After singing the praises in previous posts of American Idol Contestants Naima Adedapo and then Casey Abrams, apparently I’ve successfuly jinxed both. Of the remaining half dozen contestants, James Durbin has all of the attributes of a star. Great vocal range, stage presence, and he’s willing to take risks musically.
He’s the “rocker” of the group, and probably the most consistent performer this season.
On Wednesday’s episode of American Idol, the contestants were tasked with performing a song from the movies. Casey Abrams was leaning toward the song “Nature Boy,” recorded famously by Nat King Cole among others. Jimmy Iovine, legendary music producer, and will.i.am (hope I got the punctuation right) of the Black Eyed Peas have been coaching the contestants and helping with song selection, and they weren’t thrilled with his choice.
They asked if he had another song in mind, and he threw out (I Can Feel it Coming) “In the Air Tonight” (by Phil Collins and from the film Buster, in which he also had an acting role) but you could tell his heart wasn’t in it. Iovine and “.am” were more supportive of that tune. At the 11th hour Casey did an about-face and reverted back to “Nature Boy,” his original choice. A skeptical and slightly perturbed Iovine said in a clip that aired just prior to the performance (paraphrasing) “At this point in the competition they need to listen to their coaches. He’d better kill it out there”…and he did!
Once again, Casey accompanied himself on the upright bass, as he did during an audition when he sang another jazz standard, “Georgia (On My Mind).” Though jazz vocalist/bassist Esperanza Spalding has attained commercial success, it’s a brave choice for a young singer, as the upright bass requires a sophisticated ear for the vocalist to stay on pitch.
More impressive though, is the fact that the 20 year-old artist stayed true to himself in the face of scrutiny from a legendary music producer/executive nearly three times his age and a member of one of the most successful pop groups on the planet. The pressure in the face of their resistance must have been overwhelming, especially when singing a song that required sensitivity and nuance vs. a tune that he could “belt out” so to speak. Though his vocal wasn’t perfect, it was stylish, heartfelt, and it was beautiful in contrast to the selections from the other contestants.
My Point Here:
It’s a great lesson to all artists. While there are mentors, coaches, educators, fans, and others who will give advice, much of which is very beneficial, ultimately you know who you are as an artist. More importantly, you have to live with the consequences. And if you listen to others and fail, you’ll never forgive yourself to ignoring your inner voice.
And finding your own voice and developing individuality is important, even if you’re not an artist or up and coming pop music star.
I’ve never been one to jump at trends, so I must admit that I didn’t watch the first 3 years of the show American Idol. But soon thereafter I became hooked. As commercially overblown as the show has become, it is so very compelling because so much is at stake and such young performers must give it their best on the spot several times over.
This season I can’t help but root for Naima Adedapo. I must admit my affinity for jazz makes these sentiments far from objective, as her absolutely sultry performance of the standard “Summertime” was scintillating. She works as janitor, which is hard to believe when you seen her perform – and how can you not root for her. The judges avoided a grave injustice (well as grave as a singing competition decision can be) by allowing her to enter the sing-off and compete for a “wild-card” spot in the finals after the voters had failed to vote her in. She then gave an emotional performance on the verge of tears, and showed why she is such a compelling performer – she has emotion to complement her skills.
“Sometimes we focus on physical poverty. There’s also a poverty of hope and of dreams. That’s what music involvement gives low-income children.” (Dudamel)
Now that the new season of American Idol is underway, it’s easy to look for reasons to criticize. Sometimes the focus is more on the exploitation of the dysfunctional, “pitchy” attention seekers more than the contenders, Steven Tyler’s flirtation with teen-aged auditioners is quite creepy, and style sometimes trumps substance. But in the end, there are always a few stories that are genuine and compelling – because of the power of the dream and of the medium.
A daughter sings for her father recovering from cancer, a young man sings for his fiancée, traumatically injured in a car accident prior to their marriage date, and a single mother sings for her special needs child.
Because no outlet for emotions is as powerful, moving, and universally understood as song.
Some days there won’t be a song in your heart. Sing anyway. ~ Emory Austin