Home / American Idol‘s LaKisha – Emulation, Competition, Self-Expression, and Vanity

American Idol‘s LaKisha – Emulation, Competition, Self-Expression, and Vanity

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Last night’s American Idol confirmed once and for all why I simply do not like LaKisha. My growing dislike for her started when — during the award season, mind you — she sang the song that had become Jennifer Hudson’s signature song, "I Tell You I'm Not Going".

I wondered why she was singing that particular song. Did she identify with Jennifer? Did she want us to identify her with Jennifer? Did she want to jump onto Miss J’s coattails and leave us all thinking, “Wow, LaKisha is another Jennifer Hudson”? Did she want to show us she was better than Jennifer?

Then when Lulu begged and pleaded with her to sing “You’re My World,” Ms LaKisha chose to sing “Diamonds Are Forever” because "Shirley Bassey sang it".

Okay, I rolled my eyes. I wondered if Lulu had had the sense to see where Ms LaKisha was coming from she would have sold “You’re My World” to her in this way: “Yes, but Dionne Warwick sang 'You're My World'."

Then LaKisha chose Carrie Underwood’s “Jesus Take the Wheel.”

And last night, during Life Anthem night, she chose Fantasia’s “Believe.”

Okay, we see the pattern at last? But what exactly is the pattern?

Is she identifying with those singers? Does she want us to identify her with those singers? Is she just plain old arrogant? Is she stupid to invite comparison? Or is she a mere imitator who simply imitates how other more flexible singers sing?

Why has she repeatedly sung songs by American Idol winners? Elliott Yamin did some great songs. Why didn't she choose to sing any of the songs he sang? Or any song sung by past losers of American Idol? Yes, I know, I’m a Christian critic and I really shouldn’t blast LaKisha because Christians aren’t supposed to be cruel, but dang! Someone’s gotta examine what’s going on here.

In the Bible (Romans 11:14 and Galations 5:20) the apostle Paul warns us against emulations. It’s odd but, considering all the emulations I see nowadays, ministers aren’t giving many sermons on the dangers of emulating. Perhaps it’s because so many of them are out emulating each other, or emulating some old-fashioned preaching styles. Okay, call me a cynic but I just don’t think the Holy Spirit always behaves and preaches with a Southern style camp meeting accent. But I digress…

Back to LaKisha and the evils of emulations.

Emulators lose their own soul. I truly don’t know what a Lakisha musical style is. She doesn’t really have any. LaKisha seems to have a need for us to identify her with great singers, especially black singers, but this makes her seem downright rigid. Where, I want to ask, is her soul? What, I want to scream, is she doing there on the stage trying to channel some other great singer? I give heads-up and kudos to Blake Lewis because the guy usually connects to the music he sings and allows how he feels about the music to lead him. I can never tell what LaKisha’s attitude toward a song is.

Emulations also hem the emulator’s way in. There are a zillion songs out there. But, lo and behold, having decided to sing only show-stoppers done by winners, LaKisha cannot see clear to choose what might be the best songs for her. I want her to loosen up, to stop patterning herself after someone else, and to create. Being focused as she is on a certain kind of singer, she has closed her eyes to discovering others.

While skill is important, creativity is also an important thing in life and the arts. LaKisha has skills but she is not going to be a musical innovator. One of the main goals in life is to discover, to find new ways of doing things. Mindless emulation in any form of art, craft, or business simply does not contribute to creativity.

Emulators are boring. Especially emulators like LaKisha who seem to have such a small repetoire.

Some folks may wonder why I’m so annoyed with emulations. After all isn’t imitation the most sincere form of flattery? Perhaps. But enough is enough.

Quite simple. Emulators are dangerous. Putting aside the fact that some emulators are downright jealous of those they imitate, I’ll just say that emulation is often not as innocent as it appears to be. Think of Lamech (Genesis 4) as the first copy-cat killer. Think of kids in suburbia talking about nappy-headed hos and bitches. Think of Columbine and school shootings. Think of how Hollywood’s behavior — for good or ill — affects society. Fame is a wonderful thing, and in our media culture many people want to be famous – from angry, mentally ill students to rich, talentless heiresses, to talented singers. We are a culture where emulators emulate the famous, the notorious, and the infamous.

If LaKisha wins American Idol she will have proven herself to be a true American — enslaved to fame and the famous. I, for one, would be disappointed.

Enough said.

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  • matt

    lakisha is not nearly as good as the other competitors, nothing against fat girls, but seeing her wear skimpy outfits every week makes me want to gag

  • Grandpa Idol

    C’mon Ty, there’s no need for that kind of disrespect. LaKisha’s a very talented and nice kid who’s trying to catch a break and I’m sure she’s accomplished more than you have at her age. In addition, gospel has a much larger following than you have a clue about.

  • Ty

    “I believe LaKisha, bless her heart, is singing in the style she knows best which is gospel. ”

    Exactly. LaKisha is a gospel singer, and you can’t just Gospel your way to the AI Crown. That is why LaKisha sucks monkey balls. She sucks at everything but Gospel, and Gospel isn’t all that.

    LaKisha needs to not get enough votes and go home or explode from all the fried chicken and collard greens she eats.

  • Grandpa Idol

    What a great discussion. All of the kids that are left have great talent but only Blake, Jordin, and Melinda have stage presence, believability, and originality. I believe LaKisha, bless her heart, is singing in the style she knows best which is gospel. She takes whatever song she picks and belts it out quite effectively but always with the same spin. Carole’s observation that she is making a mistake picking songs that are currently “owned” is also very relevant and is working to her detriment. There are zillions of selections that are unfamiliar to the audience that she could choose from that would allow her to craft it to her own style. When Fantasia sang “Summertime” she sealed the deal because it became an Idol standard. I think if Lakisha could pick the right song and sing it from the heart she will remain relevant.

  • LaKisha is *not* a great singer. Good, maybe, but not great.

    For goodness sake, when will people see that ‘big voices’ does not equal ‘good singing’?

    LaKisha’s good enough that she could sing a lot of good songs, and perform well too, if only she knew who she is as a singer, and not try to be someone she can’t be.

    LaKisha is nowhere near as good as Melinda or Jordin. She needs a *lot* more vocal training/practice before she gets there.

  • Dusty

    I think Lekisha sung ‘And I Am Telling You…’, because Idol told her to sing it. Cowell thought Jennifer wasn’t giving Idol enough credit for discovering her during her Oscar run. That way Randy could say as he did, “Look out Jennifer Hudson”. *Don’t* think that song wasn’t PLANNED by Idol to make themselves look good! Jennifer Hudson was even critized for singing Jennifer HOLLIDAY’S signature song, ‘And I Am Telling You’. Last week Lekish was critized for singing Fantasia’s Idol winner song entitled, ‘I Believe’…it seems that this girl just can not win, no matter what.

  • terri

    i do agree with everything that everyone is saying but i do feel that if someone causes so much mixed feelings and people cant seem to decide whether they like you or not then there is a problem i think..
    i did notice a slight arrogance in Lakisha that is why in my opinion Melinda deserves this more than she does.
    somenone who can manage to remain humble and themselves throughout such a high profiled competition…thats a true idol

  • CathyEM

    Carole, Other contestants (Chris and Sanjaya) did pick some of Elliott’s songs, and came up short, unfortunately. Elliott can SING and sell a song in practically any genre. All of the contestants need to be careful about inviting comparison to those who are perceived as “owning” the song. I had mixed feelings about Blake’s performance of “Imagine” because I wish he had done more to make it his “own.” But when the song ended, I admitted to myself that I’m glad he didn’t mess with it too much because it’s a simple song that is beautiful just the way it is (I do think he could have done more with the dynamics, building towards the middle and then working towards a quiet, contemplative ending.)
    Re: LaKisha, her performance wasn’t GREAT on Tuesday but I didn’t think she warranted the criticism heaped on her by the judges re: shouting. Jordin also oversang parts of her song, which sounded strained and even painful to my ears — yet they praised her performance as one of the best on AI, ever. Sometimes I think the judges don’t hear what we hear at home. The room’s acoustics probably “sweeten” the sound a bit. I do think Jordin is very talented, especially for her age, but that performance was NOT that good!

  • John Bell

    “Last night’s American Idol confirmed once and for all why I simply do not like LaKisha”

    LOL: You have something against talented singers??

    Who CARES that she sings the songs of former Idol winners – ALL of the contestants sing other singers’ song (and most not nearly as soulfully as Ms. Jones, IMO)

    The simple fact of the matter is that Lakisha is the 2nd best singer in the Idol competition this year behind Melinda (btw, a great singer and entertainer but rather phony, IMO – just how many times can she look shocked and overjoyed whenever the judges praise her (cue the gushy, breathless Sally Field voiceover: “You like me! You really LIKE ME!!”) and DESERVES to be in the final two.

    Don’t tell me – you actually LIKED Sanjaya, right??

  • Kunta- Of course all the contestants sing songs that aren’t original. American Idol is after all, just an overblown karaoke contest. But I think what Carole is trying to get at is that LaKisha isn’t projecting enough of her own spirit and passion into her performances. Rather, she emulates the original artist. And not just any artist, but past American Idol successes.

    Yes Gary and Sue 2, Jennifer Holliday was the original artist of “And I’m Telling You,” but you both know very well that as of recently, that song has been associated with Ms. Hudson.

    There’s no doubt that LaKisha is a terrific vocalist. But like I said, she needs to really step up her game if she wants to move further in the competition.

  • Kunta Kinte

    Is there any contestant who has sung an original? They are all singing songs that have been performed by greats so what are you talking about?

    Lakisha did a great song last night and got an applause during the song (Jordin was the only other person to receive an applause during her own song) and an almost unending applause at the end of the song. Yet the judges were talking wild bull crap about her. If that is their way of instigating for her to be voted out, they should just be bold and say it precisely. Maybe people are getting jealous that there are too many African American Fore runners in the competition. Lakisha was sweet to behold last night but if they rig her out today cos we do not see them count the votes anyway, then shame on all of you.

  • Carole McDonnell

    To Gary and SUE2

    Gary: You’ve only restated my point. Looks like Lakisha must have seen the youtube video.

    To say a song belongs to a singer means: a singer is getting a certain amount of fame for singing it. Right now, Jennifer Hudson, Carrie Underwood, and Fantasia are the ones who “own” those songs. And it seems weird to me that Lakisha is stepping on their coattails. How would she like it if she was enjoying her fame for some song and someone else jumps on it? It just seems tacky and calculating to me. -Carole McDonnell

  • Carole McDonnell

    NOTE TO HELOISE: I (Carole McDonnell, writer of this blog) am a black woman. Check out my article on Imus, racism and the media. As a black woman, I hope I am not supposed to follow a particular partyline. All black women do not think alike. And the point of the blog is not that she doesn’t sing well. The point is that she seems to have a need to sing songs other successful American Idol winners have sung. I call that suspect. And a trifle odd.

  • Sue2

    “And I’m telling you” is not a jennifer hudson song, she was doing what lakisha and many others in the past have done, taken Jennifer’s HOLLIDAY’s Tony and Grammy winning song and used it to gain fame with.

    “And I’m Telling You” has be performed in talent competitions since Jennifer HOLLIDAY hit the scene. Even recently before Jennifer Hudson’s new found fame using Jennifer HOLLIDAY’s song the little girl won America’s Got talent with that same Jennifer HOLLIDAY song.

    On another note, I think Lakisha did a fantastic job with Jennifer HOLLIDAY’s song and the judges agreed. I think she could have done a great job with Jesus Take the Wheel and I Believe if she had arranged them to fit her instead of trying “copy” the original singers. Those were her only two mistakes, it wasn’t song choice it was her inability to make those two songs her own.

    After all “Jesus take the wheel” is a country song and Lakish picked it for country week.

    “I believe” is an inspirational song and Lakisha it for “Songs that Inspire” week. So again, song choice isn’t her problem it’s ARRANGEMENT.

  • Gary Vredeveld

    I hate to bring this to your attention as you seem to pretty much seem to know everything there is about music…

    However, “I’m telling you” is not a Jennifer Hudson song as you described it. The song was originally performed by Jennifer Holliday which won her a Tony award for her performance…

    Jennifer Hudson was simply performing the song, just as Lakisha Jones…

    And if you ever did see the original performance by miss Jennifer Holliday, which is available on http://www.youtube.com you would see that Lakisha Performed the song as close to the original as can be.

    I personally think she did a very good job of it in my unbiased opinion.

  • ruchama kfiri

    Who cars what she meant by choosing that song or another, the thing us that she has an exceptional great song and we enjoy hearing it.

  • This is one of the main differences between LaKisha and Melinda. Whenever Melinda performs, she has you believe that the song originated from her. She picks music that may sometimes not be too well-known, but she knows will sell her to the public as an artist.

    LaKisha is vocally almost as good as Melinda, but she lacks so many things the former has: stage presence, more developed vocals (she’s not as in control of the notes), and personality.

    As I mentioned on my review of last night’s show, LaKisha has been picking songs sung by past AI greats. Perhaps she hopes that people will associate her with winners like Fantasia, Carrie, and Academy Award winner Jennifer. Instead, she comes across as a copycat.

  • Yes, she has imitated a bit too much. But she is also a great singer. So maybe she does not have the confidence she pretends to have. At the same time this tirade of yours reminds me of what I see all too much when whites gang up on, berate, vote off, hate on, and simply dislike black contenders, especially women on women.

    It’s no small wonder that black women are being called names by everybody, including so-called Christians.

    I have watched every show. It does appear that Jordan is gaining on her. It will probably be Jordan and Melinda in the end. I predict that Jordan will win this one. I thought it could have been LaKisha. Not because of her imitation but because she has not stretched herself. I would love someone to sing “The Way of the Heart.” It is an older song and no one ever sings it. It is simply beautiful though.

    Yes, Lakisha find a song that no one has ever sang and sing it into the ground. Otherwise you will get VOTED off.