Melinda Doolittle
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Melinda Doolittle

New York, New York, United States | INDIE | AFTRA

New York, New York, United States | INDIE | AFTRA
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Former “American Idol” finalist Melinda Doolittle, who once sang backup vocals for many big names, showed why she deserves to be front and center during her show titled “Love 101,” Saturday at the Cabaret at the Columbia Club in downtown Indianapolis.

An R&B singer extraordinaire, Doolittle possesses a big voice with a rich, full-bodied timbre and a style that is sultry and soulful. Warm and funny, the effervescent Doolittle’s show included jazz standards, pop, Broadway tunes and some original songs. An artist who was born to entertain, Doolittle connected viscerally with the audience through her powerful voice and magnetic personality in a way few are capable of.

“The good, the bad and the ugly” were the aspects of love that Doolittle tied to her show’s “Love 101” theme. Informing the audience that she was influenced by her mother, who was a teacher, Doolittle proceeded to “educate” them through her own journey as she sang songs that pertained to various stages one undergoes when searching for love.

Doolittle was accompanied by her accomplished pianist, DeMarco Johnson, who happens to be a South Bend, Ind. native and a 1999 graduate of Butler University. Demonstrating both personal and musical rapport, they entertained the full-house crowd with a fast-paced program that showcased Doolittle’s spectacular vocal strengths to her best advantage.

Saying that someday she hoped to marry a man like her hero, Cliff Huxtable, from the TV sitcom “The Cosby Show,” Doolittle began her first set with “Teach Me Tonight” and “Do What I Do.” Then, she sang “My Funny Valentine” — a tune she performed during “Idol” semi-finals when she wowed the judges with her distinctive phrasing.

Displaying her playful sense of humor, Doolittle sang Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It).” She then drew from her deep reservoir of emotion in “You Need Me” (with music by Johnson), an original song about falling in love with her best friend. Blowing the roof off the Columbia Club with her immense voice, Doolittle closed Act 1 with “I’m A Woman.”

Doolittle’s second set began with her rendition of “I Got Rhythm,” followed by “The Best of Everything.” Then, with Johnson singing backup, she rendered another one of her own songs, “Wonderful,” in what was truly one of the show’s highlights.

Next came the interactive portion of Doolittle’s act. Having asked for a volunteer to be her boyfriend earlier in the show, a good sport named Greg, who raised his hand previously, received a surprise when Doolittle went out into the house to dance with him while Johnson played. To the delight of the audience, Doolittle took a turn on the floor with a few other willing partners before ending up with a gentleman who she revealed later was her “Uncle Champ,” who lives in Indianapolis.

The show’s climax occurred when Doolittle sang an explosive interpretation of “Home,” made famous by Diana Ross in “The Wiz,” with a performance so intensely moving that she received an instantaneous standing ovation.

Changing the mood, Doolittle then proceeded to sing a charming tribute to current hit pop songs about love in a medley that included Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe,” Justin Bieber’s “If I Were Your Boyfriend” and “Baby,” and Bruno Mars’ “Grenade” and “Marry You.”

Once again showing off her ability to belt and emote like the best of them, Doolittle sang her own version of “At Last,” made famous by Etta James. Following another prolonged standing ovation, she performed “Love Will Stand” as her encore. - The Examiner


Michael Musto -

No, really.

There's a finalist from that show, it turns out, who doesn't just shriek and bop around the stage while making screechy faces.

It's Melinda Doolittle, who came in third in season six, but who's a big winner at Feinsteins at the Regency through March 5.

The woman has pipes, energy, and sass.

And on songs that you thought were more overdone than burnt eggs -- like "At Last" and "My Funny Valentine" -- she can really move and surprise you, turning them into powerful odes to love.

The running patter about the ups and downs of romance might be too much like an act, and a couple of tunes are too adult contemporary, but when she vibrates her vocal chords, Doolittle does a lot!

Afterward, I told Melinda that two guys sitting in front of me started rubbing each other at one point, turned on by her stylings.

I doubt they would have done that for whoever came in second. - The Village Voice


Beyonce. Bieber. Bruno. Feinstein's at Loews Regency. If these words are rarely heard together, former American Idol finalist Melinda Doolittle has found the recipe to blend them together in her new show , Love 101 . Drawing from the worlds of Broadway, R&B, and Pop, Doolitle has crafted a solid, occasionally thrilling hour's worth of entertainment sure to gain to her new fans.

With a voice and personality that's part sweetness and part sass -- and a seemingly perfect sense of pitch -- Doolitle is never less than beguiling. But admittedly, she lacks the distinctive vocal qualities that have propelled fellow Idol alums Fantasia and Jennifer Hudson into the stratosphere.

Like a typical Idol season; Love 101 touches all the musical bases. Pop-haters needn't worry, though; Justin Bieber's infectious "Baby" and Bruno Mars' "Grenade" and "Marry You" are combined for a short if cleverly conceived medley, and Doolittle throws little more than a snippet of Beyonce's super-catchy "Single Ladies" at the end of a well-done pairing of "Blues in the Night" and "Ain't Nobody Business (If I Do)."

Most comfortable in the R&B mode, Doolittle excels on "Wonderful," a catchy 1970s-sounding tune from her 2009 album, Coming Back to You; adds a healthy dose of grit to a full-out rendition of "At Last"; brings on the bravado in a jazzy "Down with Love"; and practically tears down the house with a passionate, in-your-face take on "I'm a W-O-M-A-N."

Doolittle doesn't shy away from the Broadway canon; better yet, she opts for some unusual selections. She perform Avenue Q's "The More You Love Someone," with remarkable straightforwardness, offers up a suitably roof-raising version of "Home" (from The Wiz) mid-set; and concludes the night with the stirring ballad "Love Will Stand When All Else Falls" from Memphis.

While the conceit of Doolittle's act is that she's been trying to learn all about love, there's little question she has mastered the tough task of presenting a crowd-pleasing show. - Theatermania


Four years have passed since Melinda Doolittle became a finalist on “American Idol” singing in a home-cooked pop-gospel style that suggested a slightly rougher-edged Gladys Knight. And on Tuesday evening at Feinstein’s at Loews Regency, Ms. Doolittle sang the kind of touch-all-bases program on which Ms. Knight built her career.

Ms. Doolittle has a voice that inspires trust. Especially when singing a Broadway ballad like “Home,” from “The Wiz,” she invites you to lean on her for support; once we’re home, she promises, everything will be all right. Stylistically Ms. Doolittle is a staunch traditionalist who follows the paths blazed by others. That may be a career impediment. Her rendition of “My Funny Valentine” was patterned after Chaka Khan’s extravagantly ornate version that treated the song as a freewheeling cry. “At Last” echoed the triumphal Etta James recording that turned this big-band pop standard into a soul classic.

When Ms. Doolittle appeared at Feinstein’s in November 2009, she was backed by a single piano. This time she has a bass-drums-piano trio led by DeMarco Johnson that effectively underlines her vocal heft. The show, titled “Love 101,” is about being a single woman looking for a solid relationship. Early on Tuesday Ms. Doolittle declared: “All my life I wanted to be Clair Huxtable. I’m looking for my Cliff.” That faith in family values is embedded in her voice.

A medley of “Blues in the Night,” “Tain’t Nobody’s Bizness if I Do” and “Single Ladies” was a proud declaration of independence should she not find her Cliff. It was preceded by a slow, swiveling “Down With Love.” A shiny “Top 40 Love Medley,” which joined fragments of Bruno Mars and Justin Bieber hits, was a side dish from the meat and potatoes of the finale, “Love Will Stand When All Else Falls.”

That generic pop-gospel anthem from the Broadway musical “Memphis” belongs in the same category as Foreigner’s “I Want to Know What Love Is.” It exists for a gospel singer like Ms. Doolittle to infuse it with belief, illuminate it within, and as the cliché has it, take it to church, which is exactly what Ms. Doolittle did.

-Stephen Holden - The New York Times


Discography

Studio Album
2009 - Coming Back to You - HiFi Records (Debut)

Concept Album
2013 - Lift Every Voice - Curb Records

EPs
2007 - Melinda Doolittle - 19 Entertainment

Singles
2008 - My Funny Valentine - Independent Release
2009 - It's Your Love - Album Song

Photos

Bio

Although her third-place finish on American Idol's sixth season introduced Melinda Doolittle to a new audience, the neo-soul singer already boasted an impressive rsum, having spent the better part of a decade singing backup for the likes of Aaron Neville, Jonny Lang, Charlie Peacock, and CeCe Winans. Doolittle was born in St. Louis, MO, and relocated to Nashville during the mid-'90s to attend Belmont University while pursuing a singing career. Already employed as a gifted background vocalist, she auditioned for American Idol in 2006 and earned a place on the show's 2007 season. Doolittle proved to be an especially strong singer during her 13-week run; however, despite receiving near-unanimous acclaim from the judging panel, her reign was cut short one week before the show's finale. She later completed the American Idol summer tour alongside her former competitors (including runner-up Blake Lewis and champion Jordin Sparks) and dedicated significant time to philanthropic efforts, including a trip to Zambia alongside First Lady Laura Bush. While several of her Idol cohorts released albums in 2007 and 2008, Doolittle lay down until 2009, when she emerged with her debut for Hi Fi Recordings. Titled Coming Back to You, the album comprised covers of vintage blues and early R&B standards. ~ Andrew Leahey, Rovi