Simon Cowell: “After the last song. a lame choice, I had
written you out of the competition,
THAT, however, has all changed after that performance.”
American Idol – meanspeed tempo map – KRIS ALLEN – Heartless – expected average speed=91.8 beats per minute – speed of enthusiasm 1
The three other American Idol® from Fox® had to say, in part:
Judge Jackson: “check it out: this is going to be
one of the toughest voting
nights of the year! I like that version better than the Frays’
version – better than Kanye’s version!
That for me was better than the original!”
You are in it to win it! Duuude, I love it I LOVE it!”
Judge Kara DioGuardi: ”bold, brave, fearless! The tone! The pitch! The phrasing!”
Judge Abdul: …” bravest because a song about
Simon Cowell, and it shows
how good you are because you are different.”
American Idol eschewed speak of tempo, pacing, groove or rhythm on the final three show. Here, I discuss Kris’ performance of HEARTLESS and the tempo he used playing his guitar solo on stage using the best musical instrument God ever made: the human voice. The is a singing competition to be sure. Within the skill, though, of just being a “great singer,” if, as is suggested in the Japanese art of war, one becomes a master of tempo, during a fight – which is what singing can feel like especially in this self-described singing Competition – IN ORDER THAT one not be caught up in thinking about tempo during a fight, a contestant need not waste time on CONCENTRATING on tempo. What made Kris Allen so great, in my opinion, in Heartless, only in regard to tempo was that he maintained an inviting, rocking, danceable infectious groove by not having to think about tempo. As you can see by the graphics above, almost every measure is between 89-92 beats per minute, an almost indistinguishable range. Moreover, there is no pattern as one might imagine, as I might imagine had I not spent so much of the last 21 years (embarrassing, I know) measuring songs in 4/4 time in this speed range with Japanese quartz digital equipment by SEIKO®, of acceleration or deceleration among “chorus” and “verse.” Lastly, lest one think ‘well, on a simple drum machine, he could simply set, Apple® Garage Band® on 91.8 beats per minute and simply asked the band leader/conductor of the fantastically great backup band that night – ‘I want to sing the song at a clean 91.8 throughout. Can you do me a favor and play off a 91.8 click?’ – and if anything, not only would the the band leader be unaffected by not being asked to Interpret as You Will, rather, he or she would be relieved that the band could rehearse at that same tempo for a couple of days and leave nothing to chance on Tuesday night, nor leave her or himself open to criticism of conducting the band poorly, especially in regard to speed/tempo choice. The catch is: unless one has the familiarity of playing with a metronome, tempo becomes a factor in the way the Japanese warriors warned: Kris or you next year can get literally caught up in staying on a relentless tempo, which is as easy as walking on a treadmill or if you like “golf tempo® theory,” driving off the fairway onto the green off the tee. Thing is: anyone who has put in a moderate amount of cardio-time on a treadmill has had that experience, well, maybe it was just me: falling off. Maybe I’m the only one who has literally whiffed on simple drives from the green for fear of swinging too hard into the dirt. But the point is this: a treadmill is relentless and unforgiving, and no, the ground on a cold day on the golf course does not give way as you swing your 5-iron into the ground. Thick wet grass is what the fairway feels like when you are an expert golfer. To a guy as myself that can golf as well as Henry Kissinger was a weather reporter on ABC®’s Good Morning America® as he temporarily replaced the beloved Spencer Christian. It is easy, in fact, so easy that when you miss it is an ugly, usually fatal miss.
In the ideal you want a performance where one cannot tell whether or not there is a steady metronomic backup. On American Idol®, which derives much of its popularity from being a live show, as the arrogant Brooke White (I purchased her album through iTunes, and it is evident to me that her laziness in not learning to play on time killed her chances not only to be the next American Idol – but killed her chances to make living as a musician. THAT is what separates Brooke from that of a Clay Aiken, Adam Lambert or Kelly Clarkson, all three of whom are amazing on a metronome, they are amazing *without* a metronome: but, to steal a phrase from ANNIE, bet your bottom dollar that Aiken, Lambert and Clarkson are friends with that relentless click to the point that, as the great Japanese warriors, when they perform they don’t have to think about or get unduly crossed up in counting or keeping time. Were they born with the talent? Sure – we all are. The diference is that these professionals learned to befriend the click. During live performances, an audience ought not to be any more aware of “click or live?” than “is the microphone even on?” Do you doubt me? Listen to U2 before Brian Eno and after Eno showed them they needed to learn to play on time. Listen to the Dave Matthews Band before producer Steve Lillywhite showed them the exact same thing. Look at the career of Phil Collins before he – a DRUMMER (!) made friends with the click track, whereas before: “Ballad Of Big” / after “In the Air Tonight.” This season’s Idol is especially interesting in that manner in that both Lambert and Allen can play on their own using relative tempo. Why? Because they are both adequately excellent *musicians* in general, and both have enough experience and vocal talent and *tempo familiarity* that, well, I haven no idea what will happen. My guess is the consensus guess: it depends on song choice, as these are men of such talent in the uniqueness of their expression, as both Judges Abdul and DioGuardi highlight, that it may be that a tempo “largo” ballad or tempo “presto” Broadway song as the ORIGINAL would favor Adam Lambert, while tempo “moderato” would favor Kris Allen.
/ias/meanspeed®-matherton experimental May 14, 2009/revised and extended May 17, 2009 and June 11, 2009 “tempo is to music what the weather report is to the news.”