October 17, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 27  

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Western Idol seeks sober musical talent

By Dallas Curow
Gazette Staff

With Western's Wet/Dry program suspended indefinitely, the University Students' Council has been working to create programming suitable for this year's all-ages crowd. The first such event is the ongoing Western Idol competition, which kicked off with auditions in Medway-Sydenham Hall on Oct. 5.

Each round of competition names one "Idol" along with several "wild cards," all of whom advance to the final rounds, which will take place early next year. The winner of the whole competition will be awarded a cash prize and crowned the one and only Western Idol.

The Gazette wanted to check out the USC's efforts to liven up campus with some good, old-fashioned Dry programming. I decided the best way to do this was to experience it for myself: that is, to try out. I found out when and where the first round would be held and after browsing the extensive list of song choices (available online at www.westernidol.ca), I realized the competition had an interesting twist: instead of the a cappella seen on shows like Canadian Idol, Western Idol tryouts involved karaoke.

To be honest, most of my experience with karaoke brings back visions of three different performer archetypes:

1. The inebriated, slurring yet determined singer. This character usually picks a sentimental ballad to bastardize. Their performance often includes intense finger pointing and lots of liquid-courage-enhanced attempts at high notes. They usually give up halfway through after failing to remember which song they were in the middle of.

2. The group of five or more girls screaming either "I Will Survive" or "Respect." Please, let it end.

3. The Veteran/Diva. This performer can be male or female. Divas identify themselves by confidently sauntering up to the stage. They have performed their song choice hundreds of times and are usually "in character" when doing so. It's common for them to bow when finished.

In the case of the first round of Western Idol, however, I was shocked to see none of the above archetypes. I have years of classical training and have developed a good ear for music and most of what I saw was real and exceptional talent.

The judges based their ratings on vocal skill, stage presence, originality of presentation and personality. I could see they were also closely observing how the audience was receiving each performer. Glazed eyes were a bad sign; jaws dropping to the floor were definitely an indication the performer had "it."

I chose to perform "Turn to You" by Christina Aguilera and I had a great time doing so. The formal lounge of Med-Syd was a perfect atmosphere to calm the nerves. At first it was very strange to hear pre-recorded backup singers' voices emerge from the speakers, but the karaoke format of the competition ended up being very effective. Perhaps taking karaoke out of a bar can turn down the suck. Or maybe with sobriety comes actual skill?

All in all, the experience was great and I'd encourage anyone to give it a shot. If you don't sing without a couple rounds of tequila, go support those who do. As last week's tryouts showed, the search for Western's own Ryan Malcolm is off to a great start.


Oct. 19: Alumni Hall
Oct. 26: Elgin Hall
Nov. 2: Westminister Hall
Nov. 9: Delaware Hall
Nov. 16: Saugeen-Maitland Hall
Nov. 23: Perth Hall
Nov. 30: Essex Hall



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