How can you be a successful singer? A look at Lazaro Arbos from American Idol!

· Popular culture

Lazaro Arbos was voted off American Idol last Thursday night. He was the last guy standing. I am honestly a lot less invested in the remainder of the season now that he’s gone. He had a screen presence and it didn’t hurt that he is gorgeous. However, he had the bad luck of being an extremely popular guy in a year when the powers that be behind the scenes at the show are desperate to achieve something they haven’t in five or six years: a female winner. In society in general, it is a bad time to be a white guy. On American Idol, it’s currently tantamount to a catastrophe.


There has been a lot of unprofessionalism on this season’s show, even more than usual (thank you, Nicki Minaj). Lazaro honestly contributed to some of it with his excuses and his snarky comments upon occasion. However, this article will defend him to the max because he is the victim of a conspiracy…the conspiracy to get a female winner at all costs this season. The past 5 years have seen white guys with guitars win at the expense of some fabulous female singers like Crystal Bowersox, Jennifer Sanchez, etc. I had no problem with most of these guys winning (although I fail to see why we shouldn’t, as an audience, be able to expect pretty much perfect pitch from Idol contestants, which is becoming increasingly rare).


Lazaro was the victim of some extreme cruelty on the show. Nicki Minaj compared him to Ricky Ricardo, which made me think she was mocking his stuttering…Ric…Ric…but I will give her the benefit of the doubt and assume that she was just referring to the fact that they’re both good looking, talented men. I’m not sure, though, because there have been many examples of Minaj’s rudeness over the course of the season. Her feud with Mariah Carey is legendary by this point (and palpable onscreen). I’m on team Mariah all the way! Minaj has stormed off set, said very rude things to contesants (Ryan Seacrest is at least subtle when he does it!), and generally behaved like a bit of a prima donna. So Lazaro got a bum rap, in my opinion.


Is his singing bad? I don’t think so at all. His worst was bad, but I’m not really that impressed with any of the contestants this season (of the remaining ones, I mean) with the notable exception of Candice Glover. She’s the only one who is capable of producing moments, at least according to my very subjective opinion. Lazaro’s voice is very pleasant to listen to, when it’s on key, and of course in the studio it always will be as a result of having more time to perfect it.


I’ve learned a lot about music from this show. People generally don’t like ballads anymore, or love songs as much, and that is Lazaro’s strength (and preference). So he was at a disadvantage there. How do you become a successful singer these days if you sing a genre that is unpopular? You take notes and act on them from people who give you feedback without thinking that you know more than they. You make sure that you are on key. You realize what key you sound best in and choose songs that are appropriate for you as an artist. If you sing a cover of another song, then you make it your own. Express that song through your own personality. The perfect example of this is Whitney Houston’s rendition of Dolly Parton’s I Will Always Love You. Many wannabe belters sing the song now according to Houston’s version, but what they forget is that part of Houston’s sensational success with that song is that her interpretation was spellbinding. She took a warmly emotional country song and turned it into a diva-belted song. In doing so, she completely transformed it, and imbued the song with her own personality. Just belting out the same song Whitney did, or an approximation of it, doesn’t really impress. A lot of people can belt. But in order to be a successful singer, you also need to be able to interpret.


A lot of Idol singers feel that if they hit a glory note at the end, that they can say they’ve rendered a great performance. This is not so. Tone is vital. People want to be able to recognize your voice immediately. They want to identify a brand with you. Olivia Newton-John was the girl who achieved effortlessly. She was the cheerleader who could afford to be nice to everybody, because life had given her so much. Dolly Parton was the down-home country girl. Karen Carpenter was the melancholy artist (so was Garbo!), whose tone was so rich that it seemed like a cup of hot chocolate on a freezing day.


Which brings me back to Lazaro. His Waterloo was the Carpenters’ Close To You. Karen Carpenter’s can sound deceptively simple, but in actual fact some of them, including this one, can be very difficult to sing. Lazaro found that out to his chagrin. However, I predict a great future for him. He has appeal, great looks, great body, and singing talent. He may not be Sinatra, but he’s not Milli Vanilli, either. 

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