Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Believable or Karaoke?

I was watching American Idol last night. It was Lennon and McCartney song book night. Contestant Brooke White had just finished singing "Let It Be". With tears rolling down her cheeks, she approached the judges. Ryan Seacrest reached out to grab her hand. He said, "you're shaking aren't you?" She nodded and told him how much the song and the opportunity to sing it on the big stage that is American Idol meant to her. She quietly repeated the lyric, "Let it be. Let it be"

The crowd gave her a standing ovation. The judges loved her performance. Simon told her, "There's a difference between karaoke -- which we've seen tonight -- and making it believable. It was one of the best performances of the night." High praise from Simon and an interesting comparison.

Simon often refers to performances he doesn't like as "karaoke". I hadn't heard him use the comparative, "believable and not karaoke" before. I know the British to be quite literal and precise with language having spent lots of time in England the past few years. This caused me to consult the Wiktionary for the meaning of karaoke. Turns out the word is derived from two Japanese words, kara meaning empty and oke meaning orchestra. What a brilliant comparison.

So what made Brooke White's performance extraordinary, "believable" and "not karaoke". Certainly Brooke has talent. She can really sing. But all of this year's final 12 contestants have talent and can sing. What made this performance great was Brooke’s emotional connection to the song. "Let It Be" clearly resonated with Brooke somewhere deep in her soul. That's what made the difference in her performance.

There is a great truth here for radio personalities and artists or performers of any kind. If you don't have a strong emotional connection to what you create and present you're likely to be karaoke, an empty orchestra.

By the way, for your enjoyment and emotional connection, here are the lyrics to "Let It Be".

When I find myself in times of trouble, mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom, let it be.
And in my hour of darkness she is standing right in front of me,
speaking words of wisdom, let it be.

Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be.
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be.

And when the broken hearted people living in the world agree,
there will be an answer, let it be.
For though they may be parted there is still a chance that they will see, there will be an answer. let it be.

Let it be, let it be, .....

And when the night is cloudy, there is still a light, that shines on me,
shine until tomorrow, let it be.
I wake up to the sound of music, mother Mary comes to me,
speaking words of wisdom, let it be.

Let it be, let it be, ...

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