Thursday, 19 June 2008

Why on Earth did he not win?

So after all the the hype, all the talk, all the weeks of listening and watching how on earth did this talent, this contestant come in second? What went wrong? With the beauty of hindsight we can carefully evaluate how and why but in the end it doesn't really matter for him. He has gained more out of this than he could ever have dreamed of. It was a long and brilliant experience for David and for all of us and we witnessed some fantastic and amazing performances along the way. In my eyes, David is the most consistent contestant the show has seen. He never gave performances that were out of his range, out of tune or just simply didn't work at all. Yes he forgot the lyrics for his top 12 song but when you listen to the rest of that performance back, he actually did good in the second two thirds, shame it was overshadowed by something that happens to every performer, good or bad. David never did badly and he delivered some amazing performances, some the best Idol has ever seen. So how come he lost?

I'm over it. And I have been for weeks now. David is better off placing second. Hes 17, hes still got some developing and growing up to do and he has his whole life and career ahead of him. The record deal was done faster than cheetah on speed and the motivation from himself, the corporate money men and the fans is as high or even higher than any other winner or runner-up of previous seasons. As runner-up he gets the invaluable opportunity to make a mark without the unnecessary and over burdening pressure and I think at this stage for David that is the best thing possible. The pressures of winning American Idol are essentially unnatural for any artist and is very hard to cope with and not everyone does. A fair few of the artists that do win eventually end up attempting to distance themselves from the show anyway so how much of a benefit is it really in the long run. Its of no surprise to me that often the losers go on to do better than the winners. However, despite all of this it still pains me to hear Ryan say the wrong surname when I watch back the finale. The morning after the show, Simon Cowell said on Ryan Seacrest's radio show that he felt justice had been done. The more I think about it, the further away from the truth I believe Simon is with that statement. As a Simon fan, I think he got it wrong this year. Totally wrong. I don't dislike David Cook either, I like him a lot and he will go on to do very well (don't quote me on that though!) but hes no David Archuleta in terms of potential and talent. As is far too often on these shows, the best singer didn't win. Randy said to David after the final performance of Imagine that American Idol is about finding the best singer they can find. Again, he could not be further from the truth. Its great to be the best, but its more important to be what they are looking for.

American Idol has been criticised in the past for being a 'formulaic, karaoke show that releases inexperienced artists into the music industry on a conveyor belt'. I believe these shows do benefit the music industry for many reasons however I do think that quote holds a fair bit of truth. American Idols great contestants and great performances all have things in common, a formula if you will. I spent some time on youtube watching back some of the all time great Idol performances from all the winners and runners-up of note, especially Clay Aiken and I began to notice a pattern. The typical Idol 'standing-O' performance is made up of three elements. First, the great song, very emotive and dramatic and something that everybody knows. Second, the epic runs and vocal ornaments leading to a climatic build-up to the thing that gets the people on their feet. The final and the most important part, the glory note! Oh yes, every great performance in the history of Music has had the highest note at the very top of your range held for the longest (im being sarcastic if you didn't pick up on that) time you can humanly possibly hold your breath for without passing out and dying. This is the formula that wins you this show my friends. Yes ok, its satisfying from a TV perspective and to a certain brand of singer, it works wonders. But how viable is it 'in the real world' (to use a Simon quote) when all the winners are an endless string of Diva singers. Its of no surprise to me that the great divas, Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey, are potrayed as the great musical gods on American Idol. Believe it or not, being a great artist and musician goes way beyond having a 6 octave range and being able to sing a song with more twists and turns than a roller-coaster.

Which brings me to David. Did David ever conform to this fool-proof method of winning American Idol? No, he didn't, ever. Its fairly ironic because of all the contestants this year, he was the most capable of competing with big guns and really delivering in terms of having the vocal prowess to be able to pull 'the formula' off. David never even attempted to go for the formula. Cook did. Cook did it with some arrangement frills to make up for the lack of vocal skill and he succeeded. Cook without the frills was merely average at best(Top 24 and 20 week anyone?). David was never average, from start to finish. The element that David brought to his performances that was so drastically different from everyone in the competition was every performance was his own interpretation. That interpretation differed from week to depending on the song, sometimes it would be the arrangement, other times it would be more emphasised the vocal line. Every performance was his vision on what he thought the song should be like. It was never 'lets try and cram as many runs, trills and glory notes in here' which is often considered to be the way of 'personalising' on Idol. It was about adding the soulful and touching elements that added to the communication and expression that David was trying to achieve. Because of that, every week we were getting distinct and memorable performances in different ways each time and each and every time he sang it was different, it always different from the original and it was always his vision of the song. David was the true artist of the show. But therein lies the flaw. David never conformed to the formula so if his performances didn't contain any decibel crazed runs and over exaggerated vocal plays all the time, it was considered by some to be average and then eventually boring. It never quite fit in with the typical Idol 'standing-O' performance. When the song called for it, David delivered the epic runs and glory notes but he is more than that and he knew that. Those of us that saw beyond the formula and appreciated things that were alien to the Idol showcase, saw what David is really about.

Its a shame really. David was the real artist in disguise it seems. He was the one that personalised every single performance he did with his subtle nuances and melodic plays. It was never about putting in an electric guitar and picking up the pace a bit or altering the rhythmic patterns and calling that 'personalised'. His interpretations and visions were way more intricate and intuitive, but it seems that didn't quite fit in with the show. Its no wonder Randy, the musician of the panel really understood David and what he was about but he could never quite bring himself to compliment him on the things that David should have been complimented on. That would be treading on Cooks toes. What David was doing went over Simons' head and many of the critics as it was so different to any other Idol contestant, especially front runners before him. David was the better than formula, David is better than the show. Its just a shame that what David brought to each and every performance and the way he would instinctively add subtlety's and musical ideas that would pave their way into our hearts and souls only warrants second place. David also never sang the same way twice, everytime his performance came straight from his heart. David is a true artist for that reason, he stuck to who he is. There is nothing false, fake or karaoke about what he does. It all comes from him, from within, from his heart straight to ours and I wouldn't have him any other way. Ill take David without the glory notes and frills if that is how he sees a song, being able to maintain your artistic integrity is the key to success and longevity. If that means second place in American Idol, fine.

Im going to be looking at what I expect and want from Davids first album in my next post. I'm a bit bogged down with exams at the moment but until then come discuss everyone's favorite David at Planet Idol

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