Vocally Speaking - American Idol's Requirements: Make This Song (Cover Tune No Doubts...) Your Own! Or Guess What?

Really... Guess what? Who ever told the contestants how to make the well known tune their own? And what, in any case, did the judges mean by that? I guess it's still somewhat a riddle to the participants and to the audience, for that matter.

Watching American Idol for the last 9 seasons (not to mention Canadian Idol for at least 7 seasons) I couldn't help but notice that those young kids and even more mature adults, are stuggling to turn and twist the well known cover tune into something which is hardly recognizable, as the melody has often been changed, the vocal licks were inserted all over the place (most of the time not corresponding with the style) and that made it just unlistenable and simply left a bad taste in the listener's mouth. My husband and I are big fans of 50s and 60s music and therefore we're very familiar with the songs of that era. Occasionally, while both of us were watching pre-final stages performances (where these types of songs were required to be covered) of the carefully selected participants, we sometimes could not recognize the song until the chorus or even until the very end.

Being for many years a vocal producer in the studio, I have to admit that many times I had to figure out how to convey the originality on a well known cover tune. Lately, I'm recording a lot of them, as I'm scouting the talents for a very well known and prominent UK management. From female artists, they're not requiring the original tunes, they're requiring to hear their voices, performance, interpretation and originality on the cover tunes. However, we cannot record copying the original artist to the T, as for example, there is already one Beyonce and already one Lady Gaga in existence, why would they need the second double bodies? The answer is they won't, they would need a strong singer like them, with the similar vocal and performance quality and yes, originality and interpretation on any given tune (original or not). So, my aim as a vocal producer is to pull out from my performer the same or better quality of voice as of the original artist's performance, but with their own twist and take on the tune. That's what I call "to make the song your own".

I wish judges and mentors of those vocal competitions like American Idol would make it more clear to their contestants and moreover, would mentor them and advise them how to arrive there. Evidently, they do not, at least not just yet. On that note, if they did, I am pretty sure we would have more sound and more original artists on our Earth's roster.


  1. Great article, I totally agree with your thoughts on this.


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