How Aretha Franklin Inspired Reality Singing Contests Like ‘American Idol’ – Chicago Tribune

If there was an award for most frequently performed song on a reality TV competition show, “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” would have an easy shot at taking the crown.

“American Idol.” “The voice.” “The X Factor.” “America has talent.” “The fourth.” “Pop stars.” “Rising Star”. “Nashville Star.” These are just a few of the shows featuring the ballad performed by Aretha Franklin.

It was one of the many unexpected ways in which Franklin, the iconic singer who died Thursday at 76, impacted modern music culture. The explosion of reality television singing shows over the past two decades has produced a number of celebrities, from the world of pop music to Broadway, and many of them have named Franklin as an influence.

They wanted to be like her, and they wanted to sing like her. Franklin’s songs, from “Respect” to “Chain of Fools” to “Ain’t No Way,” continue to be a reality TV staple.

“Aretha to me is soul,” said ‘American Idol’ runner-up Melinda Doolittle, who performed ‘(Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You’ve Been Gone’ during her 2007 season. “I was a little girl when I first heard ‘Respect.’ The sassy nature of that song, where you’re kind of putting someone in your face, stuck with me. Then she could sing a song like “Natural Woman” and tug at your heart. range of what she can do.”

“Idol” in particular had a special relationship with Franklin, who once expressed an interest in becoming a judge. In 2012, the Season 13 finalists traveled to Detroit, where they met the Queen of Soul herself.

“Be up for the challenge,” Franklin told the contestants in Detroit, as they gathered around her to ask questions about the music industry. She ticked off tips, ranging from being careful with finances to “staying away from the wrong kind of people, anything that would end your career.”

One contestant asked what to do if you make a mistake while singing in front of an audience — and asked Franklin, for example, if she ever misspelled “respect.”

“You rhyme something really good that relates. Just come up with something quick. Ella was really good at it. Ella Fitzgerald,” Franklin said. “In a minute she could find something if she missed a line or two, she was very fast.”

“But no, I never misspelled ‘respect,'” Franklin added, to laughter from the contestants. “I never will.”

One of the first classic “Idol” moments happened in the first season, before anyone knew how groundbreaking the show would become. Reduced to the final eight singers, the show had a 1960s-themed week, and a runner-up named Kelly Clarkson sang “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”. She knocked it out of the park, especially as she hit the high note on “you make me feel so aliiiiive”, and it became one of the most famous performances in the history of “Idol”.

“What a great song for such a great singer,” said judge Randy Jackson, looking impressed. “I didn’t know you had all that.”

“I was trying to show my range this time,” Clarkson said, a bit breathlessly.

Clarkson, of course, picked up the win and is one of the few ‘Idol’ contestants to become a legit star – she also addressed ‘Respect’ on another round and named the soul icon as the star. one of his main influences.

“People like her, you hear them sing and it’s almost like they don’t need words. It’s the sound, the tone, the pain in their voice,” Clarkson told Rolling Stone this year. “Maybe it’s because I went through a few things growing up, but I really fed off of that.”

Another famous rendition of a Franklin classic also involved “Idol”. Fantasia Barrino, who also found success after reality TV, sang “Chain of Fools” perfectly in front of guest judge Clive Davis, one of Franklin’s mentors and close friends.

Davis loved the performance. “I respect your bravery,” he told Barrino. “You took our national treasure, Queen of Soul, you took it with your own spirit, with your own cachet, with your own uniqueness. You nailed it, you nailed it. Congratulations.”


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