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Idol Chit-Chat
This is your place to discuss all things "American Idol." The performances, the judges, the past contestants — it’s all right here.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

My Own Little "Idol" Adventure

Thursday night, I promised to tell you why I missed Thursday’s results show. It was because I was on my own little Idol adventure…

Earlier this month, I decided to audition for Portsmouth Idol. It’s a contest sponsored by the Southern Ohio Light Opera to find the best singer in the Portsmouth area. Anyone age 17 and up can participate.

I love to sing, but outside of one friend’s wedding, I haven’t performed anywhere (minus a few karaoke performances) in almost 10 years. So I had no intention of actually making it anywhere. I just thought that the audition experience would give me some more insight into what it’s like to choose a song and audition for judges. I’ve been critiquing “Idol” performances and song choices for over four years, so I figured it was time to put my money where my mouth was and see what I could do.

Step one was to choose a song. I knew I’d only get out a snippet so I had to find something that would show off my voice and personality in a limited amount of time. My immediate thought was to choose a song by Annie Lennox. I had always said that my “Idol” audition song would be “Waiting in Vain,” but I thought it might be too blah for an initial audition. So as I was thinking about other Annie Lennox songs, I remembered “Little Bird.” One time singing it through and I realized it was the one.

But the night before the auditions, I started to doubt myself. Should I go with a ballad? I’m a huge fan of Tiffany’s “All This Time” and I knew I could do it well. But would that be too much like everyone else? I was sure that ballads—especially country ballads—would be the popular choice among the female singers and I knew if I had any chance I needed to stand out. But the morning of the auditions, I still hadn’t made my choice (which I had to write down on my entry form). So I sang them both through once and realized my first instinct was correct and wrote down “Little Bird” and got in the car.

When I got to the Vern Riffe Center I nearly backed out on the spot. As I looked around the room, I noticed that I was the oldest girl in the room. But I’d gone this far so I figured I’d stick around. I hadn’t told anyone what I was doing, but I needed a little confidence boost, so I texted my hero Denise who coached me through the waiting.

The plus for me was that I knew three out of the four judges so I was able to chat with them first before I sang my song, which loosened me up. “Little Bird” is a good song, but hitting that first note can be a little tough—especially since I hadn’t opened my mouth in about 20 minutes. But I let her rip and as I watched the judges’ reactions, one thought flew into my mind: “Uh-oh. This is going well. Now what?” When I finished my verse and chorus, the judges were very positive. I hadn’t allowed myself to look past my audition, but I was thinking that I would go with “All This Time” if I made it to the finals. But the judges told me that if I made it through—which now seemed to be a foregone conclusion—that I should go with a song like “Little Bird” since there were going to be a lot of country songs this year.

Sure enough, I made the finals, so I set out to make “Little Bird” performance ready. But there were two problems. First, the performance could only be three minutes long, but unlike “American Idol,” there’s no band to do the arrangement with so I’d have to do it myself. And second, if you’re familiar with the song, you know it has several rather odd elements that wouldn’t translate well on the stage. So I ordered some music editing software and saw what I could do.

After spending an afternoon editing a karaoke track down, the doubts sunk in. In order to make it sound correctly, I was forced to sing the bridge of the song—my weakest part—twice. And in the midst of a lot of country, I wasn’t sure how the song would translate. But at this point it was too late now and I turned in the track.

To keep myself from going crazy or from losing my voice, I didn’t rehearse the song for almost two weeks. Finally, I pulled the CD out and gave it a whirl—and was instantly filled with regret. The song seemed so much higher than it did through my computer (I don’t think it was, it just seemed that way). And the bridge was giving me fits. But it was WAY too late now so I just hoped for the best.

Finally, Thursday night, the first rehearsal came and I was looking forward to hearing what the track would sound like through the Vern Riffe Center sound system. But after a random drawing, I ended up being 11th on the program—third to last. And before I got my chance at the stage, I had to sit through 10 other people—only one other of which was not country. In fact, three of them were singing Carrie Underwood songs (There were four total.). I also had to sit through all of the other contestants talking about all of the other contests and performances they had been a part of. It became pretty clear pretty quickly that I was the least experienced person there.

Honestly, I don’t know how the “Idol” contestants do it every week in these early rounds as they are forced to stand on the railing and listen to every performance. Because when I got up to the mike, it was all I could do to remember what I was singing. Plus, it’s hard not to size up the competition as they go through their songs. My music started and I opened my mouth and I could hear every wrong note I hit—and there were several. It was hard not to think about what all the other finalists were thinking. Were they all wondering what I was doing there? Were they all now seeing just how inexperienced I was? And that just made the nerves worse. By the end of my song, I was clutching the microphone stand with everything I had. Not only was I doubting my song choice, I was doubting why I was even there. My grand experiment to gain insight into the audition experience was going horribly awry.

When I got home I rehearsed the song again and it still was not quite right. I was starting to get very concerned about my performance the next night. But when I woke up the next morning, I decided to take a different attitude. Based on my rehearsal the night before and the other finalists, there was no way I was going to make the top five. So I needed to stop caring about what everyone else thought and just go out there and sing my song. Maybe it was the wrong choice, maybe it wasn’t. But I had to own it no matter what.

Friday night, I took my new attitude to the stage. And I have to admit I was much less nervous than I was at rehearsal. My legs felt like jello and I still think I missed one or two notes, but I made it through and I never touched the microphone stand once. When I left the stage Thursday night, my fellow finalists told me I sounded good, but I know they were just being nice. Friday night, I think they actually meant it. One of them even said to me, “Did you loosen up out there? I noticed you didn’t clutch the mic stand tonight.”

I didn’t win or even make the top five (my crowd just wasn’t big enough), but I made it through and that was my goal. And in the process, I received one of the greatest compliments I’ve ever received. Someone told me that I scared them how much I sounded like Annie Lennox. I know Simon Cowell would say that you need to be original and not a sound-a-like. But if the person I sound like is Annie Lennox, who needs originality…

The other good news is that the right guy won in my opinion. In fact, I predicted his victory at rehearsal. On Friday, I told my friends that if he could get his nerves together he had it locked up. And you guys know I love it when I’m right. So congratulations Jason Raby. You deserved it…

I’d love to show you guys pictures or even video, but I forgot to make sure Team Angela had a camera. So there is no photographic evidence that I even did this. You’ll just have to take my word for it.

It was a great experience and I met some really nice people. But I think I’m officially retired from competition. I think I have sufficiently researched the audition experience…