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Entries for the 'American Idol Savvy' Category

American Idol Savvy: Knowing Who You Are

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

Idol“You don’t know who you are as an artist.” “You’ve lost your way.”

Criticism, advice and other forms of feedback are received differently by those who “know who they are” and those who don’t.

I’m not referring to those who blow off all feedback in order to prove that they are their own best judge. People who don’t listen to feedback are insecure fools merely masquerading as the confident and accomplished.

Each Idol contestant receives a variety of feedback each week. Criticisms about what didn’t work. Suggestions for improvement. Challenges to stretch or try something new.

Those who “don’t know who they are” put on the advice like trying on a new costume or mask. As a result their next performances don’t work either. You can tell the “costume” doesn’t fit, and that they clearly are not comfortable wearing it.

Those who are more comfortable with who they are receive the advice and make it their own. In order to listen carefully these contestants don’t need to adopt indiscriminately.

It’s the difference between squeezing into a mold, which assumes the mold is the standard and you are what doesn’t quite fit until you incorporate all the given advice, on the one hand. And enhancing your appearance with some make-up and fashion accessories, which assumes that you are the standard and the advice will help you become an even better you, on the other hand.

How do you receive advice from your elders, mentors, supervisors and others who have words of wisdom they wish to give you? Do you tend toward the extremes: either rejecting all input or conforming to all input?

How might you listen more carefully without needing to adopt indiscriminately?

American Idol Savvy: Coaching From The Sidelines

Friday, March 26th, 2010

IdolThey are known as the judges. Much of the time they evaluate as judges. More and more, though, Simon, Randy, Kara and Ellen are coaching the young singing contestants.

Judge or coach. Or does it matter?

Both roles provide good entertainment, which is what the show is about. (See our discussion last week.)

But as coaching goes, they leave much to be desired. Their primary context for giving constructive feedback is once a week during the show itself. In other words, they are coaching from quite a distance.

It’s the difference between a soccer coach taking a player aside in order to talk over his or her performance one-on-one, and yelling feedback from the sidelines during the game.

It’s difficult to understand the long distance coaching in the midst of an intense game. The player’s focus needs to be on the game more than the coaching. The coaching tends to be extremely context-specific; that is, related to the particular moment, decision or action. Such advice can be difficult to integrate into one’s overall improvement strategy.

Hence the confusion many contestants express about the seemingly contradictory advice they are receiving. They are thinking in terms of their overall strategy. (The big picture.) The judges are commenting on a specific performance. (A much smaller picture.) The two pictures relate intimately, but it can be confusing for a young contestant to sort how how.

What about your coaching? How do you help people integrate context-specific feedback into their overall improvement strategy? Or do you?

- Karl

American Idol Savvy: An Entertainment Bias… Of Course

Friday, March 19th, 2010

IdolSure, American Idol is a singing competition.

Yes, America gets to vote, and we have no reason to believe the votes aren’t tabulated with integrity.

But, American Idol is entertainment as well. And the judges are there to ensure that we don’t lose any of the entertaining contestants too early in the contest.

Note the different treatment of Casey James and Lee Dewyze.

Lee, with an admittedly amazing voice, gets criticized every week for being too nervous/self-conscious on stage.

Casey, with an average voice, is just as nervous/self-conscious when he sings, but never has this fact mentioned to him.

Of course, I would assert, Lee will stay in the competition based on his vocals. There is room to criticize him without undue concern about him getting voted off. Casey, though, has only his good looks at this stage going for him. So the judges give him a free ride on his lack of star persona so that he doesn’t leave the competition early.

Why else revisit the Kara-as-cougar attraction thing week after week after week? Because Casey is weak on vocals but good for entertainment.

The show ultimately is about attracting viewers. About money. Don’t ever forget the primary purpose. And the producers are not.

What about you? Are you keeping your eye on your primary purpose? Is it the bottom line? Upholding a particular value? Achieving a certain level of notoriety?

Take a lesson from the entertainment specialists. Even a singing competition must remain good entertainment to bring in the viewers. The judges will make sure of that. Even if they have to bias their feedback to attain it.

American Idol Savvy: Underwhelming Final Performance Means…

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

Idol…we’re in for one serious popularity contest.

While both Kris and Adam truly impressed with their initial performances of the night, they both underwhelmed with the subsequent two.

And while there is always a significant popularity component in any contest, with singing removed as the primary distinguishing factor in this singing competition, all that remains to determine this year’s winner is fan loyalty.

Who inspired their fans to get on the phone and stay on the phone?

While their personal and professional styles couldn’t be more (more…)

American Idol Savvy: When Saying Less is More

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

IdolKris Allen and Danny Gokey are a contrast in verbal styles.

Need we point out how few words Kris seems to need in order to say what he wants compared to how many words Danny needs?

The judges may rail on about Kris needing to do more of this or less of that, and he simply takes it in and offers a brief word of thanks. Danny, on the other hand, gushes on and on about why he made the choices he did, explaining where no explanation was requested, and inadvertently reinforcing any negative comments from the judges by repeating them in his eagerness to acknowledge them.

Two different approaches, two distinct styles, both communicating a certain amount of humility, yet one far more effective than the other.

Kris stands calm and unflappable, which communicates that he is comfortable in his own skin knowing that he has done what he can. Danny prattles on with nervous energy, which communicates that he needs to be understood in order to feel like he has done what he can. Kris gets his validation from within himself. Danny from outside himself.

How do you respond to criticism? Can you receive it calmly, learn from what has value and discard what has no merit? Or do you need to explain yourself until you feel the other person understands your position?

Both are expressions of humility. One is more effective than the other. Sometimes saying less is more.

American Idol Savvy: My Daughter LOVES Kris Allen

Friday, May 1st, 2009

IdolIt’s a battle for genuine cuteness.

Yes, it’s a singing competition… on the one hand. But on the other, it’s not merely good vocals that inspire viewers to get on the phone and press ‘redial’ repeatedly.

My teenage daughter loves Kris Allen. It’s an attraction that extends beyond his vocal capabilities. Far beyond!! I know I’m pointing out the obvious. What’s interesting to me is how little attention the Idol contestants themselves pay to this “attraction” factor.

There are many aspects of one’s appearance, personality, poise, sense of humor, and personal story that makes them more or less attractive to others. Anoop never came to terms with the simple reality that as infectious and endearing as he was when he smiled, he was a turn-off with his grim-faced nervous scowl while waiting for the results.

Kris Allen is trying to hold himself more confidently (Thank you, Simon, for that two-edged sword of a gift.) In my house we’re torn as to whether he’s starting to come across as merely arrogant and losing some of his original charm.

In all relationships we control only how we choose to show up. We do not control how others perceive us. Effective showmanship, leadership and communication use awareness of the second to inform the first.

Naivety about the importance of others’ perceptions blinds us to the extremely wide array of options available to us for maximizing our approach, our style, our word choice, our manner, etc.

What do you know about how others perceive you?

American Idol Savvy: Content Loses to Commercials

Friday, April 17th, 2009

IdolInteresting decision, isn’t it?!

The judges are giving feedback in pairs in order to save time.

It’s an interesting decision because there are still as many commercial breaks.

In other words, to solve the problem of the show exceeding its time slot, the producers cut back on the content instead of the commercials.

Is it pure greed?

The biggest implication is that not every contestant is at risk of experiencing Simon’s withering critique. (Or his highly coveted praise, as was the case with Kris Allen, whose feedback time this week was dominated by Randy’s negative comments.)

Here’s the rub. The content that has become so valuable as to attract top advertising dollar is being compromised, which in turn risks reducing its advertising value.

Obviously the producers are supremely confident that nothing they do will lose a single viewer, which may be true. But I’m disappointed nonetheless. I want each contestant to hear from each judge. It’s more fair. It’s better entertainment.

I already get up and complete a week’s worth of chores during the marathon commercial breaks, so I can’t protest by boycotting the commercials.

I guess I’ll just have to redirect my frustration toward my campaign to replace Ryan Seacrest as the show’s host.

American Idol Savvy: Advantage to the Amateurs?

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

IdolMaybe I’m a softy for the rags-to-riches or the going from complete unknown to pop superstar drama.

To say it the other way around, there’s something about an amateur competition that provokes resentment when I discover what polished professionals some of the contestants are.

Granted Adam Lambert and Alison Iraheta are amazing vocalists. But the fact that Adam has sung professionally for some time now, and that Alison has won a major singing competition previously takes something out of it for me.

Let’s just say they don’t get any votes from me no matter how well they perform.

Unfair? Or is it appropriate in an amateur competition that there be a bias toward the true amateurs?

American Idol Savvy: From Zero to Hero

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

IdolThere’s something to say for sheer determination.

Determination to stay in the game. Determination to play at the top of one’s game.

How close to being eliminated has Anoop Desai come over the last several weeks? He didn’t get the votes to make the top 9 chosen by the viewers. He was the last wild card contestant announced and surprise 13th overall. His first performance was panned by the judges, and the producers chose to him to stand with Jorge as the next most likely to be voted off.

Enough to shake the confidence of the best of us. Not Anoop.

He worked even harder. His energy and determination levels grew. He pulled together everything he had to violate one of the judges’ most sacred rules, “Don’t take on a haloed classic.” And he pulled it off to their astonished admiration.

There’s something to say for sticking with something we love. Something we want. Something we’ve worked hard for. That others are doing better, getting more attention, experiencing more success cannot be the criteria by which we measure our own success.

Until Anoop is voted off the show, he is very much still on the show and in the running… no matter what the odds… no matter how well the other contestants are singing… no matters what the pundits think. (Who would have believed Taylor Hicks had a chance?)

Going from zero to hero involves not giving up on yourself. Are you pulling out of the game when you need to be adjusting your strategy and pushing harder? Are you disqualifying yourself by letting discouragement, long odds, or criticism from the sidelines drag you down?

You know you’re good. You know you have a lot to offer.

What do you do to up your game, bolster your confidence, or push from a different direction? What do you need to go from zero to hero?

On your side,

- Karl

American Idol Savvy: Cut and Paste Feedback

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

IdolIt’s not uncommon for the judges to give what seems like contradictory feedback.

“Don’t mess with the melody” and “Put your own twist on the melody.” “That song was too big for you” and “You played it safe and didn’t stretch yourself.”

The contestants get frustrated, “But you told me last week…”

While I feel some of the judges’ feedback is confusing and contradictory, the contestants’ real problem is their own “cut and paste” response to the feedback.

It’s as if their only goal for the next performance is responding to the judges’ most recent criticism. I call this approach, “cut and paste,” because it (more…)