- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 17, 2007

As all eyes home in on Wednesday’s “American Idol” climax, we’re not wondering whether finalist Blake Lewis will win it all. (You know he will.) We’re wondering this instead: Who among the most honored singers of rock, pop and jazz (dead or alive) could have possibly navigated through the public’s rather narrow preference for showy, theatrical — in a word, perfect — voices? Not these five, we suspect.

Bob Dylan — Just picture the eye-rolling dismissal Mr. Dylan’s crumbly voice would have elicited from His Haughtiness, Simon Cowell. “Don’t even bother swimming,” he would say. “You’ve already sunk like a stone.”

Billie Holiday — In her time, “Lady Day” altered the parameters of jazz vocalizing by introducing a plaintive expressiveness borrowed from the blues into her singing. Were she unknown today, however, it’s likely the public would send her packing because of her narrow range and lack of lung strength.

Aaron Neville — We marvel at him today because the range of his voice is expansive and its timbre uplifting. Yet it’s just as easy to imagine Mr. Neville’s idiosyncratic vibrato proving a turnoff. Eartha Kitt — Would America deem her feline voice a thing of purr-fection or a briefly amusing novelty? We’re guessing the latter.

Leonard Cohen — A vehicle of poetic expression or Canada’s version of William Hung? Again, the latter.

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