10 Superstars Who’d Fail On American Idol

American Idol Feature image

By Johnny Dwinell

What is your lane?

Do you really know?

Should it change? Are you sure?

Keith Urban on American Idol

I was inspired by Keith Urban after hearing his comment on American Idol last week. He said something to the effect of (and I’m paraphrasing), “If these people would just listen to our suggestions American Idol imageinstead of simply reacting to the failure they might learn something.” Wow, I see struggling writers and artists deal with failure like this all the time. They focus on how they feel about a particular rejection rather than HEARING the feedback. I know a lot of you reading this post are suffering and struggling simply because you are focusing on the wrong lane. Once you are in the lane you are supposed to be in, rejection feels like a matter of taste which is not a judgment on you personally, rather than a catastrophic bomb that ruins your self-esteem. A rejection feels like you made a ham sandwich and someone doesn’t like ham as opposed to that person not liking YOU. Then I got to thinking how much of a specific lane American Idol is. There are amazing singers and then there are amazing vocalists; there is a definite difference and AI requires amazing vocalists.

Just because you’re not an amazing vocalist doesn’t mean you can’t achieve your artistic dreams. Setting appropriate goals, defining YOUR lane, and staying in YOUR lane are the keys to achieving your dreams and avoiding the heartache of unnecessary rejections. Let me explain.

I made a living for the better part of 10 years in an 80’s hair-band called Kidd Gypsy. I remember American Idol Kidd Gypsy IMagealways wanting to be a guitar shredder but I never had the right-hand skills (no matter how hard I practiced) to pull it off; this left me incredibly frustrated; for years this pissed me off. Once I realized that tasty guitar solos was my lane instead of shredding guitar solos, I eliminated a huge amount stress that was completely pointless and preventable; I was trying to be in the wrong lane. I was NEVER going to win any vocal competitions either, man, but it sure didn’t stop me from being a great front man and a decent enough singer not to drive people out of the club, LOL. This, in turn, allowed me to make a living doing what I loved to do instead of being depressed all the time. Kelly is a vocal GOD; it’s true. If you go to our Artist Tracks page on the DDP site and listen, 99% of the BGVs are Kelly; he’s like a machine in the studio. I could NEVER pull that off. I KNEW my lane was never going to be in the vocal God category; I had to entertain, I had to find a different way to be an artist.

Get it?

Find your strong suit and work on that. Constantly improve your weaknesses to be more well-rounded, but make sure that you are not trying to make a career out of your weaknesses. All this will do is leave you discouraged.

This got me thinking about how many SUPERSTAR artists are not great vocalists. Here is a list of 10 Superstars who’d fail on American Idol. All these artists are famous, some of them are considered more artistically important than others, some of them are amazing business people, some of them are amazing entertainers, some of them are good singers, but not one of them is an amazing vocalist.

10 Superstars Who’d Fail On American Idol

  1. Mick Jagger – The Rolling Stones are certainly one of the longest lasting iconic bands in history (if not the most). Mick is a great front man, songwriter, business man (he kept the Stones rolling for the 20 years that Keith Richards checked out on heroin), and a sex symbol for sure. However, Mick wouldn’t be your first call to cut BGVs on a pop record.
  2. Bob Dylan – I think all would agree that Bob Dylan is one of the most important and influential songwriters of the 20th century. Listening to him talk can be as difficult as listening to him sing, LOL. Don’t get me wrong. I am a Dylan fan, but let’s face it, it was always about what he was saying not how he was singing. His lane was the writing. We are all drawn in by the message.
  3. David Lee Roth – Van Halen (not Van Hagar) is one of my very favorite bands. DLR is American Idol DLR Flying imagearguably the best front man on the planet. He really took the definition of “Rock Star” to a whole new level. I saw them live on the 1984 tour and he hardly sang! I didn’t care. I couldn’t take my eyes off him! He is a true star, extremely stylistic, and very compelling on and off the stage. However, we would never hire him to sing any demos, LOL
  4. Kenny Chesney – Kenny Chesney is currently one of the biggest stars on the planet; he has very cleverly carved a niche as the new “Jimmy Buffet” somehow. He will out work ALL of you put together and really understands how to be a star. (Just look at his old pictures when he first got signed. He was chubby, and now he’s extremely fit…do you have any idea how much work is required to maintain that?) If you really listen to all his songs, they focus on a very limited amount of notes because big melodies are NOT in his lane.
  5. Tim McGraw – I have several very close friends that work in the McGraw camp and I can tell you for certain Tim is extremely intelligent and a great businessman. They run a tight ship and the crew enjoys working for him. Tim has an uncanny understanding of his brand, of when and how to push that envelope. Tim is one of the few artists who will give all the songwriting credit to the songwriters as opposed to taking some credit and subsequent publishing revenue. If you really listen to the songs he chooses, they astonish with the lyrical content instead of big tricky melodies; they’re simple, honest, and good.
  6. Jennifer Lopez – J.Lo is a dancer, an actress, a television personality, perfumer, American Idol JLo Imagephilanthropist, fashion designer, producer, recording artist, and an incredible businesswoman, but singing is her weak suit to be sure. She was definitely fearless as she became the first Latina actress to make over 1 million dollars on a movie with Out of Sight. After she filmed Selena, she ventured into the music industry despite people close to her expressing their fears that she would ruin her growing reputation with an album. She didn’t let her mediocre vocal prowess get in the way of her 300 million dollar fortune. Ironically she would never get on American Idol as a contestant.
  7. Madonna – In 2013 Madonna’s net worth exceeded $650 million. She is a master at reinventing her music and her image. She is an amazing entertainer; in fact, her last tour grossed over $300 million dollars. I had a friend who engineered many of the Madonna records, I remember him saying that as amazing as she is, Madonna is the poster child for vocal mediocrity. I guess it didn’t stop her at all, huh?
  8. Taylor Swift – is an incredible songwriter, performer, and an extremely hard worker. She GETS IT! Taylor has amassed an incredible following largely due to the songs she co-wrote. She represented a lane that simply was not occupied in the country music market. Think about it, who was writing about, and singing to, teenagers in country music before her? NOBODY! Taylor, Scott Borchetta, and her team created a new lane that was unoccupied – genius! She is quickly becoming a master of the game with regards to television exposure; I think they bring one extra camera to every freaking award show just to ensure they get a million Taylor Swift reaction shots. Taylor accomplished all this, yet she simply isn’t going to win any awards for her vocal prowess. Here’s an example of a particularly bad Grammy performance with Stevie Nicks in 2010. Skip to 2:00 to see what I mean.
  9. Miley Cyrus – Miley got incredible exposure from the Disney show Hannah Montana. She started as an actress and turned that into a singer/songwriter career. Miley’s hard work has built up a $150 million net worth, but again, vocals are not her strong suit.
  10. Paula Abdul – I love Paula Abdul. She’s still just so sexy to me. She also started as a dancer American Idol Paula Abdul imageand choreographer. Then she turned that into a recording career. Paula can’t really sing, either, but she can follow well. In fact that is how they recorded Paula’s 1988 hit record Forever Your Girl. The producers brought in a pro singer named Yvette Marine who sang all the lead vocal parts as guide tracks. Then Paula came in and sang over Yvette’s vocals and they ditched the guide tracks. In fact Marine sued and lost to Abdul’s label, Virgin Records, claiming they left her vocal in the mix on a few parts.

 

 

So there it is. I’m sure you like some of these artists and I’m sure you detest some of them, but no one can deny that massive amounts of people find them absolutely fascinating. None of these artists let a lack of stellar vocal ability get in the way of their artistic endeavors. When I see contestants on American Idol melt down in the face of a “no” or, even worse, constructive criticism, I think they need to focus on singing better but also focus on being mesmerizing.

You don’t have to be the best singer to blow people’s minds.

What is your lane?

Do you really know?

Should it change? Are you sure?

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