American Idol’s unintended effect on the public is felt at nearly every performance, according to up-and-coming Los Angeles-based singer Jules Day.
“There are at least a few people at every gig that insist on trying to mold me into an American Idol-type singer with their after-the-show suggestions. They feel they’ve been given the green light now to be Simon Cowell. I do appreciate their good intent, but I’m not that type of singer. I don’t belt out or sing power ballads—I consider myself a subtle, sultry-type singer,” Day explains.
It’s nearly midnight in Hollywood and the 25 year old singer takes a moment to relax in the green room after a 75 minute performance of her own songs. The subject seems to have energized her again after a long day.
“None of the singers I grew up admiring would get past the first round of American Idol auditions—not Billie Holiday, Norah Jones, Sade, Madeleine Peyroux, Julie London, etc. The singers on American Idol are talented, but that’s just one style of singing and it’s custom-made for a televised competition. I hope to steer my career toward being a recording artist with longevity,” says Day. “By the suggestions I get, sometimes I worry that the public is being conditioned to think that sheer volume or excessive vocal acrobatics alone is great singing, but I’d like to believe the public still wants various singing styles in their personal music collections.”
Day may have a point. American Idol alumni have sold a combined 42 million albums to-date, while Norah Jones—alone—has sold nearly as much—about 37 million albums. With the exception of just a few of American Idol’s alumni, subsequent albums have experienced a dramatic drop in sales. Artist longevity has not been a strong point of the show.
Although Day is a singer/songwriter in the truest sense and co-writes all her album’s songs—an elective mix ranging from pop to bossa nova—it’s her jazz and blues influences that tend to draw the label of “vocalist,” inviting comparisons to American Idol contestants. “Singer/songwriters don’t have the expectation of performing in an over-the-top fashion of an American Idol contestant, and even though I consider myself a singer/songwriter, some people have actually suggested that I dance around while I sing. And I think that’s a direct influence of that TV show. I don’t think anyone suggested to Joni Mitchell that she dance while singing.”
“In a way, I want to get out of the way of a great song,” Day continues. “I prefer a singer not over-shadow a song with over-singing and using vocal gymnastics to the point where the tune is unrecognizable. I try to convey the emotion of a song by coloring it with subtle variances in phrasing, sultriness, and breathiness—all of which, I’m afraid, might go unnoticed by a panel of judges. I want my music to always be considered art and not a competitive sport.”
Day points out that she has watched only sporadic clips of American Idol and forms her assumptions of the American Idol effect primarily from casual comments received by some concert attendees. “I think the show is great for what it is; I just hope its influences don’t eventually force every singer to follow its strict formula.”
Jules Day’s website: www.JulesDay.com