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Sean Daly, Michelle Stark and Sharon Kennedy Wynne

Judging Tampa Bay Idol: Tips for those hoping to be the next Big Mike

Idollogo It's an enduring irony that the most successful American Idol contestant from the Tampa Bay area got to the contest on his own.

That's because last year, Fox 13 reporter Charlie Belcher got me, pop music critic Sean Daly, singer Belinda Womack and WFLZ-FM's Meredith in a conference room at Tampa's Fox affiliate to try picking a local person to audition at Idol's Orlando tryouts. The contest, dubbed Tampa Bay Idol, sent one hopeful to the auditions who didn't make the initial cuts; instead, St. Pete native "Big Mike" Lynche came down from his New York home to audition on his own and survived to take fourth place this year.

So now the question arises: Can we do better this year?

Melissa-mcghee Local Idol hopefuls have until next Tuesday to turn in a video on DVD (no VHS or other stuff) at 4 minutes or less featuring their singing. This year's judges, including me, Womack, former Idol contestant Melissa McGhee (pictured at left) and local comic/American Idol Experience judge Ranney, will pick a top 10 who will perform at the Westfield Brandon next Wednesday; winner gets a guaranteed spot before producers at the New Orleans auditions on July 26. For more details, click here.

Besides Ranney and I vying to see who most resembles Randy Jackson, I'm expecting another crowd of decent singers whose biggest challenge will be presenting a compelling stage performance.

Last year was a weird time -- we wound up judging the contest on the day Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett died (on a personal note, our family dog also passed away that day). So memories of that judging day brings a host of mixed feelings; now, Idol seems on the verge of major disaster, with a troubled season in the rear view mirror and the departure of the show's most popular judge, Simon Cowell, a reality.

Still, an Idol audition could be a major opportunity for a local artist. And with the new audition age lowered to 15, topping out at age 28, there could be a whole new crop of Justin Bieber clones in the mix.

For any of you out there actually considering mailing in videos, here's a quick list of tips to keep in mind, culled from a blog post last year written right after we had slogged through 80 submissions: 

1) The background matters -- try to find a nice-looking space to film your video. And if you do it in your bedroom, at least make the bed and pick up the dirty clothes in the background (shudder).

2) Pick a song that has more than two notes in the melody and gets interesting early. Too many 26406singers almost got doinked because the songs they chose took too long to get interesting. Also, try to pick songs that are familiar, but not typical audition fodder -- several applicants chose the classic ballad At Last, which can feel monotonous after the fifth time.

3) Look at your tape after you make it, and record it again if the tape didn't turn out well. We got one video where you literally could not see the face of the singer, because he was shrouded in shadow. Other recordings cut off the beginning of the performances or had other obvious, glaring problems. And make sure its a DVD which actually works before you mail it.

Good luck...

[Last modified: Thursday, August 12, 2010 2:15pm]

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