The idea of a country singer making her way through "Conga" by Miami Sound Machine may sound as if it would be hilarity on television, that can't be what producers of "American Idol" were hoping to achieve.
Last night on their program, the '70s theme concluded and although the guys did pretty well, it proved a difficult task for the Top 10 girls. It truly raises a question then as we look back on past year's themes and celebrity mentors: should they be re-thought?
Having celebrity mentors arose out of the ill-fated celebrity judge effort that seemed to showcase artists floundering in the efforts to criticize other artists for aspiring to be...well, them. Then when they moved the influence sessions off-site, witnessing the young singers gawk over Gwen Stefani was certainly enjoyable, but having contestants butcher her songs deflated a room full of goodwill.
So what gives?
"American Idol" keeps its celebrity mentorship under tight wraps until the shows are upon us. It's difficult to say if they've mastered that art until it happens, but forcing singers who, until they sang that singer's song, probably had no idea who that artist was, isn't producing the type of shows that Simon would say, "that was fabulous."
Give the contestants more choice and their songs!
It is a self-fulfilling prophecy to choose an era of songs, say...the '70s, and then criticize the performers for failing to nail the feel of a song that was already old when they were born. These contestants know who and what works for them, Nigel, are you listening? Let the kids choose their own product.
You want excitement that translates on stage with celebrity mentors...roll out a Ben Harper, Jill Scott or Lenny Kravitz to mentor. People who can truly sing while bringing current artistry to contestants that can mirror them on stage. No offense to Gwen, we love her, but the music of No Doubt does not exactly translate in the same way as the catalog of a Lenny Kravitz.
Eras of Error
Who doesn't love the '70s music? But with a palette that vast, what did you expect? Sure, have a Disco night because most of those songs are sung by artists who can belt out a tune and lend themselves to live television performances.
If producers insist on era nights, have the performers choose their inspirations. One or two performers always know exactly who they are going to perform when they hear about a certain era, but the other 8 performers are completely lost.
Who better to know what they're best at than the singers themselves?
Have an "era" night and in their video intro, each contestant could explain, "I love '60s Motown" and her performance is Aretha Franklin.
It will work.
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