Friday, March 4, 2011

Competitive Emoting & Vocal Gymnastics

Once again, there I was a captive audience. This time on a Jetblue [I LOVE YOU JETBLUE FOR YOUR SENSE OF HUMOR] flight from Ft. Meyers to JFK after a weekend in Naples with lizards, breezes, a pool, the beach, cocktails, Peanut-effing-M&Ms, orchid blossoms, tennis, bike-riding, and the sun. (Does anybody remember the sun?)

I ended up rather accidentally catching the Top 12 Men of American Idol show their stuff on Tuesday night, which worked out fairly well considering that my next blog post was to be about the show. To balance things out, tonight I forced myself to watch the Top 12 Women on the American Idol website. And I must admit that I went into this locked 'n' loaded, ready to post about how they all sound the same and all of the music is either R&B or Pop-Country. So I was actually relieved and somewhat disarmed to hear distinctive timbres in different contestants' voices, distinctive looks and personalities:  Casey Abrams' general bearded 19-going-on-38-sex-creepiness (but he's a bassist! a real bassist! yes, please), Naima Adedapo's straight-up jazz depth, Jacob Lusk's throwback gospel R&B (comes off as more of a 70's Baptist preacher than a rock star).

I've not followed the show (so correct me if I'm wrong, fans) but it seems to me the Idol producers have made a concerted effort to diversify the selection of contestants, both in terms of genre-preference as well as ethnic and stylistic backgrounds. Generally speaking, the men were more interesting than the women. Diva (yawn), ingenue (gag), angel of inspiration (feh), temptress (eyeroll) —what is this, a line of Old Navy jeans? There are many emotions that a woman can experience and express in her life. Let's try some new ones, eh ladies of America? Here's a chart to help you explore:

All of that said, there's an answer for me in James Durbin.

Tourette's & Asperger's syndromes he has but he's also got the juice. I never thought I'd say this but J-Lo's totally right: he sings from the place where singing is supposed to originate. When he sings, everything else goes away. He is not aware of the fact that he's performing, that people are watching him, that he's supposed to be entertaining. He just goes to a place deep inside and turns inside out.

Says the 3-year-old, "I want to go to there."

Because otherwise, it's just competitive emoting, showcasing, and vocal gymnastics. I'm sick of watching people try to out-diva each other whether on American Idol, The GRAMMYs, or trash TV. It's all "I'm going to go out on that stage as sexed up as possible, throw my voice around 'til I sweat, and work myself up into a scream at the end with either my loudest/highest note or a seemingly unending riff on all the notes I have inside my body." OK, fine. But that doesn't make you a musician, it makes you some kind of super-specialized athlete. And that makes me tired.

So what's the point?

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