Welcome to the Idol Guy, a weekly look at the goings-on in the Idol world. This is not a recap; those in the hands of fine FORT recappers Yardgnome, MotherSister, and MsFroggy.
Is repetition becoming the theme for this season of American Idol? Last week we touched upon the tendency to repeat songs from previous seasons. This week, the Idols seemed to turn back the clock to the top 24 week. Of course, we know how well that week went. For the guys, it was calamitous. For the girls, it was a lot better, with once again Lakisha and Melinda standing out. It’s déjà vu all over again.
Still, what’s more important is that we have our top 12 finalists. Just like the postseason of any major league sport, there are a few people who don’t really deserve to be there. So who’s good, who’s bad, and who’s ghastly?
The Really, Really Good
Melinda Doolittle – what’s most remarkable about her is not just that she is good; it’s that she makes being good look so effortless and natural. Like Taylor Hicks last year, her musical experience is proving to be a significant asset – excellent song choices and performance skills are all things that are best learned out in the real world. Are we gushing? Yes, but she rightly deserves it. How far will she go? See below.
Lakisha Jones – she’s received a veritable tongue bath from the judges of late. Personally, we think she’s a tad bit overrated. Make no mistake, she’s good, but not as good as you’d think if you just listened to the judges. The trouble is her performances have been somewhat one-dimensional. There’s not really a whole lot of variety to be found there.
Lakisha and Melinda are the two front-runners this season, but we think it’s unlikely that they’ll both make it into the finale. It’s worth noting that every finale has had two singers with fairly different styles and sounds. That’s not going to change this season. One of the two will end up in the finale; the other will go out before the final four, much to everyone’s shock and disbelief. Remember: you heard it here first, folks.
Blake Lewis – there’s a lot to like in Blake. He’s perhaps one of the most polished contestants in the top 12, something that shows in his performances. His singing voice is good, and he makes very good song choices. The beat-boxing, if used properly, is his ace in the hole. He’s done well against the guys, but how will he do now that it’s co-ed? We shall see.
Chris Sligh – ever since he said in his audition where he said he wanted to make David Hasselhoff cry, he’s established himself firmly in the public’s mind. That was enough to get him to the top 12, but we’re not sure how far it can get him past that. He has a big voice – the best among the guys – but against singers like Lakisha, that can get lost. Is there something more to Chris Sligh aside from his colorful personality and his powerful voice? How well will he stack up against the girls?
The (Not-so) Bad
Stephanie Edwards – Any other season she’d be a standout, but with two other big voices in the mix Stephanie gets overshadowed. There’s not much she can do, to be honest. She has to find a way to distinguish herself from Lakisha and Melinda, but is that really possible? Still, she’s good enough that she’ll survive for at least a few weeks more, but beyond that her future is cloudy. We predict howls of outrage when she’s eliminated before people think her time is up, which looks likely.
Gina Glocksen – she needed a good performance on Wednesday night to put herself safely to the top 12, and she delivered. Now that she’s in the finals, she needs a reality check. She got in the final by being alt-Gina, the rocker chick, not being glam Gina from the top 20 and 24 performances. She needs to figure out what she wants her image to be, and pick her songs accordingly. Unless she does that, she might be gone sooner rather than later. If she plays her cards right she could go pretty far, since she’ll have the rock vote all by herself.
Chris Richardson – what’s the thing we most remember about him? He (supposedly) looks like Justin Timberlake. Beyond that… not much else. He reminds us a bit of Ace Young – good eye candy, but an okay voice at best. That’s not exactly a formula for overwhelming success, is it? We don’t think he’s that good. He’ll make the tour, but not much further than that.
Brandon Rogers – the story of how he got to the top 12 is similar to Gina’s. Two subpar performances, needed something really good to make it, and he succeeded. His problem is that he seems to have trouble taking the lead when he sings – his overall tone and energy seems to be too subdued, as if he’s forgotten he’s not singing backup anymore. It’s a pity, because otherwise his singing is pretty good. He could use some tips from Melinda.
Jordin Sparks – every season has at least one teenage girl in the top 12. Usually, they have plenty of energy, a good amount of talent, but tend to be rather unpolished as performers. Jordin is no different, and is actually a fairly good example of the class. She could get lost in the mix, but her youth will boost her fan base and keep her safe – for now. More than anyone else, she needs to grow as a performer and prove that she can mix it up with the front-runners.
The Outright Ghastly
Sanjaya Malakar – The last time Sanjaya had a really, really good performance was… well, we don’t know anymore. Has he had one, anyway? So who’s voting for Sanjaya? We don’t know. The strength of his fan base has us mystified. Somebody please help us out here.
Haley Scarnato – we’ll be a little generous in our assessment. Haley isn’t that bad (read: not a total disaster), but she’s not that good either. Her song choice tends towards the ambitious – in the past three shows she’s done Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, and Faith Hill – but she doesn’t have the chops to pull those off. Still, with the underwhelming guys in the top 12, she could make it to the tour. Maybe.
Phil Stacey – the main reason that Phil’s in here is because he’s doing a very good job of backing into the final 12. He started out well, had an okay top 20, but a near-disastrous top 16. I mean, come on, LeAnn Rimes? She’s a good singer, but her songs and Phil just don’t fit. It made about as much sense as Britney Spears getting a good parenting award. Phil is going from good, to bad, to terrible… and might go home sooner rather than later.
Be careful what you wish for: for the second week in a row people aren’t all that happy with the results. Last week it was AJ Tabaldo; this week it’s Sabrina Sloan. People aren’t exactly missing the three other cuts – Antonella Barba, Sundance Head, or Jared Cotter.
We’re not going to imitate Randy and Paula who expressed surprise at losing Sabrina and Sundance, respectively. The Idol voting audience is fairly diverse, and one should expect that the contestant mix will reflect that. For example, country music fans probably won’t reward a rocker with many votes even if that rocker is the best singer left. With half of the six slots for the girls already occupied by “big voices” (Lakisha, Melinda, and Stephanie) it wasn’t likely that a similar voice, Sabrina, would get through.
Sundance, meanwhile, wasn’t consistent. His best performance was one that didn’t count – the one from the results show. At his best, he was top 12 material, but he could never do it regularly. More often than not he laid on a performance that had good spots, but just as many bad ones. That’s not a formula for Idol success. Still, we’ll give him credit for the best line said after getting eliminated – although we suspect he won’t have too much of a hard time finding work.
As for Antonella and Jared, the less said, the better. Neither had the vocals to stay for much longer. Jared’s hand over his face had us slapping our foreheads at its utter cheesiness. As for Antonella, Photogate may have energized her fans, but it also made it difficult to get new ones. A small number of people voting like mad only gets you so far.
Yes, Virginia, there is such a thing as too much information: the whole tell-us-a-secret gimmick this week left us with far too many too-much-information moments. However, that was topped by Ryan Seacrest giving us the mental image of Randy Jackson nude wrestling with Borat. Hand us some bleach, please!
Worst attempt at Idol manipulation ever: even though we’re generally skeptical of producer manipulation, we have to admit that this season has the feel of very ham-handed tinkering. The top 24 was loaded with female power singers; now they constitute fully a third of the top 12. It’s clear that the powers that be are stacking the deck and wants to influence what kind of singer wins.
There’s nothing good that can come out of this. We’ve seen what the effects have been – the top 12 is not as good as other seasons. It lacks the diversity that we’ve had before, and even taking that into consideration we’re not convinced this group is, collectively, as good as previous seasons.
We can’t be sure why this is being done, but we have to wonder how much of it is because Taylor won last year. Given that it hasn’t been easy to market him to a wider audience, we can’t help but wonder if someone said, “We can’t allow this to happen, we have to make sure someone commercial wins next time.” It’s as good an explanation as any.
Whatever the reasoning may be, it’s a remarkably short-sighted one. Something that has been discussed here on the FORT has been how being an Idol finalist is no longer “a career drag”. It is true that on a critical and commercial level, American Idol finalists have never been more successful. Carrie Underwood sold millions and walked off with quite a few awards in 2006. Chris Daughtry is on top of the charts right now. Even contestants who finished relatively poorly have come out with surprisingly good albums (see Kellie Pickler). True, Taylor hasn’t sold nearly as well as they hoped, and some in the music industry might never fully accept Idol finalists (ask LeAnn Rimes and Faith Hill what they really think about Carrie), but overall the picture has never been better.
It seems to be that the American Idol empire has chosen to fix something that isn’t all that broke. That rarely works well, unfortunately.
We like not breaking things in the first place. Send me a PM if you’ve got comments, hate mail, or violent thoughts.