March 29, 2012 at 9:58 AM ET
“American Idol” provides each of its finalists the opportunity to listen to and learn from experts every week. But that doesn’t mean that the contestants take advantage of it. Instead, many choose to ignore the fashion tips, song guidance and general notes from the mentors, guests and judges.
For some, like Phillip Phillips, going their own way has been the right move. Others (Heejun Han!) continue to risk the wrath of those in power by dismissing their opinions. But there doesn’t need to be confusion about which way to go. Here’s a quick reminder to the remaining singers about handling “suggestions,” helpful or otherwise.
It’s OK to ignore the feedback ...
1. ... because you know who you are as an artist.
Scotty McCreery was urged several times last season to sing something other than country songs. He smiled, nodded and kept singing country songs. He won. Hard to argue that he wasn’t smart to trust his talent.
Last week, Jimmy Iovine told Phillip to leave his guitar behind, and Tommy Hilfiger tried to give him a makeover. He nodded politely, ignored both suggestions and got nothing but praise for doing so. Elise Testone entered in a more precarious position and likewise was successful despite ignoring most of the advice she was given. When you know who you are and what you can do, trust yourself.
2. ... when it comes from Jimmy Iovine or the guest mentors.
Jimmy has been a very good addition to the show and provides a tiny dose of realism in a show that’s often all about the positive. But as far as his opinions go, he’s like the local official who is always overruled. He can make pronouncements, but the guys who count are the three judges on the appeals court named Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler. Don’t listen to Jimmy if it will put you in conflict with the big bosses.
Similarly, Tommy Hilfiger is on the show to sell product, not to make you a better singer. If his clothes are going to make you self-conscious onstage and sing worse, don’t listen to him. Now that Paula Abdul is gone, how many people really care how fashion-forward you look anyway? And did going with his suggestions do Erika Van Pelt any good?
3. ... when it’s the opposite of what they told you last week.
This perennially kills some of the younger singers. They’re so eager to please that they do whatever they’re told, which pulls them in a million different directions and leaves them without an identity. DeAndre Brackensick, we're talking to you here.
4. ... when the advice is dumb.
Pia Toscano was an early favorite last year. Then the judges mentioned that they’d like to see her sing something besides a ballad. She gave them what they wanted and sang “River Deep, Mountain High.” She got the boot.
Contestants have to keep in mind that sometimes the judges are being profound, and sometimes they’re talking to hear the sound of their own voices. Don’t get kicked off the show just because Randy felt the need to say something after five minutes of silence and you took him seriously.
It’s not OK to ignore the feedback ...
1. ... when you’re rude about it.
Look, it’s easy to get a big head because you’re on this hit show singing for millions of fans. You may think you know it all and that any criticism is merely a speed bump on the yellow brick road to stardom. In other words, you may look like Elise for the first couple of weeks of the finals.
But keep in mind that guys like Jimmy wouldn’t have given you the time of day six months ago, and now all these big shots are trying to help you out. Take the advice or don’t, but don’t act like you’re above it all.
2. ... when you waste their time.
It’s perfectly fine for Heejun to stick with his comedy/music act when its his turn to perform. That’s his persona. Besides, Taylor Hicks won by being an entertainer in season five, so there is some precedent for success here. But it’s not OK for him to blow off the mentoring sessions and turn them into his comic foil every week. All that does is make those people mad. Every now and then, every contestant needs to at least pretend to listen and feed the egos of those above them. Which leads us to ...
3. ... when it angers the judges.
It’s one thing to annoy the mentors. But getting the judges on your bad side is bad news. Plenty of viewers base their decisions on what that trio says. So for Heejun, it was smart to make nice with Steven on Wednesday. You don’t want him sniping at you from the stand. He can make your life miserable, and the sympathy votes only take you so far.
4. ... when it’s good advice
Randy, J.Lo, Steven, Jimmy and everyone else on the show may be there mostly because of casting. But as it's pointed out every week, the famouse faces all have been successful in the music business and know what it takes to reach the top. Shockingly enough, sometimes they know what they’re talking about.
In particular, listen to J.Lo. When she talks about engaging with the audience, she's got just a smidge of experience in putting those suggestions into practice for herself. And in general, taking the judges notes on small things makes them feel good about themselves. If they're feeling good, odds are favorable that they'll say things that make you feel good as well.
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