Quentin Tarantino on American Idol?

Yeah, I said that with a question mark when I first heard it. Quentin Tarantino was the guest mentor on this week’s American Idol, as the category was “songs from movies”. Of course, since AI mentors are generally professionals in the music industry, I thought to myself “what’s QT going to offer these kids? He’s no singer, not a songwriter or musician (of any note). WTF?”

Q himself explained it thus: That he would be “directing” the singers as he would an actor. He listened to their performance, gave them notes, and then asked them to make adjustments.

Again, though, I thought “what kind of notes can you offer that will be relevant?” And again, I was surprised.

Just as an example, his advice to Danny Gokey, who was so emotionally invested in his song that he was gesturing intently with his hands: [paraphrasing] “When you’re so emotionally invested, performers find lots of ways to dissipate the energy they’re feeling… through their hands, for instance. Put your hands in your pockets, and try again… channel that energy you were losing through gesture into your voice and your eyes.”

I walked away feeling a little humbled. His direction was about dramatic performance, about channeling the emotional content of your song/story/script in ways that will optimize its communication. It was insightful, intuitive and on point, and it was cool to see him play to his own strengths to find a way to offer valuable notes to the kids.

I may not love all his work — his first two or three films are by far his best stuff (Reservoir Dogs is still brilliant), I nearly walked out of Kill Bill and had to fast forward most of Death Proof — but there’s no denying that he’s an immensely talented guy. Just an immensely talented guy whose tastes have unfortunately parted far from mine in recent years.

It was neat to watch, and I bet I’m a little bit better a director for having seen it.

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