There are two ways to look at the self-titled CD released by Bianca Ryan, the 12-year-old wunderkind who won fame on the debut season of America’s Got Talent, at the tender age of nine.
One is that it’s great to see someone so young land a deal with Sony BMG. The other is that it’s pitiful to see a young child — who honestly looks about five years old on some of the album art — trotted out to sing renditions of classic covers just to earn a buck. Images of a Jackson Five-era Michael Jackson being told to crawl under tables to collect loose change from the audience spring to mind.
There’s no doubt that Ryan has “got talent.” But the voice of the young Jackson had incredible maturity in its inflections and delivery. Many, upon hearing him sing such ballads as “I’ll Be There,” believed he was an adult — albeit a short one.
It would be surprising if anyone who hears Ryan’s voice, as lovely and full as it is, will doubt her age. The lack of range and depth needed to pull off such ambitious covers as “The Rose” or “I Believe I Can Fly” just isn’t there. And those vocal shortfalls are made even more obvious by the heavily – underscore that word – produced elevator-esque music that backs up young Ryan. Frankly, her rendition of those songs makes it seem as if she’s ready to follow in the footsteps of Jodi Foster’s character in Taxi Driver rather than the mature, worldly visions of Bette Midler or R. Kelly. Whoever selected those songs truly did her a disservice.
Certainly Ryan has her moments. “You Light Up My Life,” made famous decades ago by Debby Boone, sounds even crisper than the original. But again, it’s a “corporate” song, heavy on the piano accompaniment, that is meant to appeal to the McMusic/American Idol crowd from which Ryan came.
The one fun, bright note on the CD, “Why Couldn’t It Be Christmas Every Day?” could easily slip into the “heavy play” holiday songs rotation. That’s the one song where Ryan is actually allowed to sing a bright, happy, age-appropriate song that isn’t produced within an inch of its life.
Ryan obviously has a great gift. Time will tell if a voice coach, age, and a better selection of songs allows her to use it wisely.