By Samantha Brandbergh
The Bart Luedeke Center Theater was filled with talent and originality during the R Factor final on Sept. 29.
The show was named best campus tradition in 2016 by the National Association of Campus Activities. This year’s auditions were held on Sept. 15
Following the auditions, the performers had two weeks to prepare two vocal pieces for the final.
Six students sang, and it was senior public relations major Janay Barkley who took home the title of R Factor Season VIII winner.
Barkley’s audition, a mash-up of Beyoncé’s “Say My Name” and SZA’s “Love Galore,” impressed judge Dez Duron, her mentor and coach in the weeks leading up to the final.
“Dez was a really great coach and I wouldn’t have been able to have the confidence to go on the stage if it weren’t for him reassuring me,” Barkley said.
The night consisted of three rounds: solos, duets and the final performance. The audience only voted on the solo performances, while the duet round was “just for fun,” as Nick Barbati, assistant director of campus life, said.
In the first round, Barkley sang “Almost is Never Enough” by Ariana Grande, a performance judge Dani Knights described as “perfect.”
The minimal instrumentation allowed Barkley’s voice to be on full display, showcasing her range and emotion while she sang.
“I think you’re an incredible vocalist,” Duron said. “I just think between your pitch and your amazing tone, that just is so wonderful to listen to. I don’t think you have to do cool moves. You just sing and it sounds great.”
After all six contestants performed and voting had closed, two students moved on to the final round: Barkley and sophomore liberal studies major Malik Wright from Knights’ team.
Wright performed “Die a Happy Man” by Thomas Rhett, which earned a standing ovation from Barbati and Knights.
“I love that you took that song and made it your own,” Knights said. “I believe everything you sang; you’re a star now and I’m so proud of you.”
Barkley sang “Location” by Khalid in the final round, which highlighted her ability to “play around and have fun” with the song, according to Duron.
“This is who you are. You are a singer,” he said. “When you open your mouth, it’s the little things. It’s the vibrato at the end of your phrases, it’s the little runs that you fit in. It’s just the little details that you do.”
Once the final round was over, anticipation filled the theater as audience members cast their votes.
Judges Essence Williams, senior musical theater major, and Lancelot Douglas, junior musical theater major, joined the contestants on stage to announce that Barkley won R Factor.
While Barkley said she was nervous while performing, it did not steer her away from winning the audience over.
“It takes a lot of guts to get up in front of your peers especially when you are naturally shy,” Duron said to Barkley after her performance. “I loved getting to work with you; I’m so proud of you for pushing yourself and sharing your sweet spirit and beautiful gift with the world. I hope this will encourage you to do so.”
For Barkley, R Factor was an experience she will never forget.
“I typically don’t step out of my comfort zone, so this was something I did that is definitely out of the norm for me, but I am so happy that I did,” she said.
Additional reporting by Caterina Troiani
Printed in the 10/4/17 edition.