Monday, October 01, 2012

Music Monday ~~ Talents On Show

As some posts in my archives attest, I'm a sucker for musical talent shows. Always have been, always will be. From Carroll Levis Discoveries way back in the 1950s in England, and Opportunity Knocks, New Faces, Search for a Star, Fame Academy - all the way up the genealogy of talent shows to Pop Idol, American Idol, The X Factor, Britain's/America's got Talent, The Voice, Nashville Star, Sing-Off......Over the years I've watched and enjoyed every one of them. Husband peeking over my shoulder called out "Major Bowes Amateur Hour, 1940s - Sinatra appeared on that show!"

Nowadays critics refer to such shows as "reality TV". I don't put them in the same category as Big Brother, Survivors, shows about hoarders, restaurant/garden/home/fashion make-overs, Honey Boo-boo (whatever that is) and the rest. Talent shows are different. Or to be absolutely accurate, they used to be different before manipulation of the audience crept in. It's sad, but it was inevitable. As long as they're watched bearing in mind that producers are pulling strings: heart-strings and purse strings, it's still possible to enjoy the shows....most of the time.

This year we're swamped with talent shows. Having noticed what a good, and profitable, audience draw they've become, more producers have jumped onto the talent-cum-money bandwagon. On that same bandwagon are established stars who fancy their chances as judges on the talent shows. Not a good development in my opinion. Attention is now skewed away from the contestants on to "celeb" judges who, in most cases are there only to further their own careers, not potential careers of contestants.

It'd be preferable for talent show judges to come from the "back-room": record producers, voice/stage performance coaches and suchlike. That's not likely to happen. Next best thing is to engage as judges well-known characters from outside the music industry who can at least speak well off-the-cuff, think on their feet, form opinions quickly. There are too few such judges on talent shows at present. In spite of my husband's early warnings about Howard Stern's appointment as judge on this year's America's Got Talent, he turned out to be excellent in the role. Every panel should have at least one such character.
Much as I loved Steven Tyler, his powers of assessment and ability to put them into words during his 2-year stint on Idol should have been better - in fact could hardly have been worse after the first few audition shows. Perhaps producers gagged his distinctly raunchy style and he clammed up? New to the judging panel of The X-Factor this season are Britney Spears and Demi Lovato. It'll be interesting to watch how they shape up comment-wise.

It remains to be discovered, early in 2013 how American Idol's 3/4 new voting panel will work out: long-standing judge Randy Jackson will be joined by Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj and Keith Urban (appealing, in theory, respectively to: the over 30s, the under 30s and the country music lovers).

Each panel needs "a clown" - someone who attempts to inject humour into the occasion. Idol tried out Ellen DeGeneres for a season but it wasn't a success. The Voice has Blake Shelton, a likeable country singer who tries hard to have fun with the show, Howie Mandel does likewise on America's Got Talent. X-Factor and Idol might benefit from an injection of humour, judge-wise.

Hosts/Presenters? A job that looks easy but I'd bet it isn't easy at all. Top marks go to Idol's Ryan Seacrest; close second: The Voice's Carson Daly; runner up Nick Cannon (AGT). Others shall remain nameless because, to put it bluntly, they suck.

I'm amazed that all the shows are still able to find sufficient amateur talent to go around. In fact, I'm noticing more and more that some - a good proportion - of the contestants are already semi-professional. I have a suspicion that some have actually been head-hunted by scouts working for the shows. I'd prefer it if this wasn't so, but understand that completely untapped talent is fairly rare these days, and in many cases fairly raw, not yet ready for prime-time. Still, I miss the excitement of the discovery of a brand new singer, never heard before by anyone, anywhere. If one such individual does emerge, very occasionally, their nerves frequently get the better of them, they fail to progress further against more seasoned stage-ready performers.

A few names, not necessarily winners, from talent shows of the recent and not-so-recent past have managed to lodge themselves in my memory:

From long ago, in the UK, Darius Danesh aka Darius Campbell
who seems to have carved out a solid career in the music business. I've mentioned him, and his natal chart, before on these pages - SEE HERE.

Adam Lambert from American Idol, 2009 - follow links in the Label Cloud, to my old posts, for more about him. Adam has toured the USA and abroad, sung in concert with Queen, and in my opinion he hasn't yet quite hit the right spot or genre to reach superstar status.....but he will!

I'm not a big fan of female singers, but have to mention Carrie Underwood, American Idol's gift to country music, and arguably their most successful find so far. Haley Reinhart and her updated jazzy style impressed on last year's Idol.

Josh Krajcik from last year's US X-Factor - I was, and remain a fan, eagerly awaiting release of his first album.

Prince Poppycock from America's Got Talent a couple of years ago; and from the same show this year Andrew DeLeon (true raw untapped talent, and though he didn't go very far - he will, I think, in the future).

There have been several stand-out contestants from the new season's crop of shows among those episodes we've managed to catch so far, but as yet actual names have not registered....that takes time, and seeing several performances. Here's one whose name I did remember, right away: Willie Jones:

The beat of their talent goes on.....and my foot will always be tapping along.


Wisewebwoman said...

As you know I don't have tv but I've always thought there has to be a fair amount of manipulation on these shows, the mock-shock at a good voice, the voting, etc.

And has this format now reached saturation point?


Twilight said...

Wisewebwoman ~ Yes, manipulation has become more obvious during the past few seasons - maybe it was always there, but better hidden.

Saturation point has been reached this year I think. Even I, keen as I am on such shows, can't retain my level of enthusiasm for so many variations on the same theme - at present two similar shows are running concurrently, it's much too much of a good thing: The Voice and The X-Factor. :-)