26 November 2006

Damien Leith wins Australian Idol!

Damianleith2I've always been a fan of talent shows and for that reason have always been annoyed by Australian Idol. The very premise of the program places 'star quality' ahead of talent as evidenced by the success of such mediocre singers as Shannon Noll (who I'm sure is a very nice chap).

And as the Dean Geyer roadshow rolled on, I feared that Australian Idol 2006 was going the same way. This young man certainly had the package—boyish good looks, sultry eyes, good physique. The trouble was, he was a pretty average singer. The voice was reasonable, but his singing was utterly devoid of emotion. There was nothing behind those eyes even when delivering the most passionate numbers. Yet a few flashes of his six-pack in popular magazines seemed to be enough to propel him towards stardom.

And then something amazing happened which renewed my faltering faith in the Australian public—the viewers voted pretty-boy Dean off the program in favour of the two genuinely talented contestants remaining, Jessica Mauboy, the slightly frumpy Indonesian/Aboriginal schoolgirl from the Northern Territory with the huge voice, deep musical insight and delightful smile and Damien Leith, the shy, buck-toothed Irishman with the soaring falsetto and even deeper musical insight.

And tonight it was Damien who went on, incredibly, to become Australian Idol. I say incredibly, because this unassuming family man really was the most talented person on the program, probably ever, and he is in many ways the antithesis of a superstar. He's average looking, slightly dorky and not exactly cool. And his performances are introspective affairs. He doesn't 'work' an audience so much as carry on an intimate private conversation with a song and invite the audience in. The end result is musicianship of the highest order.

I hang around with lots of classically trained singers (indeed, as the old engineering joke goes, I are one), and I can imagine that in the next few days I'll hear several people criticise Damien's rendering of Puccini's Nessun Dorma. And they'd be right, in part. I personally know a dozen people who could sing that aria better than Damien Leith (although he did it pretty well), but I can guarantee that none of them would be able to make music of Chris Isaak's Wicked Game or Radiohead's Creep. And therein lies Damien's special gift—he seems to have the knack of enabling people to see into the heart of a song, any sort of song, in a way that a pretty-boy with 'star quality' would probably be unable to do. I raise my hat to you, Damien, and wish you all the best. And when you become rich, I'd appreciate it if you paid me back for the 20 calls I made on your behalf to the voting line, but there's no hurry.

Jessica, too, will go far. For one so young she has genuine talent. I hope she stops trying to emulate Whitney Huston and Mariah Carey with their ridiculous warbling and vocal gymnastics, though. Sometimes a songwriter works very hard to select a particular note and the audience deserves to hear it rather than the 257 other notes that Mariah Carey chooses to put in its place.

And as for Dean Geyer, nothing I say will deprive him of success. And I do believe that as he matures he may well learn to sing with the emotion that will make that success deserved.Go to eebahgum!

1 comment:

ericasharlette said...

I haven't heard this Jessica girl, but if she's emulating Whitney and Mariah, then clearly she aspires to be a vocal legend, and more power to her.

Clearly she must have the good sense to know a little something about musical history, by learning from the greats of this generation, the way they did greats of the generations before them.

As those with intelligence will know, ir's only in recent times, as standards drop to barely existent that it's become "ridiculous" to show emotion when you sing. Course, that may equate with the increasing trend of the talentless ruling the charts.

But hey, what can I say, I'm not alone in the realisation that the days of GOOD MUSIC are numbered...