Scott, To Be Certain


Sunday, September 09, 2007

S2BC's Top 20 All-Time Australian Idol Performances: No. 5

5. Casey Donovan, "Here's Where I Stand" (Season 2, Semi-Finals)

Long before Jessica Mauboy memorably interpreted Xtina Aguilera's self-acceptance anthem "Beautiful" for a well-deserved touchdown in Season 4, there was this sensational performance on a similar theme from Casey Donovan, one of the most unforgettable introductions to a new voice in this country's entertainment history.

The song itself is from the soundtrack of Camp, a fun but disposable film about a performing arts retreat and its adolescent participants on a quest to find themselves. It's strongly sung in the film by Tiffany Taylor, a young black girl who surprises her parents with her talent, but it's poorly staged and boringly arranged. In Casey's hands it makes the leap from schmaltzy musical number to genuine art, giving it an unexpected further depth with breathtaking vocal flourishes that are equal parts fragile and robust.

This was the first time we'd properly witnessed the talent of Casey, who faced an uphill battle as a potential popstar because of her weight. History tells us she ultimately lost that battle, but not before a stunning evolution before the Idol cameras, one which deservedly took her to the title. This first performance epitomised that success: a combination of unbelievable song choice, a gorgeous fusion of both bold and gentle notes and an unparalleled ability to interpret lyrics as though she were the author. The song could so easily be by and about Casey:

"Here in the dark, I stand before you/
Knowing this is my chance to show you my heart/
This is the start, this is the start..."

It certainly was. And what a beautiful start: a kick-arse "take me or leave me" challenge she set us, and which we accepted immediately. She was the top vote-getter in her semi-final and to date it's the only semi-final performance to ever earn a touchdown. Bonus points too for dressing all in black to sing the "here in the dark" line. Quite simply, this was a woman presenting herself for judgment, with an uncommon strength shining through. She remains an enigma with worsening weight issues, but I sense she's on an upward curve, and I look forward to her stunning us with a re-introduction hopefully every bit as powerful and uncompromising as this.

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  • At 5:41 PM, September 09, 2007, Blogger yublocka said…

    For me this was the no. 1 moment ever. Replayed it so many times on my video back then. Love it!!!

  • At 11:42 PM, September 09, 2007, Blogger TallulahBelle said…

    This is one of the performances I always cite when asked about my all time favourites, along with Chanel's Glory Box. Rightly in the Top Five. I have both Casey's and Tiffany's versions on my iPod.

  • At 10:17 AM, September 10, 2007, Blogger EuroTrash said…

    Good choice here... am very keen to find out what makes it intot he top 4 then!!

    AND, more importantly, I am super keen to know what you thought of Karl Risible's interpretation of WALTZING FRIGGIN MATILDA!!!!

    I know it's unAustralian of me, but heavens to betsy, what a horrible horrible horrible song choice!!!!

  • At 10:55 AM, September 10, 2007, Anonymous Ben said…

    Great choice here Scott, I wasn't expecting you to rate this one so highly - but it's absolutely deserving. Surely there's at least 1 more Casey to come in the Top 4?

  • At 2:39 PM, September 10, 2007, Blogger Scott said…

    Very pleased to see so much support for my choices as we reach the pointy end of the countdown... hopefully the remaining 4 meet the same reaction! *braces self*

  • At 3:13 PM, September 10, 2007, Blogger Kamikaze Camel said…

    Casey annoyed me though. Throughout the series (particularly that Eleanor Rigby disaster) that people were only getting behind her because she was this 16-year-old girl with weight issues and they voted for her because they thought it was inspiring or some shit like that.

  • At 4:11 PM, September 10, 2007, Blogger Scott said…

    I disagree KC - show me a single other competitor of either gender from the Idol machine with the capacity to communicate emotion and old-soul style interpretive singing with as much disarming honesty and gusto as Casey. Granted, the Eleanor Rigby disaster should probably have been her swansong in the only-good-as-your-last-performance philosophy, but people forget that Ricki-Lee was horrendous that night as well, and they overlook that Casey went on to deliver consecutive, jaw-droppingly good performances after that stuff-up so as to more than earn her place. Sure, she was a woeful interviewee and incapable of shooting the shit with the hosts, but when she sang - yowza. Absolutely nothing to do with sympathy.

  • At 5:12 PM, September 10, 2007, Blogger Woodsman said…

    My clear #2 performance ever and the number 1 most played song on my ipod. That it was performed in a tv studio with a backing tape and no audience is even more amazing - compare and contrast any semi final before or since (Chanel aside) and it is amazing - this was also her first live performance to the nation, for a 16yo bogan that makes her a star.

    Anthony had slutted himself around KAK, Good Morning Australia and Crown casino for years before spazzing up about 6 performances before producing the (hugely overrated and never again repeated) The Prayer - oh sorry, him singing Craig David afters was so credible pfft

    Didn't she also receive the most touchdowns of any contestant - and that had nothing to do with her being a tubsy 16yo. The girl's voice is amazing.

    I like hyphens.

  • At 9:11 PM, September 10, 2007, Blogger jo said…

    For me this was certainly the most memorable performance. I still listen to it on the iPod and I was amazed again just then watching all of her You Tube videos at just how sophisticated, consistant and moving her performances were. You are spot on in your description of just what 'it' was that she had. Especially with 'old-soul'. I do grieve the loss of her and hope she comes back soon.

    Although I am sure that Holly's Gossip performance will stick in my memory too - if only because she was snatched away from me just as I realised how much potential she had.

    She was my new favourite *by far* after yesterday's performance. I barely noticed her before that - although Easy was quite nice. But I thought the Gossip was an awesome song choice - both for her voice - and for it's left of centre and yet still (I thought) immedietely accessible and infectious hook. A lot of people pick songs that were once great, but are so overdone I just can't stand hearing them again. But this song was a favourite as soon as I originally heard it (Although I must admit I am a wee bit sick of it now because I have overplayed it).

    I thought it would possibly have that impact on everybody who loves rock music, even if it wasn't Beth Ditto singing it. But alas, I was wrong.

    There was some guy (whose name I now cannot even recall) a while ago who I found really, really boring until he sang 'I am not my hair' for his top 24, which really moved me - that is one of my other most memorable performances. But I can't find any videos or recordings of it, so I don't know how good it really was. I just remember being devastated that he was gone only as soon as he really impressed me. Much like Holly.


  • At 11:22 PM, September 10, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    My second favourite Idol moment ever. If you don't her version of 'Beautiful' above 'The Prayer' I will cry.


  • At 10:02 AM, September 11, 2007, Blogger yublocka said…

    Silly q - where can you get the mp3 from. I'd love to have this on my ipod as well (and obviously I'm a bit clueless!)

  • At 8:46 AM, September 12, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    May I add KC - I voted like mad for Casey the week of the Eleanor Rigby disaster. Why? Not because of sympathy but because I thought the best singer in the competition deserved a second chance. And, as Scott has noted, BOY did she reward our faith in her.

    This mythology of the sympathy vote shits me. Casey won Idol because she was the best, hands down. Anthony was and is a one trick pony and never was this more conclusively proven than when they both sang 'Listen With Your Heart' and she managed to transcend its limitations a s a song and his version was dismal and limp, like all of his performances bar 'The Prayer' (aka. that Celine Dion song).


  • At 10:56 PM, October 08, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    What a really wonderful read Scott, thank you. I have been a Casey devotee since the moment she sang Here's where I stand. Every week, without fail (oh alright, except for the Beatles debacle) she blew me away. How could such a beautiful young woman connect with her lyrics the way Casey does? Her song choice, week after week, was without doubt the best of any Idol contestant. Casey was the first (and only) contestant I have ever voted for over all of the Idol series. There is one downside to loving Casey's voice - she's ruined it for everyone to follow. Very hard to measure up to her!

    Where can I find the rest of your Countdown? Oh and by the way, Casey is in the process of mixing her indi EP, due for release at the end of November! Keep an eye out for it - she has written some fantastic songs.


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