Diabolical Top Secret Strategy For Winning American Idol

posted by Tom Moon on February 09, 2009 at 6:09 pm
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Free advice for contestants.

Spend enough time watching American Idol, and it’s possible to become convinced that singing is an athletic skill – like shot-putting or pole-vaulting, dependent on superhuman lungpower and killer timing. To win, a contestant must bellow and belt Beyonce-style, summon deep psychological anguish on demand, transform the aches and pains of romance into torrential downpours of melodrama.

There are, of course, other ways to sing a song. Lots of them. These more “exotic” approaches have largely gone missing during the first seven seasons of the show; one wonders whether it’s even possible for a breathy, whispery type of singer to win the competition in this, season eight. Probably not! But it’s worth dreaming about. If I were hired to “coach” an Idol contestant, I would begin with a listening detox. I’d restrict access to recordings from contemporary hitmakers, and replace them with the subtle thrills on offer in the recordings below. Here are singers who are well versed in the gentle art of persuasion, who use understatement to draw listeners in, who tell their stories without bullying anybody. These skills are timeless, whether American Idol values them or not.


Anita Baker: Rapture

Al Green: Call Me

Chet Baker: Let's Get Lost

Frank Sinatra: Sings for Only The Lonely

Marvin Gaye: Let’s Get It On

Joao Gilberto: Joao Gilberto

Beth Orton: Central Reservation

Sarah McLachlan: Surfacing

Elis Regina and Antonio Carlos Jobim: Elis & Tom

Shirley Horn: Close Enough For Love

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#1 from Adam Herbst, New Jersey - 02/10/2009 12:27

An a propos post for the day that the newspaper sadly publishes the obituary of Blossom Dearie, jazz pianist and singer, famed (in some parts) for her singing on Schoolhouse Rocks’ “Mother Necessity,” “Unpack Your Adjectives,” and “Figure Eight.”

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