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Debra Byrd


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#1

holdencaulfield2003

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Posted Jun 12, 2004 @ 3:34 PM

I just read in my local TVTIMES (Canadian tv guide in our newspaper) that Debra Byrd, is crossing the border and is working with the kids of Canadian Idol. I wonder how that happened.

#2

Joe Dwarf

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Posted Jun 17, 2004 @ 4:01 PM

Over on the Canadian Idol thread, this very topic is being rehashed. Majority opinion is that Byrd is responsible for the AI-zation of CI, and is causing major suckage this year. What are your thoughts re:AI? Is Byrd responsible for the horrid, repetitive mainstream song choices and the melisima (sp?) ? Or does she prevent it from being suckier than it already is? Because we all notice a major change from last year in both the quality of song selection and the performance - tons of nerves in the first group of 8, like they're all trying to adjust to being told what to do.

#3

SnarkinUSA

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Posted Jun 17, 2004 @ 6:05 PM

Interesting, Joe Dwarf. I'll have to check out the CI thread.

I've been suspecting for a while that maybe Debra Byrd is doing more harm than good with some of these kids. The reason I say this is, looking at the original auditions of some of this year's final 12 - Matt Rogers, Camile, JPL, John Stevens, shoot...even Jesus H. Roman - I thought their auditions were really good. Then when it got to be showtime, they suuuucked. Diana also seemed to go downhill for the first several weeks. I don't know, I'm not a vocal coach and I don't want to blame Byrd for something that's not her fault, but it just seems strange to me that so many people had great initial auditions and then turned in a bunch of "WTF?!?!" performances after they got into the semi-finals/finals.

Anyway, it's interesting to hear that the same thing appears to be happening with Canadian Idol now, and that the common denominator seems to be Ms. Byrd. Hmmmm...

#4

playbiller

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Posted Jun 17, 2004 @ 7:17 PM

Has anyone considered that these kids give good auditions, but then get nervous when they are performing in front of the judges in front of an audience.

But then, I don't really know what happens, so I shall stroll over to the CI thread and read.

#5

gyc

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Posted Jun 17, 2004 @ 7:22 PM

I think that Byrd has been trying to teach them actual singing technique and as with changing anything that you're very proficient at, you get worse at first but eventually as you get used to it you get better and better. I guess that people take different amounts of time to adapt to it. You also have to consider that a lot of contestants might have a limited repertoire of songs that they're really good at, and they've expended all of that in their initial auditions and in Pasadena, so they might be singing something they're not so comfortable with in their semi-final round.

#6

katiedid

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Posted Jun 18, 2004 @ 12:53 AM

Is Byrd responsible for the horrid, repetitive mainstream song choices and the melisima (sp?)

I think the horrid song choices have more to do with the fact that people on AI have the exact same horrid taste as does the population in general. But during AI this season, they showed in one of the shows (sorry, which exact one I do not recall) her INSTRUCTING George to not only put the icky melisma in, but on how to do it. So yeah, I personally choose to blame her for the proliferation of it amongst all the contestants. Not that some of them wouldn't choose to do it on their own, but it really pissed me off she would make George do it when he sounds better with rich sustained notes. And it always sounds like the same melisma pattern at the end of almost everyone's songs, so it occured to me that Byrd is the architect of that musical house of cards.

#7

ishcabibble

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Posted Jun 18, 2004 @ 12:43 PM

I think that Byrd has been trying to teach them actual singing technique and as with changing anything that you're very proficient at, you get worse at first but eventually as you get used to it you get better and better. I guess that people take different amounts of time to adapt to it.


I totally agree with this, however, the format of the show does not lend itself to letting the contestants "eventually get used to it". There will always be contestants who have already had vocal training and therefore adjust more quickly to her suggestions, or those who tell her to just shove it. However, you will then have the contestants who are trying to follow her instructions, get nervous and uncomfortable, and then get voted off. I have been thinking for a while that this is what happened to both Camille and JPL.

I also agree with you gyc about some contestants have one song which is kind of their "speciality". I think that this kind of happened with Kimberly Locke in season 2 with "Somewhere Over the Rainbow". IIRC, the judges at various points in the top 30/32 auditions have told the contestants that they wish they would have sung a different song since they'd heard it about 50 times by then.

#8

aiwop

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Posted Jun 18, 2004 @ 8:09 PM

Ah yes-- the Byrd effect. Bettis anyone?

edited to add: Mmmm, moron maybe but he definitely sounded a lot worst after the Byrd effect. Although Byrd did help Rickey with his hand motions.

Edited by aiwop, Jun 20, 2004 @ 9:25 AM.


#9

Mmm... Free Goo

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Posted Jun 18, 2004 @ 10:13 PM

Well, Bettis was a moron for choosing to sing an uptempo Boyz II Men song with only a piano accompaniament. I thought that Byrd couldn't slap the contestants for horrid song choices, just try to help them sing those songs as best as possible, although with the revelation that Nigel forced "Holding Out for a Hero" on Fantasia, I don't know anymore.

Maybe she suggests melisma because she knows the contestants have less than a minute and 30 seconds to impress the judges and viewing public and, like it or not, that shit tends to work. Do held glory notes qualify as melisma? Because I think those have been much more prevalent, at least during the last two seasons.

#10

Bassari99

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Posted Jun 19, 2004 @ 10:28 AM

Do held glory notes qualify as melisma?


No. Melisma is a time-honored technique in various forms of singing. It's basically singing a group of many notes on one syllable. It's used in European classical singing (i.e., coloratura performances in opera) sometimes. You hear it a lot more in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean singing, and notably in certain prayers and chants. Heard it every morning when I visited Morocco a few years ago during the Islamic high holy days. The imam, or Muslim cleric, used tons of melisma as he chanted prayers from the Koran, calling the faithful to prayer.

Melisma has long been a part of African-American singing, but it seems to me that many more of today's pop singers avail themselves to this technique than singers of the past used to. I sometimes wonder if it's not a crutch for some singers who may lack the ability to do controlled, sustained notes. When it's done well, I really like it. I can't imagine Deborah Byrd encouraging it if it doesn't come somewhat naturally to a singer, though. Melisma sounds really bad when it's forced.

#11

ishcabibble

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Posted Jun 20, 2004 @ 8:09 AM

Melisma sounds really bad when it's forced.


Or when the singer just goes for all sorts of bad notes during it (see Day, EJay).

#12

Shoebox

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Posted Jun 20, 2004 @ 6:32 PM

I can't imagine Deborah Byrd encouraging it if it doesn't come somewhat naturally to a singer, though. Melisma sounds really bad when it's forced.


Or when the performer is using it in place of conveying real, unaffected emotion through their singing, which seems to happen a lot on AI (and now CI2).

Edited by Shoebox, Jun 20, 2004 @ 6:33 PM.


#13

Joe Dwarf

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Posted Jun 21, 2004 @ 10:22 AM

Melisma sounds really bad when it's forced.

I think you mispelled "used".

#14

Bassari99

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Posted Jun 21, 2004 @ 12:17 PM

I think you mispelled "used".


No, I didn't, actually. I'm a hideous writer sometimes, my punctuation sucks, and my spelling is only slightly better, but I got it right this time :)

And I second both of your comments, ischcabibble and Shoebox.

#15

amd21

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Posted Jun 22, 2004 @ 12:01 PM

I've got to give this woman credit. Although, I've heard that she has requested a seat at future AI auditions to better help "The Chosen 3" weed out the bad from the good and or vice versa. She's also from Cleveland, which automatically makes me like her.

A side note: How much money is she being paid for each season?
Another side note: I also recall her being a back-up singer on the AI1 tour, since I was at the Cleveland concert and they made a big hoopla for her homecoming.

#16

ToneDefJeff

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Posted Jun 24, 2004 @ 7:00 PM

Melisma sounds really bad when it's forced.


Or when the singer just goes for all sorts of bad notes during it (see Day, EJay).

Now every time I hear "I'll Be" I add those in!

I still love that photo linked here a while back of a tortured Byrd in rehearsal with Carmen.

#17

ishcabibble

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Posted Jun 27, 2004 @ 1:01 PM

There is an interview with Byrd on Foxes on Idol where she says that she will not be helping out the judges in the initial, city auditions. So, does anyone know where this rumor got started?

#18

Mmm... Free Goo

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Posted Jun 27, 2004 @ 7:46 PM

It is rumored that Byrd was so horrified at many of the AI3 "singers" that she wanted to go on the road with the judges to make sure they chose good vocalists, which is quite pathetic that they can't do that on their own. I don't remember the source.

#19

Bassari99

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Posted Jun 27, 2004 @ 10:25 PM

Don't know, ishcabibble, since I don't follow rumours, but I really like this Debra Byrd after reading her interview with Rosanne Simunovic. What a terribly daunting job that must be, coaching all those disparate singers! Singing publicly ain't for the feint of heart,* but what guts it must take to guide and critique these sometimes insecure and temperamental folk (Lord, who can blame 'em?).

*Wow, this has got to be the longest period between an original post and a subsequent edit, but it's never too late to get it right :)

Edited by Bassari99, Jul 8, 2004 @ 8:09 AM.


#20

Genie

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Posted Jul 9, 2004 @ 8:43 AM

No. Melisma is a time-honored technique in various forms of singing. It's basically singing a group of many notes on one syllable. It's used in European classical singing (i.e., coloratura performances in opera) sometimes. You hear it a lot more in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean singing, and notably in certain prayers and chants. Heard it every morning when I visited Morocco a few years ago during the Islamic high holy days. The imam, or Muslim cleric, used tons of melisma as he chanted prayers from the Koran, calling the faithful to prayer.

Melisma has long been a part of African-American singing, but it seems to me that many more of today's pop singers avail themselves to this technique than singers of the past used to. I sometimes wonder if it's not a crutch for some singers who may lack the ability to do controlled, sustained notes. When it's done well, I really like it. I can't imagine Deborah Byrd encouraging it if it doesn't come somewhat naturally to a singer, though. Melisma sounds really bad when it's forced.


Great explanation. My mom was talking about how a lot of people hate when a singer trills even the slightest word, but she has a different theory other than, "you're over doing it". She thinks a lot of white people aren't really used to hearing that kind of gospelized singing and it's a turn-off to them. I kinda agree because I know I like a little drama to my singing. I think with the likes of Christina Aguilera and to an extent Whitney Houston over doing it, people are turned off by it.

Ruben seemed very natural when he would use melisma. Because he had soul. You rarely find soul at the AI auditions. It sounds so manufactured when I hear people hit dead-on notes and add no character to it. I think that singing needs to stay at Broadway. But give me some histrionics to my pop star.

Also, this might sound like an odd question, but is Debra Byrd that lady who sings during the commercial breaks on Jay Leno

#21

Bassari99

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Posted Jul 10, 2004 @ 10:25 AM

She thinks a lot of white people aren't really used to hearing that kind of gospelized singing and it's a turn-off to them.


I've made this observation, as well. Of course, I do know many white people who like it and, conversely, quite a few black people who detest melisma.

We're supposed to be talking about Debra Byrd here but, aside from personal preference when it comes to singing, I've always been perplexed by folk who want a singer to sing a song "the way it was written." There are composers who insist upon it but, regardless of genre, I can't think of too many truly great singers who would be willing to comply with such a demand. What would be the point? BTW, melisma is not the exclusive province of black or gospel-based singers. Listen to my girl Dolly Parton. She uses melisma a lot.

Anyway, I have my doubts that Debra Byrd would be purposefully instructing these kids to adopt a technique with which they might be uncomfortable. From her interview, Ms. Byrd seems to have far too much on the ball to be engaging in such recklessness. Of course, she could have a mean streak and may just be trying to sabatoge some contestants' chances at competing. Nah!

#22

playbiller

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Posted Jul 10, 2004 @ 10:36 AM

I am thinking that she asked to go to Canadian Idol so that she would not be responsible for the AI3 Tour. SHe did seem upset with the contestants they picked this year.

#23

kitschcakes

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Posted Jul 10, 2004 @ 10:43 AM

Is it really true she was upset about the Contestants they picked this year? I mean, individually, they were all pretty good-- I daresay, as vocalists, better over-all than years' past (IMHO). I mean at the very least they were all competent in their own particular niches. I still blame the Themed Weeks for the demise of performance quality...

#24

Mmm... Free Goo

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Posted Jul 10, 2004 @ 11:00 AM

I guess the singers in the finals turned out fairly decent, but I thought that Byrd was pissed about the people chosen by the judges for the semi-finals. With people like the Roman brothers and Lisa McBoobies, I wouldn't blame her.

#25

kitschcakes

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Posted Jul 10, 2004 @ 11:09 AM

I guess the singers in the finals turned out fairly decent, but I thought that Byrd was pissed about the people chosen by the judges for the semi-finals. With people like the Roman brothers and Lisa McBoobies, I wouldn't blame her.


Oh, you're right! I must have been so traumatized by those horrific performances that I literally blocked out the memory. Shoot, if I was Debra Byrd and had to put up with the Roman-McBooby warbling, I'd be pissed too.

#26

Genie

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Posted Jul 10, 2004 @ 11:29 PM

Deb should participate in the selection of the Top 32. That way AI can be a bit more even on the Competition/Contest scale.

#27

aiwop

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Posted Jul 10, 2004 @ 11:48 PM

Deb should participate in the selection of the Top 32. That way AI can be a bit more even on the Competition/Contest scale.


Yes, but then Simon might not get his way.

#28

majiggie

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Posted Oct 25, 2004 @ 7:13 PM

I saw Barry Manilow in concert Saturday night (shut up, it sooo rocked!). Anyway, Debra Byrd was there and she sang some songs on her own, and also as backup for him. She's awesome! It was cool to be able to hear her voice.

Edited by majiggie, Oct 25, 2004 @ 7:19 PM.


#29

aiwop

aiwop

Posted Oct 25, 2004 @ 10:54 PM

After last season I am surprised that Byrd still has her hearing in tact. Really surprised that she can remember what "in tune" sounds like.