FEBRUARY 1, 2007
IT ALL BEGINS WITH A SONG
Former Nashville Star Judge and Consulting Producer Tracy Gershon still keeps a close eye on the show and will be checking in each week with her opinions of the finalists. Considering that she signed Miranda Lambert at Sony and will be molding our next Nashville Star as Vice President of A&R at Warner Brothers Records ... ya'll might want to listen up!
There's an old saying in the music business ... "it all begins with a song." The right song can jumpstart a career and consistently making great song choices can sustain and/or make a career explode.
Merely picking a great song is only part of the "star-making" process. The tricky part lies in picking a great song that FITS THE PERSONALITY of the singer and gives us a glimpse into their artistic identity (One of the best examples of this was "Redneck Woman" for Gretchen Wilson.)
The notions of "one size fits all" or "a great song is a great song no matter who sings it" are na´ve assumptions.
How many times has an artist recorded a song that has gone unnoticed, while that very same song became a milestone in another artist's career? Who remembers "Goodbye Earl" for Sons of the Desert, or "Friends in Low Places" for Mark Chestnutt? How about "Bless the Broken Road" for Melodie Crittendon?
Last Thursday, the Judges really let the viewers and the contestants down with their song choices. Unfortunately, the best song choice was for Meg Allison, but alas, we will never know...
All three judges should just be ashamed of themselves. That was the worst song choice of the night. Plain and simple, it was not suited for Zac's vocal abilities. He is a stylist -- many great artists are -- and that means not all songs will work. But that's not the worst of it. What really peeved me was the way the Judges berated Zac for his attitude (by the way, there was not a mention about his performance)!
First of all, Zac merely stated that he did not like the song choice (I agree) and that it was not a good song for him (he's right) but that he was going to think of things in life that he has to be proud of to give him something to pull from. He said he went in, made the song his own, and he prevailed.
Sooo ... the problem was what? That he didn't act like a trained seal and applaud the Judges' command? Randy Owen has a great reputation as an artist with vision, he made reference to recording a song he did not like, yes, but at least he knew he could sing it. I work with artists everyday who balk at song choices, but we try them out. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. If they end up sounding like a smash, we both know it. If they don't fit them we move on.
I work with Blake Shelton so I know firsthand how hard he is on songs. He is an amazing singer, and has great instincts as to what songs will and won't work for him. He might argue that he has been made to record a song that he did not like early in his career, but it was a song that suited his vocal style.
The bottom line is that Zac did indeed "cowboy up" and make the best out of a bad situation. He was honest about his feelings, and that is part of what the show is all about.
So here I go ... I am so busy berating the judges that I, too, almost forgot to mention Zac's performance. For every reason mentioned, he started off shaky in the verses, but really nailed the chorus. Zac slowed down the tempo so he could lay into the lyrics and I believe that given the circumstances, his performance was something he could be proud of.
This was the best choice of the night. Randy Owen is a great singer so he knows this song is not for the vocally challenged. I think the Judges tried to get Josh out of ballad mode and he rose to the occasion. He dropped the key and that gave his performance more strength. He even looked like he was having a good time! However, I still have not heard the same riveting performance that I heard in his audition. Josh still needs to step it up to continue in the competition.
David St. Romain:
He is a really good singer and he is a rock-solid performer. The only thing missing is a musical direction from him. The Judges had an opportunity to provide that direction for David, but instead they chose the current "Branson theme song"! This is Country Music People!!! Yes, we all like "Listen to the Music", but would anybody want to hear that song on a country CD by David St Romain?
Now, having said all that, I must give kudos to David because he did do a great job entertaining, as Randy put it.
I love that song, but never would have chosen it for you. It's not a song that showcases the type of singer that you are. Again, it goes back to the old one size fits all mentality. Not all songs are good for all voices! Watch your enunciation. You tend to swallow your words and make it hard to understand you.
Blake nailed it when he said Angela can sing anything and make it believable. But I don't believe that song showed off Angela's personality or musical direction at all. Angela slowed the tempo down so groove-wise she made the song work for her. Lyrically, however, those were not words that I could ever imagine her singing. I think we have seen enough of Angela to get an idea of who she is. She has shown that in her own song choices. Thursday night was another rock-solid performance by the woman who is in the lead.
I can't wait for next week when the contestants bare their souls and perform their original songs! This is truly where the rubber meets the road and we get a real sense of artistry. I have made a career of signing singer-songwriters so I happen to be partial to artists who have a way with words.
Of course, there is always a place for those amazing vocalists and stylists that know how to pick a great song! Because, it does all begin with a song...
Until next week,