Welcome to the Idol Guy, a weekly look at the goings-on in the Idol world, both on- and off-screen. This is not a recap; for that you'll have to go to the fine FORT recaps by Yardgnome, MotherSister, and SueEllenMishke.
It's been a busy week in Idol-land, hasn't it? Two reasonably good performance shows, four cuts that surprised a lot of people at home, and, of course, Barba-gate. There's as much action taking place off-screen as there is on it, it seems. We have quite a few things to talk about this week, so this week's piece is a bit longer than last week.
Guy's night this week was much better than last week... although that's not saying much, considering how bad last week's snooze fest was. To be fair, it was about as good as you can expect before the top 12. The biggest flop of the night was - who else - Sanjaya. We know the would-be Idols live in a bubble, but didn't anyone tell him the song, the clothes, heck, everything - was a bad idea? How is he staying in the competition? (The suspicious minded, however, will say that the powers that be threw Sanjaya a softball by asking him why he chose that song. We can't help but agree that they have a point.)
Since we have had two weeks to see everyone in action, there's enough information to group the guys roughly. There are two people who are absolute locks for the top 12: Blake Lewis and Chris Sligh. Almost-but-not-quite locks are Chris Richardson and Phil Stacey. Everyone else - except Sanjaya - is in the Muddled Middle. They're either just okay but undistinguished singers, or wildly inconsistent (yes, I mean you, Sundance.) It's a coin flip who among them will make the top 12... and probably get eliminated without even making the tour. Brandon was lucky to survive this week, and he needs to clearly knock it out of the park next week if he wants to stay. Sanjaya is the clear cellar-dweller, but it won't be much of a surprise if he makes it to the top 12, and perhaps more. A lot of people must be voting for him at all costs if he survived this week - that's the kind of fan base that puts people in the top 12, even if they don't really deserve to be there.
What about the girls? Once again it had several standout performances (Melinda and Lakisha), but everyone else seems to have stuck in a Muddled Middle of their own. Melinda and Lakisha are locks for the top 12; Stephanie Edwards is close to being a lock; but for everyone else it's a real tossup. Antonella's situation is a lot like Sanjaya's, except that she's not anywhere as bad. Whatever her actual talent, someone is voting for Antonella, and they've gotten her through two so-so performances. Her photos and the resulting scandal have, if anything, rallied her fan base and made them even more influential. It's more likely than not she'll sneak into the top 12.
We're shocked, shocked at these results: or maybe not. We're not that happy with the results either, but it's not that much of a surprise why Nick Pedro, AJ Tabaldo, Alaina Alexander, and Leslie Hunt all went home.
Alaina's cut is easiest to explain. She had one of the weaker voices left with the women, and she was lucky she didn't go home last week. Her strange song choice (Not Ready To Make Nice to her mother?) did her few favors as well. For the others, it's different. Their problem was they had a hard time establishing a fan base that could be motivated to vote strongly for them. Partly it's because they weren't all that consistent (AJ and Nick), or they had styles which may have been less popular with the audience at large (AJ and Leslie). It's also worth noting that none of them got the kind of audition or Hollywood-stage TV time that others got. Survival in this stage of American Idol is primarily about building a fan base that will vote for you through thick or thin. You get that through one of two ways: a) having a good amount of early TV time, or b) having an out-of-this-world performance that will wow people at home. None of the four were able to do that.
The biggest loss in the group was Leslie. Even if she wasn't the best singer, she had a very unique voice that would have been a welcome addition to the top 12. The biggest weakness this season has so far compared to the last two before it, in particular, is the relative lack of diversity in the contestants. Season 5 was particularly good in this regard. We can't help but notice that this season is beginning to shape up like Season 3, which may not be such a good thing. Memo to the producers: diversity in contestants is a wonderful, wonderful thing.
Ms. Barba? Hugh Hefner on line 1: We don't like being wrong any more than the next person, so it pains us to write the following. Boy, were we wrong about the whole Antonella photos flap. Of course, when we wrote that the only photos we knew about were relatively... tame, to put it mildly. Since then, more incriminating photos have come up. Since this is a family-friendly column, let's just say the latest batch includes photos right out of the Monica Lewinsky School of Sexual Acts. (A little canary tells me, though, that those particular photos have been proven to be someone else.)
At the very least, Antonella shows an astounding lack of judgment. It's one thing to have yourself photographed with an American Beauty-like shot or sitting on top of a toilet. However, the other pictures are harder to explain. We'll be clear: Antonella has beclowned herself. It takes a special kind of stupidity to keep doing this over and over again, especially at a war memorial. It's a little hard to take her seriously now. Our completely unsolicited advice: Antonella, you need better friends. If they can't stop you from taking wet t-shirt shots in public, at least get some who won't leak them to the public!
As for the people who let it out, we'll quote Simon Cowell on this. He said: "You know what, whoever sold those is despicable. I really mean that. It's despicable. That is private property. Out of order. Honestly. It's repulsive." Indeed.
The word is that Playboy wants Antonella to grace its pages soon. We think it'll happen; our only question is whether it'll happen before or after the season finale.
No such thing, unfortunately: Jared Cotter, after being compared a cabaret singer: "That would have been a great Love Boat, man."
New singers, same old songs: Why is it that this season we're hearing an awful lot of songs that we've heard before? Both Trouble and Alone were done very well in seasons past. Midnight Train to Georgia and Reflection have both been done before. Chris Richardson did I Don't Wanna Be last week - when it had been done last year and two years ago. There are probably others - and let's not even mention the fact that AJ Tabaldo and Leslie Hunt both sang the same song, only on different nights! (And, as it turned out, it turned out poorly for both of them.)
I don't know if the blame is with the contestants or with AI not being able to clear songs. Either way, it's not such a good thing. For the contestants, taking on a song that's been done well before is an enormous risk. If you do go ahead with it, you'd better do it well and with your own unique take, otherwise you'll invite comparisons to whoever did it before. Chris Sligh and Melinda Doolittle showed how to do a repeat song well, while with Gina Glocksen we saw what the risks. She did Alone well, but Carrie Underwood did it as well, if not better, two seasons ago. It's hard not to come up second best in that comparison, and it did Gina few favors.
If it's Idol's fault due to non-clearance of songs, that just shouldn't fly. Song clearance problems aren't new this season - witness Paul Kim's interview, where he said he had five songs fail to clear - and it's been a problem in earlier seasons as well. American Idol shouldn't have a problem clearing songs. The vast majority of artists would love to have their music promoted on the biggest stage in American television today - so why are songs not getting cleared? We don't have any insider knowledge, so we don't know. Whatever the case may be, it should be something that's fixable. We'd like to be optimistic and say that the producers are trying to remedy the situation, but something tells me that they're happy with the situation as is.
Have we written this before? If so, tell me at firstname.lastname@example.org