Looking at it another way

OK, let’s look at this a little more seriously.

Yes, Fantasia is today a better singing entertainer than Diana.

Fantasia has a more mature voice. It sounds easier coming out of her. Diana sounds like she’s straining at times, and I always have a slightly nervous feeling when she’s singing that she could louse something up. (That might be because I’m rooting for her, though, and have something to lose if she does.) Diana also has a tendency to lose notes in the lower register, but so has just about everyone else on the show at times, including Fantasia.

Diana has that all-too-perky cute girl next door look going for her, despite a couple of poor costume choices. She gets a bad rap on the Jon Benet comparisons. She’s become a better singer in the course of the competition. She had momentum going into the final week. She can, indeed, hit the high notes and hold them. Say what you will about that, but it’s become an American Idol necessity. The audience reacts to it. They demand it. It surely didn’t hurt Jennifer and LaToya.

Fantasia screams too much. She warbles and riffs instead of singing. In the times when she can control that — “Greatest Love Of All” and the original “Summertime” — she sounds great. The rest of the time, though, she’s relying on her showmanship to overcome the simple basic fact that she’s not a great singer. She changes songs up to suit her not out of some amazing technical gift, but because the audience responds to that level of surface riffing, and probably because it just makes the song easier. (“yeah yeah yeah” is easier to finish than one long syllable held for just as long.)

But that’s popular music today. Look at how Cristina Aguilera, for example, can have a relatively beautiful voice and yet still screw up a tender ballad. That “Beautiful” song could be really good if she weren’t stomping all over it with her voice. I get dizzy listening to her voice warble on every other note. But if that’s the way popular music is today, and AMERICAN IDOL is a popularity contest for pop music, then Fantasia surely deserves to be the queen.

The problem is, I didn’t see the strong Fantasia that I like on the show last night. I saw more of the screecher. And I thought Diana did a far better job on the Idol song, singing it truer to the music. Some want to call that “soulless” and “unoriginal.” I don’t think it is. I think it’s actually more disciplined to work on hitting the notes on the sheet music than dancing all around it, avoiding it in the name of “personal style” and “taking risks.” You can reinterpret the song as a Mozart concerto next year, for all I care. Right now, I want to hear a version that goes along with the music. I don’t care if that means you dance around and spin in circles or not. Diana did it better last night.

There’s another thing: Both Fantasia and Diana have a tendency to lose their voice when they concentrate on dancing. I don’t know if it’s just because they’re not keeping the microphone steady, or because they lose their breath. But I saw it with both of them last night.

In the end, the entire debate over who is “better” and who “deserves” to win was trumped for me by the godawful treatment Diana received on the show last night. Never has there been a more concerted effort by the judges to make sure a certain person got voted for or against. (OK, maybe the week after Jennifer Hudson lost this year and Ryan scolded the audience.)

I know I can’t vote for LaToya anymore, just as many of you can’t vote for Jennifer or George or (heaven help us all) Leah and JPL. So it’s down to the last two. Yes, Fantasia’s voice is more ready to be recorded. It’ll hold up better and longer. And she can take a piece of crap song and make it something her dedicated fans will swoon over. We saw that with the first song last night. Blame it on the arrangement, if you like, but it was crap, pure and simple.

If I had my choice, I’d take Diana over Fantasia in an instant. She’s good enough to record right now, plus there’s a greater upside there. As she continues training and working at it, she’ll command the stage, the song, and the audience.

The only people on the show this year that I might buy CDs from would be La Toya London and John Stevens. Yes, John Stevens. I think with the pressure of a live audience off of him, some time in the recording studio, and a couple of computer tweaks, he could put out a pretty cool album.

After last night’s treatment, Diana’s CD might be up on my shelf next to those two. I want to see her overcome that crap. And good for her for not breaking down in the middle of it and for taking it like a champ. She certainly deserves better than that.


12 Responses to “Looking at it another way”

  1. leeroy
    26. May 2004 at 14:23

    obviously u just dont get it. If u think for one second that diana is going to get better when she gets a recording contract you are dead wrong. Although i am not a fan of hers i will give honor to whom honor is due, she can definately wail with those pipes that she has, i mean it is no question she can “carry a tune” but now what this competion is looking for, is an american idol. Why do you think diana and fantasia can sing the same song and you feel different hearing it come from each of them. i will tell you why because one talent is greater than the other, why should someone who still has to develop her craft be chosen over someone who already has hers developed and you argue with me that diana sang the song “i believe” better than fantasia then i wonder what you base your critiques on. i think fantasia should win to night why just because she is better and she deserves to. Diana has developed and she should continue to develop in 2 years she will be outstanding but now is not her time.

  2. John C.
    26. May 2004 at 16:31

    Random reactions:

    “Singing entertainer?” What’s wrong with “singer?”

    Diana HAS become better, but she still comes off as very plastic and manufactured, relying on one small bag of tricks to get her through EVERY song.

    “The simple basic fact that she’s not a great singer?” Fact seems a strong word; to my ear, she’s already an excellent singer. The riffs always seem to me to serve the song, and I’ve never found them as numerous or pervasive as you suggest here.

    The out-of-control melisma is actually what I like about Fantasia – she doesn’t do it. I guess I’m just not really hearing the “embellishments” you are.

    I’m not suggesting Diana improv the melody line, I’m suggesting she sing a song – any song – with at least some idea of what the lyric is about, and at least make some attempt at conveying that meaning to the audience. Fantasia’s heralded Summertime did just that; that’s what made it great.

    I’ll take pretty much any bet right now that Diana never evolves into much more than what she is now – an above average beauty contestant singer. See, belters are a dime a dozen. I’ve judged for the Paper Mill’s Rising Star contest and I’ve heard plenty of young women with the power Diana has – it’s simply not that special. To me the difference between hr and Fantasia is really pretty stark. Fantasia is an artist, Diana is not. Diana wants to sing because she loves the stage. Fantasia sings because she loves the song.

  3. Chad Anderson
    26. May 2004 at 16:39

    “I’m not suggesting Diana improv the melody line, I’m suggesting she sing a song – any song – with at least some idea of what the lyric is about, and at least make some attempt at conveying that meaning to the audience.”

    Excellent point. I think that was a problem for a lot of the contestants this year, and, call me crazy, but I think it’s the reason LaToya London got voted out. She’s got a GREAT voice, but I never felt like she truly connected with any song very well, though she certainly hit the notes. The only exception would be her performance of “All By Myself” early on in the competition. She obviously connected with that one, as the goosebumps on my skin when I watched it could attest.

  4. bluuzman
    26. May 2004 at 17:13

    Add me to the list of folks who don’t think Diana will go very far, unless she loses weight and gets a personality overhaul. And LaToya was lacking in personality at some stages of the competition, but that’s not why she got kicked out. Did Tamyra Gray fail to connect in Season 1?

  5. Jeremy
    26. May 2004 at 17:13

    Yes, Fantasia is today a better singing entertainer than Diana.

    But you still throw your vote to Diana? I’m confused.

    She’s good enough to record right now

    Since when is “good enough” the winning formula?

  6. Broc Heasley
    26. May 2004 at 18:27

    It’s too bad they rigged the voting and JPL left so early. He totally would have funky man’d it to a first place finish. I bet Fantastia’s glad she’s going up against Diana.

  7. Ron Phillips
    26. May 2004 at 23:07

    I remember not long ago, hearing Diana sing her first full song in front of the judges and the audience. I was blown away. Such power from this little and youngest contestant was amazing. While she did faulter some through-out the following weeks, as they all did, Diana grew. Because of her age and desire I think despite her loss tonight that she was a winner. She’ll continue to rise and improve, and I hope prove all you nay-sayers wrong.

    Fantasia won, but she’s already near her peak. She can go out and make lots of money for Simon with her Double Platinum record. I just hope that she gets some radio play. Reuben won last year and Clay got more air-time than him. That probably won’t happen this year, as we knew Clay was a winner, even if he wasn’t THE winner. Diana didn’t even get that much respect.

    That’s another year. We’ll see how it goes next season.

  8. avery patterson
    27. May 2004 at 00:52

    reading all the other comments,i disagree with the person that thinks that Diana Degarmo is a better singer than Fantasia.Let the record show,Fantasia was consistent throughout the entire competition. Some people say that she riffs too much and too many runs.The fact that she can do that makes her that better talent. There are many people out there can hit a high note and hold it but what are they going to do with that note once they take it up.Everybody cant do that and only the people that cant do the riffs and runs complain about it. i guess its too urban…Fantasia deserved to win the competition this year. Diana is good but she dont compare to Fantasia..They are on two different levels and are not to be compared. Thats like comparing Ashanti to Beyonce.. Come on….lets be real here..I understand that everyone does have there own opinion but there is a time where reality steps in..Lets keep it REAL!!

  9. John C.
    27. May 2004 at 09:44

    As a big musical theater fan, The ones that kill me the most are those rare Broadway songs. La Toya’s rendition of Somewhere speaks directly to Chad’s point. It completely missed the point and the emotinal center of the song. See, it’s a sad song, a mournful song. Sure, there’s hope in it, but the hope colors the mourning – not the other way around. It’s right there in the melody. And the arrangement, and LaToya, insisted on making it a generic, up-with-people song. Ugh.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – when will PBS get off its behind and do a Broadway Idol?

  10. teddy
    27. May 2004 at 12:49

    that would suck

  11. K
    28. May 2004 at 01:40

    Right on! I can’t stand Fantasia. All that warbling and “yeah yeah yeah” crap isn’t talent. I’d like to see her hit a high note or two and hold it.(NOT those long screeches she does instead below pitch). She’s different alright. Just because she’s different does not mean she’s more talented- it definately takes more talent to hit the right notes and sing a song the way it’s supposed to be sung than to sing it your “own” way in your annoying voice. I know plenty of people who can do that. People have just gotten so used to the crap on the radio these days, they forgot what talented musicians sound like.

  12. princess
    29. May 2004 at 00:23

    You act like you can go up on stage and sing just like Fantasia or even better. I can’t stand when people criticize Fantasia about how she sing. You say good things about Fantasia but you try to put Diana in a higher stage or level than her. Fantasia does not scream out her songs she just make it sound the way it would please her. You can’t talk if you have not been through what Fantasia has been through in her life as a single mother, making plenty of efforts. So stop trying to bring her down because you like Diana. Diana is in the position in which we all have heard it all before.