Since we will soon find out who the American Idol semi-final 30 are, followed quickly by the final 10, now is a good time for potential Idols to get themselves prepared for the big competition. I had written up a version of this article for RealityNewsOnline before the initial tryouts began, but now is a good time for an update here at Foxes On Idol.
Why do contestants need to know this? Because just as in Survivor you can’t (or at least shouldn’t) go in without understanding that the basic necessity is not so much learning how to make fire but learning how to make alliances, you need to know how to do more than just sing if you want to be the next Kelly Clarkson.
From all accounts, there is more talent in this contestant pool than in the previous one, which means the competition will be stiffer. Contestants need to find a way to stand out beyond just their singing. Here are some recommendations.
1) Have Some Singing Talent
Yes, I know I just got done saying that being a good singer is not enough, but first thing’s first. It is still the most important factor. You’ve obviously impressed the judges enough to get to this point, but now you have to impress the viewers – and you only have a few brief moments to do it. Make sure you practice, practice, practice.
2) Song Choice, Song Choice, Song Choice
How many times did we hear it in the first season? Song choice is absolutely key. Several contestants picked songs that they simply could not handle and ended up looking much worse than they really were. You’ve got to find a song within your range and abilities. Not everybody can belt out a song like Kelly, so you have to work with what you’ve got. If you try to stretch beyond your limits and fail, you will look much worse than if you had stuck to something you could handle. Compare it to ice skating – sure, everybody wants to do a quadruple jump, but it’s better to do the triple and succeed than fall while attempting the quad.
Another aspect of song choice is picking something the audience will enjoy. Have fun with it. Pick songs to get the audience on your side.
3) Be Different
There are likely going to be a ton of Kelly-wannabes. Don’t go in there trying to be the next Kelly. You have to be different. Nikki McKibbin was so different that she made it all the way to third place without the talent shown by many of those who fell before her. Several times over, the judges remarked upon her “unique” look (which was not really unique, but was different from the others on the show). From all accounts, Nikki didn’t have that “look” when she tried out for Popstars. She spent a few bucks on a tongue piercing and some hair dye and, voila! She now had a chance to stand out. But don’t become a Nikki clone either – find a different way to stand out while still being yourself.
4) Be Memorable
This might seem to be similar to being unique, but it has a different reasoning behind it. You need to be memorable so you will be known by the viewers. Now that we’re past the initial stages, it’s more difficult if you aren’t already mentioned on the first couple shows leading to the semi-final 30. But you can still grab attention with a good story, for example about your family or your childhood. If you have a back story, tell it. If you have a unique personality (see above), flaunt it. Chat up the hosts before and after your songs. Hell, chat up the judges! As with the unique look, being memorable alone isn’t going to get you into the Top 10 – you need talent as well. But there will be lots of people with talent, so you need to stand out from them.
5) No Karaoke!
How many times did we hear the term “karaoke” from the judges? They want to hear voices as good as Whitney’s. But they don’t want to hear Whitney – let alone your impersonation of her. You may be better off singing songs that viewers are familiar with (though Ryan Starr did a good job with her “Frim Fram Sauce” number), but you have to do it in a way that does not make it look like you are just imitating the original singer. It’s not easy to do – several times last season Simon seemed to contradict himself by criticizing somebody for trying to be a clone but then criticizing somebody else for essentially being too original – but if you don’t want to hear Simon call you a karaoke singer, you need to find a way to make it happen. That being said, don’t totally destroy a good song just to be original. Rodesia utterly ruined “Daydream Believer” and deservedly went nowhere.
6) No Matter What, Don’t Argue With Simon!
I cannot stress this enough. Simon can be nasty, he can be mean, and he’ll probably be even worse the second time around – but he’s usually right (though not always). He’s also a lot wittier than you are likely to be. I mean, Paula Abdul hired a comedy writer to try to hold her own with Simon and she still got whomped by him in verbal sparring pretty much every week. If he criticizes you, accept it and move on. If you argue with him, you will come off looking like an ass (and sometimes an egotistical one, at that). And when I say not to argue with him, this includes running back to the green room and trying to slam him to the hosts. For perfect examples of what not to do, look at Tenia and Alexandra from the second batch of ten in the final 30. They both came off looking silly, and neither made it any further. Of course, Kristin whined about Simon and ended up moving up to “correspondent” for this second season, but I would consider that to be the exception. And, after all, she didn’t make it to the final 10 on her show.
Do I really even need to remind people of what Justin did when he didn’t like what Simon had to say? He called on the audience and looked so egotistical that it affected votes against him for at least two weeks. Ryan, after an absolutely horrid performance of “You Really Got Me,” told Simon he just doesn’t like rock & roll. She was lucky to survive the week, though she was gone the next. Meanwhile, whenever Kelly or Tamyra had any criticism leveled at them (admittedly, it was rare), they nodded their heads and smiled as if eager to learn and do better. That is the way to accept criticism. From the reports I’ve seen of the initial tryouts, producers were actually a little annoyed that Simon’s slams were not getting the intended effect on the singers – too many of them simply thanked him for his professional opinion and left. While that might not make great TV, it does make it more likely that the person, once they get into at least the semi-finals, will move on. I would like to think I played some small role in that.
So, there you have it – the most important advice you will ever receive on your way to stardom. Well, okay, maybe almost the most important. Practice your singing, practice chatting with the hosts, and get ready to become the next American Idol! For some of the, er, less important (but more humorous) advice, check out What American Idol 2 Contestants Probably… Um… Don’t Really Need to Know.
Oh, and if you don’t make it this time, you can always buy the American Idol computer game and practice your moves that way.