Katharine McPhee – Not Just Another Idol

by

– by David Schatanoff, Jr.

So last year… on every Wednesday… I would get home from work and my wife would throw me a cell phone, and my bluetooth headset and yell, “START VOTING”!!! For the next two hours, we would hit the redial button on home phones, cell phones, internet phones, satellite phones, smoke signals, aldis lamps and semaphore flags… all in an effort to vote for our pick to win the American Idol singing competition. Personally, I love the first month or so when they wade through the hundereds of screen hungry people who couldn’t sing their way out of wet paper bags. But there are some contestants that are worth the investment.

Kat Album

There’s a good list of winners that the Idol machine has exposed to the world. Season one was Kelly Clarkson all the way, and her upcoming album is going to be good… I can feel it. She’s working with Punk Rock icon and Minuetmen bassist, Mike Watt, so it’s bound to be a sonically appealing collaboration. Season two gave us Ruben Studdard The Velvet Teddybear, season three – Fantasia Barrino, and season four – Carrie Underwood.

Now… winning American Idol does not equate success. The most successful of all Idol winners is Kelly Clarkson. In fact, there seems to be a mild simmer for every winner since season one. In my opinion, this is because if you win, you are instantly part of the Idol Machine. This of course means that Idol has control of your image, your sound, your production and marketing team… all the essentials that will get your career as an artist going. So it was with a sigh of relief when Taylor Hicks won Idol and is now nowhere to be seen or heard. At least he’s looking healthy and happy; but Taylor’s music is the kind of music I would listen to at a college frat kegger (no offense Phi Delts). I sound like Simon Cowell saying that, but it’s the truth. Ok, he’s not bad, but if I want to listen to Michael McDonald, I’ll listen to Michael McDonald.

Kimmel 1

So what makes Katharine McPhee stand out? How is her voice, her album and the Katharine McPhee brand so different from everything else out there? Well, the truth is: It’s not original. Nothing has been all that original since the western tonal scale was invented. So things are either appealing and interesting, or completely ‘been there-done that’. So when Katharine finally released her solo debut album, I was interested to see if she could break free from her Idol persona and really show us something about herself as an artist.

Kimmel 2

There were a total of four label leaked samples and they all got me interested; the most memorable one for me was “Open Toes.” It was completely different from anything she had done on Idol, and it got me thinking about what the rest of the album was going to be like. The following samples are not only my favorites, but they also best represent Katharine as a non-AI Machine product.

“Not Ur Gir”l is a total throw-back song. It’s got that old-time, smooth-sounding groove going on and Katharine’s voice just compliments the lyrics perfectly. There is something very natural about her voice and it’s just not the little giggle they left in around 3:30 into the song. I like that her producers and the rest of her team really put together a lot of great tonal layers for her to work in. The harmonies are solid and Katharine has a developed pop-sensibility that translates really well in all the songs on the album. It’s kind of “old meets new,” which is always interesting to me. In an age of samples, 70s disco meets techno and punk-rock meets alt-rock bands, it’s great to hear a vocalist that does it so seemlessly. The music is clearly something new, but still feels like it has a place in time that is distinctly seasoned and beyond its years in wisdom.

Katharine McPhee – Not Ur Girl

Ahhh, slow songs. The cornerstone of any good high-school dance. I don’t think you will ever hear “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” at a high school dance… and I am happy that we will never hear Katharine sing that song again… at least not for a LONG time. It did kind of break her free from some of the vocally restricting songs she was singing on Idol and Simon knows how to bring out the best in artist he feels has the “zed” factor. So “Each Other” is the song that will replace “Rainbow,” not because she should be surrounded by a Lion, Tin Man, Scarecrow and her little dog too; but because there are going to be a lot of puppy-love, first kiss pre-teens out there who will be listening to this one. I love her phrasing in this song and my favorite lyric: “You’re like a pillow I can hold on to, ’cause we got each other.” Enjoy the sample!

Katharine McPhee – Each Other

Now we touched on the high school ballad. But what about the Disney “tragic-hero courting the tourtured damsel being held in the tower” ballad? I think that was one of the best descriptions I’ve heard for the song “Ordinary World.” (Thanks to Kat fan Liz for the observation.) And it’s not a bad thing. This song will not be a single. There is not an outlet for it. But it is in no means “Album Filler.” Katharine fans around the country will be purchasing the piano sheet music for this one. It’s really poignant and touching, and Katharine has such control over her voice that is sounds like she is whispering the intro of the song to you in confidence. She opens up a little in the second verse and then lets it rip for the second chorus. So listen up all you “music soops” out there… I want to hear this song in a Sony Imageworks, Pixar, Disney, (studio formerly known as) Fox Animation, and a Warner Brothers Animation feature film by years end! Now get to work! The rest of you, enjoy the sample.

Katharine McPhee – Ordinary World

So what about the fun? The amount of flack Katharine took on the cover art (seen at the top of the post) was laughable. She’s young, she’s good looking and she’s an emerging artist. So as far as I’m concerned, the cover is perfect. It got people talking that didn’t care for it. It got people interested in her who thought she was “plain Jane”. But Katharine isn’t just the GIRL guys want for a girlfriend, she’s the FRIEND guys want that happens to be a girl. The footage of her in the studio listening to the playback of “Do What You Do” sums it up for me. She’s a goof, she’s playful, she’s got talent and she likes to have fun. This song and “Open Toes” are what I expected the entire album to be like. Check this track out–hang in past the intro and pay attention to how the vocal tracks are assembled in this one. People often talk about how electronic things sound nowadays, but these people are the ones who listen to hippies with Martin Backpacker guitars and dirty guys playing Cajons recorded on 4-track tape. The reality of it is that some artists need help to sound good…not great, just good. This is where the pitch correction plug-in for the Protools HD system works overtime. The other reality is that the other artists do not need help to sound good, but use the “robotic-electro-Sher-o-matic” sound of the pitch corrector as a production tool. Give this track a listen and hear how it sounds when it’s used as a production choice.

Katharine McPhee – Do What You Do

I had the chance to see Katharine a couple times in person. The first was at the Grove Holiday Tree Lighting at the Los Angeles Farmers Market. She sounded great in person covering the Christmas Song. We also had the chance to see her at Kimmel Live and she sounded great. But I love the covers… all the non-Idol covers. I do admit that “Black Horse and Cherry Tree” was the turning point for me but I can’t wait to see her do more covers in a live setting. Here’s the most recent offering: Katharine singing Paul Cole’s “Me” from the Pepsi Smash studios.

Katharine McPhee – Me

Here’s some video we got of “Love Story” from Kimmel Live. Sorry for the 8-bit crappy audio…

And “Home” from the same evening.

So over all, I really like the album. It’s fun, it shows a musicality that is found in seasoned professionals, there’s room to grow and improve but it’s not starting off on the ground floor reaching for the stars. I know all the tracks on here are not all tracks that Kat wanted on there. So her sophomore album could theoretically be spectacular. The topics she covers reflect her youth and struggle between social acceptance and isolation. Too deep? Well, listen to “Better Off Alone” for some Greg Bissonette action on the drums. I like that she is a somewhat learned artist and has a formal and informal knowledge of her craft. I see her talking quietly before performances, never screaming and yelling before shows, taking care of the instruments that she has taken the time to develop. I’m really happy with the production and this album has found a home in my car changer for over a month now (which is amazing given the number of albums I am listening to and potentially reviewing). Hopefully you’ll enjoy it as much as I have and will find a home for it in your collection too.

Katharine McPhee was recently in Italy promoting Sexy Hair as their Spokesperson and has upcoming performances in Uniondale, NY; Atlanta, GA and Kansas City, MO. She is currently signed with RCA Records. Check her website or Myspace page for details.

Purchase “Not Ur Girl
Purchase “Each Other
Purchase “Ordinary World
Purchase “Do What You Do

Purchase the self titled album “Katharine McPhee

Visit the official website – www.katharinemcphee.com

– David Schatanoff, Jr.

Advertisements

45 Responses to “Katharine McPhee – Not Just Another Idol”

  1. Jazzy Says:

    Fantastic analyis. I could not have said it better myself! I am wonder, however, how you feel about the songs Neglected and Everywhere I Go. They happen to be my favorite tracks on the album.

  2. Pheenomenal Says:

    Thanks for the kind comments. You will get no argument from the people at IDF who have opened a thread to discuss your views:

    http://idolforums.com/index.php?showtopic=491876

  3. Pheenomenal Says:

    Did you happen to get the “Open Toes” at the Kimmel show? A lot of people are dying to see the interaction with Kimmel – we have only seen still pictures. Thanks.

  4. Jake Says:

    Great review! Its funny how everyone has different favorites; that proves there is no “filler track”. They are all good, they might just appeal to different people.

  5. Viviane Says:

    Another great post, hubby!

    Sorry Kat fans, our camera memory filled up, and we weren’t able to capture more video at the Kimmel concert. We’ll make sure that doesn’t happen again if we get another opportunity to see her perform.

    -Ms. B.

  6. David Schatanoff, Jr. Says:

    It was at the Kimmel Show that I realized that maybe the 2 GB memory card would have been a better purchase than the 1 GB memory card… sorry, no Open Toes video to post. But I have been working really hard with my friends at Kimmel to get some video of the rest of the evening. Stay tuned!

  7. American Idol » American Idol April 7, 2007 6:29 pm Says:

    […] Katharine McPhee – Not Just Another Idol Now? winning American Idol does not equate success. The most successful of all Idol winners is Kelly Clarkson. In fact, there seems to be a mild simmer for every winner since season one. In my opinion, this is because if you win, … […]

  8. bluesfan Says:

    Kat is indeed one of a kind. Shes very talented, and Katharine is also the prettiest girl in the world! Ive never seen a girl as hot as Ms. mcphee! Oh Mcphee!

    Shes also got a cute personality!!!

  9. bluesfan Says:

    great review btw.

    Also Peisha Mcphee kats mom has a blog for this years american Idol too you can post comments on David if you like!

  10. David Schatanoff, Jr. Says:

    Jazzy Says:
    I am wonder, however, how you feel about the songs Neglected and
    Everywhere I Go. They happen to be my favorite tracks on the album.

    Neglected is actually one of my least favorite on the album. BUT, having said that, I still really like the song. I found it hard not to like this song more because Katharine really conveys a lot of emotion on this song. But it came across more as a production experiment to see what the fans might respond to. Still a great track, just less my cup of tea on this album.

    Everywhere I Go reminds me of a Mariah Carey song (not in a negative way). It almost made the review. I love the little lead in to the chorus “always comes back to you”. This is another one of the songs where Kat has these HUGE interval jumps in her range. Just impressive and even more impressive to see live.

  11. Tina Says:

    What a great review of Katharine! Thank you so much I really enjoyed it! I studied music for most of my life, and throughout the years I’ve been so fortunate to hear such beautiful things. But every so often, someone comes along who not only fills your ears with beautiful melodies, they somehow touch your heart and soul…this is what Katharine McPhee does with her special gift. A beautiful voice, with an accompaniment of magic and charm that is utterly captivating. It may sound like a cliche, but in this case it’s purely factual…some people truly are born to be a star!

  12. Bella Says:

    I love the review David. I couldn’t agree more with everything you said… Kat is definitely one of a kind, and she managed to make that album even better than us fans expected it to be. Amazing how I still listen to it every single day even after 2 months since its release. And without skipping any tracks. 🙂 Kat is the best. That’s all.

  13. Nancy Says:

    What an excellent analysis of Katharine McPhee’s album. From one music lover to another, I totally appreciated the read. Haha, and I totally agree about Taylor & Michael MacDonald.

  14. Carrie Underwood News » Carrie Underwood April 7, 2007 10:22 pm Says:

    […] 2006-11-21 The 10 Worst Holiday Gift Ideas According to SixWise.com Giving gifts is an art, …Katharine McPhee – Not Just Another Idol Season two gave us Ruben Studdard The Velvet Teddybear, season three – Fantasia Barrino, and season […]

  15. Shawnna M. Says:

    Fabolous summary!! Kat has aided me in so many ways that I thank everyday and I’m now allowed to begin to see! Loved it!!

  16. Steve Says:

    Thanks for the blog, David. As a Kat fan, I’m loving your review. It’s great that you got to see Kat perform live two times, as well.

    What you said about her appeal is so true. Beyond the obvious vocal talent, Katharine has a personality that just draws you in. You DO want to be her friend.

    It’s funny how you specifically mentioned that video of her recording “Do What You Do,” because I can’t stop watching that one! She’s hilarious in it. The goofiest girl.

  17. Steve Says:

    David, I forgot the most important part. I LOVE YOU.

  18. David Schatanoff, Jr. Says:

    I have that effect on people…

    Thanks for reading… and I Love you too…

  19. Viviane Says:

    Bravo, Steve. Bravo.

  20. True Says:

    “So it was with a sigh of relief when Taylor Hicks won Idol and is now nwhere to be seen or heard.”

    It’s apparent you are not a Taylor fan — before or after AI. Taylor is everywhere — open your eyes and ears. He’s on a 53+ city sold-out tour getting rave reviews — on TV promotions in almost every city — giving private concerts — scheduled for some huge fairs this summer — his book is coming out in July and will be having a book-signing tour. From Herald-mail.com re his upcoming concert in Hagerstown, MD: “”He’s one of the hottest things in music right now,” said Torres, who called Hicks’ live performances “amazing.”

    Where is Katharine McPhee — doing open-mouthed photo shots, red carpet appearances, and radio tours. Her album hasn’t reached gold and has been out for more than two months.

  21. Viviane Says:

    Haha, nope, he’s not a Taylor fan. Hence the blog post about Katharine McPhee. And…SCENE.

  22. David Schatanoff, Jr. Says:

    Don’t get me wrong, I am certainly not completely unaware of Taylor Hicks and the appeal or success that he has derived from his talent. All I am pointing out is before Idol, I didn’t know of any of the contestants and after Idol, I have only seen or heard Katharine McPhee… and not because I sought her out. I happen to live in a major market for Film, TV, Radio and Multimedia. And after the Idol Tour obligation, the only thing in my market was Kat McPhee and “the McPheever”.

    So eyes and ears are open, as they always are. If you are involved with his promotional aspects you can feel free to send us an EPK and some samples that might sway us from “casual listener” to “fan”.

    It’s great that you are following Taylor and his success through his more than 53 city tour and the “huge fair” portion of his career. But the reason I chose to focus on Katharine and not Taylor in this post, was the idea of longevity. It can be argued that Taylor will eventually be around longer and go Platinum quicker and be bigger than the all the other new artists out there. But the basic purpose of this post is to expose people to music that they otherwise might not listen to. “All the music that doesn’t suck” is our motto and we try to represent that with all of our posts.

    We’re happy that we’re getting feedback so thank you for the post. But as you pointed out, I am not a Taylor fan. A lot of people are not. But a lot of people love him. That’s what makes music great. We only have 12 notes to utilize in our musical scale here in the west and artists somehow manage to make something different for everyone. It really is amazing. So keep listening to music, keep having an opinion an supporting the artists you enjoy. And keep checking back for More Music that Doesn’t Suck – Only on The Alternakids.com. Who knows, maybe after Taylor wraps his tour, we’ll do a piece on the L.A. County fair performance.

    David

  23. McPheever17 Says:

    Great review! You really summed up the album well! It’s nice to see a great positive review!

  24. Shniffa Says:

    “But what about the Disney “tragic-hero courting the tourtured damsel being held in the tower” ballad? I think that was one of the best descriptions I’ve heard for the song “Ordinary World.” (Thanks to Kat fan Liz for the observation.)” … “So listen up all you “music soops” out there… I want to hear this song in a Sony Imageworks, Pixar, Disney, (studio formerly known as) Fox Animation, and a Warner Brothers Animation feature film by years end! Now get to work! ”

    I’m really glad you included this in your review. I had been listening to the album for well over two months when the whole “disney ballad” topic had been brought up. The next time I listened to the song I couldn’t get images of the “Lion King” out of my head. Now I’m patiently waiting for it to appear in a movie. hehe Someone made a video about the troops set to this song …. all I can say is WOW, very, very moving.

    Katharine has a very special gift and is a very special person. With Katharine it’s not just about her singing … its about the person she is on the inside and thats what draws people to her. I am happy to call myself a fan, and I’m sure many others are as well.

    Thank you so much for writing such an amazing review David. It says all the things I’ve been thinking about the album since it came out but haven’t ever been able to put into words.

  25. Gregoriancant Says:

    This is the kind of review encapsulating Kat’s artistry that we haven’t seen in a while–so thanks, David, for posting it. Also, it may cause a bitter debate about whether Taylor’s really “healthy and happy.” I guess the hyper dancing he does in his shows is a good cardiovascular test. Though being under contract at ‘AI’ for the next seven years may not induce what we call happiness. 😉

    One of my favorite lines in your review describing Kat was when you said: “I like that she is a somewhat learned artist and has a formal and informal knowledge of her craft.” That almost intuitive approach to her skills is one of many things I’ve appreciated in her too. Kat’s a truly intuitive type of musician with a mix of actual learned skill. I’ve found that musicians who have a basic foundation–yet haven’t marred their talent by overanalyzation of music theory–become the best type of musical artists. That’s the way I describe myself in my own musical skills. I’ve always suspected Kat’s interpretive abilities are somewhat innate…especially when I found out that she really doesn’t read music that much or have a working knowledge of theory. Only Peisha (her mother) teaching her vocal technique gave her that basic foundation to allow Kat to still explore her own creative, musical imagination.

    I forward your wish that ‘Ordinary World’ (ironically, ‘OW’ for short) be used in a Disney film or something similar. You probably heard that Kat recently cited that as her least favorite song on the album. We’ve all pretty much surmised the reason for that is because she wants to stay clear of anything labeling her “the ballad singer.” She can interpret those songs like no one else–yet wants to prove that she can sing faster, hipper, dance-worthy material. A lot of her older fans, though, wish she’d make an album eventually of jazz or standards material. And Kat could do that in her sleep…so it’s not a musical challenge for her.

    Outside your awesome analysis of the music–your analysis of Kat’s personality is right on. I don’t think she’s met anyone who doesn’t want to be her friend…except for a few unfortunate and jealous souls.

    Congratulations on the success of this article, David. I’m enjoying all your blogs…

  26. David Schatanoff, Jr. Says:

    RE: Taylor Hicks – “Though being under contract at ‘AI’ for the next seven years may not induce what we call happiness. ”

    Yeah, even Kelly Clarkson didn’t really break away (pun intended) until she got more creative control over her material. And that is true of most artists. Get signed and you’re going to make a label album. And that shows in Katharine’s album also. It’s a “trust thing” when it comes to artists and labels. You give up a little bit (or sometimes a lot) of your musical personality in order to make a more appealing album that is going to benefit the label, and ultimately the artist.

    So Taylor will break free from the Idol image and sound that has been created for him someday and make a really good album that better represents himself as an artist. But for now, I expect 4 bar blues and gospel tunes. Prove me wrong Taylor fans!

  27. nanhasmcpheever Says:

    David – great article and review. Kat is one of a kind, and her kind doesn’t come along every day. She has the whole package, something that is missing this year in AI6. I have no doubt that she will be successful for years to come. Thanks.

  28. Liz Says:

    Wooooo, I got a shout out! Thanks man. Kat rules and so does your sexy wife!

  29. Viviane Says:

    You HEAR that? I’m SEXY. Liz said so. WHAT.

  30. Liz Says:

    You’re a sexy bitch, yes you are.

  31. Jazzy Says:

    *is still trying to comprehend the thought of Neglected being at the bottom of David’s favorite songs from the album* 😮

  32. Jazzy Says:

    Well, that smiley was suprised to be a “suprise” face, but it comes out looking like an “I’m pissed off” face, which I am not.

    *performs a smiley test for future reference*

    🙂
    😦
    😀

  33. David Schatanoff, Jr. Says:

    Jazzy – The little smiley guy looks like he just woke up so he has the right to be pissed.

    Well there had to be one song down at the bottom of the list. At least all the songs can hold their own individually. It’s what I like the most about music… what one person thinks is top notch can be completely different from what another person thinks is top notch. But I really like that we are all listening to music, no matter what it is… and that’s pretty cool. You can still meet people that haven’t seen any Star Wars movies, people that don’t have a TV, and people without a cell phone. But you’ll be hard pressed to find any person on earth that hasn’t heard some form of music. That’s your Keanu Reeves ‘whoa’ moment of the day…

  34. David Schatanoff, Jr. Says:

    Liz – no YOU rule! Great observation on the disney movie placement for Ordinary World!

    I forgot to mention it in the post, but listen to the Octave riff, Beatles-like bass playing and VERY Beatles-like vocal bridge pre-chorus

    “World… Hold your breath…”

    So good…

  35. Jazzy Says:

    Well there had to be one song down at the bottom of the list. At least all the songs can hold their own individually. It’s what I like the most about music… what one person thinks is top notch can be completely different from what another person thinks is top notch.

    Yep, that’s the best part of this album in particular for me. For instance, you featured Ordinary World here in this blog when it’s quite far down on my own personal list…And I disagree with Greg about the reason it’s Kat’s least favorite. I don’t see it as having anything to do with being pigeonholed as “the ballad singer” and moreso because of, *ahem*, the fact that it has the tendency to feel a bit corny at times. That’s why it fits the “Disney” realm so well.

  36. kay Says:

    Fantastic review!

  37. Super Blogs » Katharine McPhee Says:

    […] Katharine McPhee – Not Just Another Idol So what makes Katharine McPhee stand out? How is her voice, her album and the Katharine McPhee brand so different from everything else out there? Well, the truth is: It?s not original. Nothing has been all that original since the … […]

  38. Katie Says:

    Great review of the album! I just saw Katharine this past weekend at MuchMusic/Canadian Idol Concert and she is adorable live, and sounds amazing live. The songs on her album are not easy songs to sing and she pulls them off with ease. Also listening to her live you never hear the same version twice which i love, she adds little runs and different phrasing to the lyrics that make each listen an enjoyable experience!
    To this very day, the Ms B shout out on Kimmel gets me everytime at the expression of surprise/joy on her face.

  39. Viviane Says:

    Aw, thanks for reading the hubby’s blog, Katie. The Kimmel shoutout gets me every time too 🙂

    -Ms. Be

  40. sulster Says:

    Nice review, thoughtful insights and well-said responses to comments! Hear hear!

  41. Rebecca Says:

    too bad her album is flopping hard. I’d expect her to be dropped within the next year.

  42. David Schatanoff, Jr. Says:

    RCA may decide to drop her but Sony / BMG is waiting in the wings. RCA Records is a entity owned by Sony BMG Music. 19 Recordings Unlimited produced the album alongside with RCA and has solid relationships with both RCA Records and Sony BMG. Since 19 Recordings is managed by American Idol creator Simon Fuller, I don’t think Katharine will have any trouble putting out several other albums under any of the Sony BMG labels (Arista, Epic, Jive, Columbia, etc).

    If anyone out there reading has Soundscan, I’d be curious to see what the actual numbers are. The couple of execs I talked to said that her album wasn’t doing all that bad for a freshman album.

  43. Jazzy Says:

    This is her current total: 325,824k

    However, the total for the single, Over It, is: 413,134k – Approximately

  44. Articles @ Katharine-McPhee.org » Katharine McPhee - Not Just Another Idol Says:

    […] Source […]

  45. bhupinder1066 Says:

    these r nice reviews nd i usually use 2 see reviews………….
    you can discuss about your views also at my side..

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: