An Open Letter - January
Dear 24 American Idol Finalists
Hello, and congratulations for being in the final 24.
You are the most talented people in a group that will
probably the most diverse collection ever. According to
the promos, however, you may also be the most cutthroat
ever. You may need some advice as to what the audience
is looking for. Im here to tell you what to do and what
NOT to do when we finally get to see you in a live
1. SING well, but not too well. Obviously, you need to
sing well to try to get an audience. If you sound like
chalk on a blackboard, you are leaving quickly. You are
also leaving quickly if you sound too safe, or if
other people shine better in your genre. You need to
pick up as much fan base as you possibly humanly can.
However, lets not forget one little fact the favorite
has NEVER won American Idol. Why? Too much expectation.
If you blow the roof right out of the gate and become
the favorite, then everyone expects you to step up your
game every single week. When that doesnt happen, people
will start to nit pick at you and your star loses some
luster. Eventually, that will cost you the competition.
Being the favorite turned Anwar Robinson into Johnny one
note. The best advice? Sing well, but dont go after the
challenging material until you are in the Top 10. Thats
when the bottom feeders are gone and the real
competition begins, and it also gives you enough time to
get a fan base who will stick around even if you try
something hard and fail. Thats what cost Nadia Turner
2. Make. Us. Care. I cant STRESS this enough. Idol is
not just a pop singing competition its part
popularity competition as well. Your job is to give us a
reason to vote for you, and while your vocals alone may
be good enough to get into the Top 12, it will not be
good enough to win the competition. Do you have the
ultimate sob story or fascinating tale? Then TELL us.
Carrie Underwoods country style and look of innocence
was a major factor of why she won and more than one
time covered her while she was mangling lyrics. Part of
what gets you votes is your back story. The audio clip
of the plump Mandisa Hundley is already getting airplay
on WKTU in NYC, and that sort of endorsement is going to
be huge when you are trying to get votes. Should she,
Rochelle Elaine, Chris Daughtry, or any of the other
people profiles make it to the Top 24, then they will
have a huge edge on sticking around early.
Now what about the people who havent gotten the
airtime? I admit that it puts you in a hole, but you can
get out of it. You all have your intros when you are
introduced on the Top 24 show, and you need to spill
your guts out. Why are you here? Dont say Because I
want to be the next American Idol. Duh. Everyone wants
to be the Next American Idol. What is your motivation?
Have you had a bad childhood? Are your relatives ill?
Are you poor or come from a struggling neighborhood? Are
you from a completely different style of life that you
think we could relate to? You need to tell us why we
should care enough to vote for you and you need to do
it immediately, because if the song you sing isnt
great, your back story will be the only thing keeping
you in the competition.
3. Speaking about songs, lets talk about song
selection. It is VITAL that you select the right sort of
song. What is the right sort of song, you may ask? Well,
the right song is something that
a. You and at least half of the audience out there has
b. Something that can show off your range, emphasizing
your good qualities while masking your weak notes.
c. Something that hasnt been sung to death around
d. Something that the people who are going to be voting
for you can relate to.
e. Something that you can cross over (ie. Sing in a
different genre that you usually dont sing in), yet
pull it off.
Ill say this about Carrie she knew what her fan base
wanted. She was going to stay in country forever because
she knew that she could deliver a nice country
performance. She got very lucky that no one else crossed
over to get her, but give her props for being smart
about it. We talk a little about song selection, but in
this years recaps, I will be going to go over exactly
why something was or was not a good song to sing.
4. Finally, its about Media Control. This is the
section that I have yet to see anyone utilize correctly.
When Ryan gives you the microphone, this is your time to
shine. Based on everything weve seen so far this year,
there may be a lot of media control. Here are some dos
a. If you think that you did anything bad in the early
shows that the audience may get you on later, do the
right thing and fess up and apologize. It gave extended
life to both Kimberly Caldwell and Scott Savol.
b. Be ready to thank the judges either for a good
comment or a Ok, Ill try to improve
c. Look like you are listening to what everyone has to
say. Talk about you and how a song or something affects
you. The more personality you can put in your
interviews, the more people will be interested in you.
d. Playful banter with a judge will get you bonus
points. Putting down a judge or disagreeing with them
will show you the door. NEVER put down a judge or engage
in any sort of Scott Savol-type behavior. Sure, the
Rebel has always made the Top 6. The Rebel has also
never come near the Top 3.
e. NEVER, EVER, EVER put down Ryan Seacrest. See Vanessa
Olivares and Mikalah Gordon.
So why am I bringing this up now, although the live
shows are still a month away? Simple this is a
tutorial for the 24 people who are still around and I
want to give them time to learn it. Read it. Practice
it. Get to do these things in your sleep. The career you
may help boost may be your own.
Gordon Pepper knows how to make a winner. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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