In last week’s American Idol episodes, I felt there were 2 lessons worth exploring. The first has to do with the choices the Contestants were making – and you’re making as an artist whenever you create. I felt that the American Idol Contestants fell into two categories. The first are Artists who were making decisions and choices that were about the music. These Contestants consistently get feedback from the judges that they know who they are as artists.
So, what does that mean? I don’t think it means that they know what genre or type of music they should be classified as. It’s more that they are focusing on songs that suit their instrument (their voice) and then invest time and energy to serve the music in a way that is uniquely theirs.
Lesson 1: Focus on expressing yourself in a truly unique way that serves the art and the audience.
Miley Cyrus put it really well when Katie asked her what she does when she gets negative feedback – and Miley said – “You have to remember why you’re doing this – it’s about the music.”Which makes a huge assumption. I think with some of these contestants and perhaps many of the musicians in the world trying to “make it” in the music industry. For some of them, it’s NOT about the music. It’s about ego. It’s about the fame, fortune, or filling some emptiness inside of themselves – not by making art, but by getting attention and recognition. It’s not about the music.
Which leads me to the second category of contestants. For them, it’s about winning. It’s about fame, fortune and “the dream.” Except the dream isn’t about the music. It’s more about the lifestyle. Some of the contestants may have started out being about the music and got taken off track by listening too much to the feedback. I really think this is what’s happened to Andrew Garcia. He had a moment in the spotlight – and has forgotten how he got there. And he even said – his intention was to just have fun. First of all, I don’t believe him. And again, “just having fun” is not serving the music. It’s serving the ego. Now if he had said, “I just want the audience to have fun.” That would have been a whole different performance. The difference is where you’re putting your focus – are you focusing on the music or yourself? Are you focusing on the audience/customer/client or your own self-aggrandizement?
And this is a trap that many, many artists have fallen into because they lose touch with who they really are – as artists.
So, who are you as an artist and how do you bring that to your music in a truly unique way? I believe that the pursuit of that question and exploration will better serve all the contestants in the long run. And it should be an ongoing quest for you in your art.
Lesson 2: You must always be pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone
The second lesson came out of a few of the contestants when they were talking about pushing themselves. And I think it’s really critical to make the distinction between pushing yourself and pushing your performance. I think that Lee made a classic confusion of those two concepts and as a result he wasn’t really present in his performance. So, the kind of pushing that the judges are looking for has to do with taking risks, stepping out of your own constraints and fully committing to that stretch. Both Lee and Tim tried to stretch, but ended up pushing instead. And as a result, they were disconnected and self-indulgent.
Tim did make choices that pushed him out of his comfort zone – definitely. The reason they didn’t work was that he was making choices from his head that he thought might get the judges approval. Instead of looking at what he wanted to express to the audience about the song and making choices that were uncomfortable but that were about the music and not him. And so he looked like a poser – because he wasn’t really being an artist. Look, Adam Lambert made huge physical choices in his performances. But because he was grounded in expressing the song in a way that was unique – it worked for him.
And Lee was pushing – with his voice – and as a result his sound wasn’t nearly as strong as it’s been in the past. Lee – it’s not about pushing harder with your voice. It’s about stepping out of your comfort zone and really connecting with the audience. It’s about reaching out and really being present. So that you can let loose and truly perform the hell out of the song.
How to Push Yourself Out of Your Comfort Zone
- Make it about a truer deeper connection with your audience and your art
- Fully commit to your choices from a grounded place inside of yourself
- Make those decisions from your heart and NOT your head!
How will you push yourself out of your comfort zone today?