Last September I wrote a piece on the talent shows I had been watching - XFactor and America’s Got Talent. I mentioned that I was also following the British and Aussie versions on YouTube and preferred them over the American versions. I still feel that way. The talent is just so different. Many of the contestants bring something unique, distinct voices. The “diva” factor is rarely seen, it doesn’t end up a huge screamfest.
One of the biggest problems I have with the American versions of these shows is the judging. I think Simon Cowell is a genius, he knows talent and he’ll let you know if you have it or if you don’t. Too bad he’s terrible at choosing the judges he works with.
For my taste, the second season of American XFactor was brutal, having to put up with Britney Spears. I’m not a fan, I fail to see any real talent there. I take plenty of flack from people around me when I proclaim her to be the “Queen of Lip-sync”. When she isn’t doing it, her music is being aided by voice enhancement technology. The world has no fear of her ever releasing an acoustic album. She was mentor for the youngest of the contestants, kids who have one hundred times the talent.
Often you would see her with her arms crossed, her upper lip curled up snearing at contestants before they sang because she didn’t seem to like the way they looked. One guy, Vino Alan, had his head tattooed, and a plus sized black lady, Panda Ross; both gave outstanding performances. When they finished she would give them her little one-sentence mousey comment, “I liked it, it was good”. I’ve heard she won’t be back for the next season and if that is true then I will probably watch it.
There was a couple of bright spots on XFactor. I enjoyed watching Demi Lavato outshine Britney. She’s a very intelligent young lady who knows what she likes. She was very believable in her critique of the performances.
Being a country music fan I was so glad that Tate Stevens won. He became a long shot when several times they mentioned they were looking for a popstar. Fortunately they chose a recording star; he will sell records and he clearly was the only one worth the 5 million dollar prize, in my opinion.
And then we have American Idol. Where do I start with this year’s show? Oh yes, Nicky Minaj! I should be able to end right here, the accompanying photo explains it all. I recall a quote from a true Hockey superstar, Wayne Gretzky who said, “no one is bigger than the game”. Nicky, well she thinks she is. Aside from likely a couple of little girls from England, few can name one of her songs.
A real bright spot of this year’s Idol was “the last man standing” Lazaro Arbos. (below, right and in pre-Idol video below)) A young man not afraid to wear pink and he wore it well. They gave him the nickname “Ricky Ricardo”, because of his resemblance to Desi Arnez (I Love Lucy). I was watching as he auditioned and I had this feeling he was going to impress the judges even though he stuttered very badly when he talked. We can’t be good at everything but the things we are good at, we can excel at . Lazaro was an entertainer, a true inspiration - and he can sing.
Another thing I don’t like about these talent shows is song selections. The theme nights are just an insane disadvantage to everyone with real talent. Expecting someone who has a talent for Rap or Hip Hop and force them to sing The Beatles makes no sense at all. In one breath they tell them to come out of their comfort zone and then criticize them for trying something beyond their range, and tell them “do what you do best”. The judges say they want to see what type of star they will become. So let them sing the songs they are comfortable singing, it’s what they will be doing when they are recording artists or no one is going to buy it.
I have been able to pick the last 6 winners of Idol so my prediction for this year is Candice Glover. It should come down to her and Kree Harrison. Kree will get a contract in country music and Candice will probably be Broadway bound or become competition for Jennifer Hudson fans.
If asked to recommend one of these shows, it would be “The Voice”. It’s by far the best “talent” show in North America, in my opinion. A favourite mantra comes to mind while watching it is, “It’s not what you are listening to, it’s what you hear”. The judges on this show don’t get to see the contestant unless they choose to turn around, they have only the voice to make their decision on who will be on their team. Each judge selects 12 singers/groups. The next stage of the competition they pit each of their own singers against each other until they are left with one finalist. On the final night of the show, the four finalists sing off and one is chosen as The Voice.
This year they changed a couple of their judges. Gone are Ceelo Green and Christina Aguilera, replaced by Shakira and Usher. I had never heard of Ceelo until this show and it seemed he was more interested in finding a date. I think the selection of Usher will improve the show, he knows talent, afterall he did sign Justin Beiber. Shakira has been a surprise, I didn’t know much about her but I like her. The interaction between Blake Shelton and Adam Levine has its entertaining moments as well.
I am having fun watching The Voice. The talent this year is very good but I haven’t picked a favourite just yet. I may have to wait until the final four and choose one.
One thing they don’t tell any of these participants is that winning doesn’t mean you will be guaranteed to be a superstar. Very few ever become a “household name”. Jennifer Hudson never won but she became an Oscar winner. Blake Shelton’s wife, Miranda Lambert was voted off Nashville Star early but now she is the top selling female country star.
The only judges any of these singers should worry about is the music-buying population. These producers of these shows need to pay better attention to hire judges who know the music business, not just some “flavour of the month” singer.
I’m off to surf through YouTube and see if the Brits and Aussie’s are back to work.