Monday, March 28, 2005

The end of life as we know it

The Sunday New York Times has a long article about how American Idol is ruining Broadway. There is a comparison between Ethel Merman (good) and Sarah Brightman (bad). Give me a break. American Idol does not in fact stand anywhere between Ethel Merman and Sarah Brightman. What does? Search deep down into your knowledge base.


The difference between Broadway singers of today and yesterday is that today’s are miked. So are the singers on Idol, but they can hardly be blamed for this. Ethel was on her own. Her fame rested on the fact that no one in the back rows had any trouble hearing her entirely without a microphone. Opera is still not miked, praise god.

Sarah Brightman is one of the worst offenders. A substantial percentage of performers in shows wear body mikes that don’t show, like Bill Clinton giving a speech. Sarah Brightman uses the Madonna configuration with a mike right in front of her mouth. Like she can’t project her tone any further than that. I confess to not ever having had any interest in Sarah Brightman. Her voice is an annoying whine.

So I agree with the conclusion—yesterday was better than today, singers used to have a lot more character than they do now—but I disagree about the cause. Frenchie Davis is a lot closer to the singers of old than Brightman, in my opinion.

Idol is just a publicity machine.

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