I don’t usually write about popular culture, except when I talk about MMOs, which are as “popular culture” as it’s possible to be! Today’s post is an exception. American Idol is nothing if not popular culture.
I rarely watch American Idol, but I got interested, so I went on the American Idol Site and I watched the performance videos for this season, season 8. I think all the top singers are quite good, but my pick for season 8 is Adam Lambert. After picking my favorite for this season, I got curious about previous years. I read about a previous contestant from Season 5, Chris Daughtry, so I watched the videos of some of his performances on YouTube.
Chris Daughtry and Adam Lambert both have great voices which they use well. I thought they were excellent at the performing part, being in front of a live audience. You don’t see that with all the contestants.
What I find interesting about Adam Lambert, aside from the phenomenal voice and vocal control, is his performance sensibilities. On the voice – you don’t see a lot of trained countertenors in pop music. On the performance – he knows how to move on stage in a way that keeps you interested. I enjoy his theatricality. During “Rat Pack” week, he dressed like a rat packer, very sharp suit. Other times he’s a glam rocker, a classic rock star, a 50s “boy next door”, or a simple soulful singer. I like his connection to the audience. I know that you can’t get into a performer’s head, but his performances appear emotionally sincere to me. He appears to love performing and wants to share that joy with the audience. The theatrics and the costumes were fun, but I didn’t feel as if they were jokey or campy, or retro. They seemed like ways for Adam to express himself and get people into the performance. The performances felt “real” to me. Some of the song interpretations were daring, which I suspect is something you don’t see all that much in American Idol land.
Chris Daughtry was the upset of American Idol Season 5, when he didn’t win. He’s since moved on to a very successful music career. Understandably, from the video I saw, he looked disbelieving and upset when he didn’t get enough votes to continue to the next round. From what I’ve read, most of the people covering the show (Entertainment weekly, as an example) thought he was the proverbial “shoe in”. When I saw his performances I couldn’t understand how anyone could have been better. He looked and sounded like a fully formed rock singer to me, a good one, with charisma, vocal control, and a sense of who he is, oddly enough, like Adam Lambert. His performances were emotional and intense and assured, with a strong physical presence.
I think the emotionality and intensity and self confidence and physical presence is something he shares with Adam Lambert. I thought he seemed nice, but who knows, perhaps the voters thought he was too cocky. He’s a different sort of performer from Adam Lambert. I like his acoustic performances very much (I like the timbre of his voice), but his voice and the way he performs – it’s made for fronting a rock band. He’s got the controlled intensity and emotionality down. I still don’t understand how he (or anyone) can sing in a loud band and you can hear him and also understand every word – a very clear vocal performance. I know he’s worked at it, but it has to be something about his voice, something that can penetrate all that sound.
From what I’ve read, Chris Daughtry is not a trained singer (no voice lessons), unlike Adam Lambert. Unless Chris Daughtry does something about training, I wonder if he’ll be singing with his full range into his 40s. That rock singing has got to take a toll on your voice.
If you are interested in the American Idol contestants’ vocal ranges, here’s a great website – http://www.idolranges.com/
Of all the contestants so far, Adam Lambert (not a surprise) and Chris Daughtry (a surprise) have the widest ranges on the songs they performed. They may have wider ranges (I’ve read estimates of Adam’s range as at least 3 octaves), but this is the range of the songs they sang on the program.
If you are interested in learning more about their singing, Master Class Lady has a great site – http://masterclasslady.com. Rosanne Simunovic , a voice instructor, analyses the American Idol performances in a kind and generous but technical way. Her blog is easy to read but written to inform. I learned a few things about the technical aspects of singing. There’s an interesting post about Adam Lambert’s performance of “Crying” by Aerosmith. You can see the “Crying” video on the American Idol site. Rosanne wrote about how a performer can recover from something that isn’t right, in this case a backup singer that was off key. She pointed out that Adam took the earphone out of his ear during his performance. It was so subtle that I had to watch the video several times to even see it. I think he did this so he wouldn’t be thrown off by the off key backup singing. That’s so interesting!
Here’s the post –
amarez – mszv