go in there trying to be the next Kelly. You have to be different. Remember the guy who took off his jacket and had pictures of Simon on his shirt? He made it to the next round. If he’d had more talent (see #1, above), he might have made it even farther – but the key to even getting a chance was being different. (Incidentally, I would not recommend decking yourself out in pictures of Simon this time, as the contestant contract specifically says you should not wear clothing with pictures of any celebrity, living or dead.) Nikki McKibbin was so different that she made it all the way to third place without the talent shown by many of those who fell before her. Several times over, the judges remarked upon her “unique” look (which was not really unique, but was different from the others on the show). From all accounts, Nikki didn’t have that “look” when she tried out for Popstars. She spent a few bucks on a tongue piercing and some hair dye and, voila! She now had a chance to stand out.
4) Be Memorable
This might seem to be similar to being unique, but it has a different reasoning behind it. You need to be memorable so you will be featured on the shows preceding the ones where viewers vote. Why? Because you want viewers to already know you. Those who had a back story on the first American Idol were much more likely to do better than those who we hadn’t seen. For example, everybody knew Jim Verraros’s story before there was ever a vote – and we know that had an effect on the outcome. Meanwhile, nobody even knew who Justinn Waddell was, because I don’t think he even made an appearance prior to his couple minutes of singing before the vote. Jim started out with an advantage, Justinn with a disadvantage. Who made it to the Top 10? You already know the answer to that.
So you need to do something that will likely get you on the show. If you have a back story, tell it. If you have a unique personality (see above), flaunt it. Chat up the hosts before and after your audition. Hell, chat up the judges once you’ve made it. You need to make a good impression on the producers so you can make a similar one on the viewers. As with the unique look, being memorable alone isn’t going to get you into the Top 10 – you need talent as well. But there will be lots of people with talent, so you need to stand out from them.
5) No Karaoke!
How many times did we hear the term “karaoke” from the judges? They want to hear voices as good as Whitney’s. But they don’t want to hear Whitney – let alone your impersonation of her. You may be better off singing songs that viewers are familiar with (though Ryan Starr did a good job with her “Frim Fram Sauce” number), but you have to do it in a way that does not make it look like you are just imitating the original singer. It’s not easy to do – several times last season Simon seemed to contradict himself by criticizing somebody for trying to be a clone but then criticizing somebody else for essentially being too original – but if you don’t want to hear Simon call you a karaoke singer, you need to find a way to make it happen. That being said, don’t totally destroy a good song just to be original. Rodesia utterly ruined “Daydream Believer” and deservedly went nowhere.
6) No Matter What, Don’t Argue With Simon!
I cannot stress this enough. Simon can be nasty, he can be mean – but he’s usually right (though not always). He’s also a lot wittier than you are likely to be. I mean, Paula Abdul hired a comedy writer to try to hold her own with Simon and she still got whomped by him in verbal sparring pretty much every week. If he criticizes you, accept it and move on. If you argue with him, you will come off looking like an ass (and sometimes an egotistical one, at that). And when I say not to argue with him, this includes running back to the green room and trying to slam him to the hosts. For perfect examples of what not to do, look at Tenia and Alexandra from the second batch of ten in the final 30. They both came off looking silly, and neither made it any further.
Of course, do I really even need to remind people of what Justin did when he didn’t like what Simon had to say? He called on the audience and looked so egotistical that it affected votes against him for at least two weeks. Ryan, after an absolutely horrid performance of “You Really Got Me,” told Simon he just doesn’t like rock & roll. She was lucky to survive the week, though she was gone the next. Meanwhile, whenever Kelly or Tamyra had any criticism leveled at them (admittedly, it was rare), they nodded their heads and smiled as if eager to learn and do better. That is the way to accept criticism.
So, there you have it – the most important advice you will ever receive on your way to stardom. Well, okay, maybe almost the most important. You only have a few days to get ready for your big opportunity, so you’d better get hopping. Practice your singing, practice chatting with the hosts, and get ready to become the next American Idol!
Oh, and if you don’t make it this time, you can always buy the new American Idol computer game and practice your moves that way.
David Bloomberg is the Editor of RealityNewsOnline, and can be reached at email@example.com.
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