Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Stage Presence: American Idol Contestants, and Stage Presence Then and Now..Plus AI's Producer Disses Shakira

Good Morning, Music Fans,

I’m in the midst of writing the performance notes into column form for the MBADC American Idol Armchair Quarterback for but wanted to pop in with an observation…

At this stage of the game, the contestants should have a much better idea of cover songs that really connect with an audience.

They should also have far better stage presence than they do.

But, this is what happens when we have a generation of kids who take private voice lessons and only sing for their family, friends, and instructors...and who don't go to live concerts.

Starting at a young age (14, 15) my musical peers all learned what connects with a live audience by playing backyard parties, school events, frat parties, and jam sessions, and by getting gigs at tiny little clubs. Since they’d learned as they went along, it was rare for even local artists to not have stage presence. (Some more than others, but most of them knew how to connect.) They also built loyal fan bases.

Vocal coaching was rare then, too—Most of my musical peers never took a lesson until they blew out their voices on the first tour or got nodes on their vocal cords. (Not a great way to go.)

Conversely, now we have droves of kids who have a high level of technical ability, but have no clue what songs connect with an audience.

Seeing Katharine McPhee smile when she sings blues is the final straw. It’s the blues, Katharine. People with the blues don’t smile.

The same goes for Elliott Yamin. If it’s a sad lyric, don’t smile!

Readers, if you’re not playing live, start. Look for opportunities to do so everywhere you go…You won’t make a lot of money at it, and you’ll be doing gigs where you don’t get paid at all, but what you gain in experience and stage presence is priceless. Learn what you’re doing before you start trying to get famous.

Also, get out there and see live performances. If you're underage to get into clubs and tickets are too expensive in your area, check out DVDs of performances. Adelphia Cable's On Demand feature has a lot of free concerts in their music section, too. Watch a variety of performances, in many musical genres, to see what makes crowds react. (I don't recommend viewing clips on your computer for this purpose, BTW--You need a larger screen to really see exactly what the performers are doing to get that reaction.)

It's the musical equivalent of football and basketball players watching footage of classic games; they watch the plays closely to see what works, then they incorporate them into their own game. So go play, team!

I’m going back to my article now…Barring any server problems, it will be up on before Ryan Seacrest reads the results on the East Coast. (Update 11:45 AM: It's up!)

P.S. American Idol Producer Nigel Lythgowe (sp) just said on Ryan Seacrest’s radio show that when Shakira was on American Idol, the contestants never met her, although AI requested that she go out and talk to them. He said, quote, “she wouldn’t get off her ass” and go out to talk to them, and that she's no longer welcome to have anything to do with the show because "it's about the kids" and, he feels she used the show to promote her CD without regard to the contestants.

Live your dreams!
Randi Reed
Editor in Chief,

P.P.S. Yeah, yeah, I'm still learning how to insert links on Blogger, so bear with me...I'll have Webmaster Extraordinaire show me again and will go back in and change them. (Done!)

Edited to get rid of a typo, and to add a performance suggestion.--RR

Copyright 2006 Randi Reed. All rights reserved.