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March 31, 2010

Just Asking (American Idol edition)

Ummm, would it have been too much trouble for the esteemed judges of American Idol to mention the original Chaka Khan recording of "Through The Fire" after Siobhan Magnus attempted it last night?

Magnus obviously studied Khan's version, which is a technical tour de force of daredevil ad-libs and perfectly nailed upper-stratosphere high notes. (It should be noted that the tune, the second single from Khan's breakthrough I Feel For You album, was released in 1984, well before the advent of digital pitch correction.) The judges knew the song as well, and that knowledge inevitably factored into their reactions: Simon Cowell described her treatment of the demanding ballad as "manslaughter."

I'm not saying that Idol's mission should be educating its contestants (or its audience) about what singing is. But given the overall wretchedness of this year's field, a few breadcrumbs sure couldn't hurt. And Khan is exactly the kind of singer Magnus and other boot-wearing belters could use as a role model. Check out the way Khan handles the tumultuous climax of "Through The Fire": The tune seems to practically demand that the singer let loose, and yet Khan doesn't simply open the floodgates -- instead, she carves up the melody ten different awe-inspiring ways. She's as emotionally invested as Adam Lambert has ever been about any TV appearance, and somehow manages to convey this without shrieking or shouting. Instead, she sings. What a concept.

March 31, 2010 7:00 AM | | Comments (0)

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