Hey, Last Night’s American Idol Didn’t Suck!

7 Apr

Your mileage may vary, but I have been bored to sobs by this season of American Idol. And it’s not the judges, either, it’s the contestants. Yeah, Randy is still generally useless, but has had the odd moment when he’s stepped up and offered constructive musical criticism. And maybe it’s the imminent departure of Simon, but Kara has done the same – to be honest, if you can ignore her somewhat off-putting demeanor and weird proximity issues with Simon, she gives the most consistent musical criticism of anyone on the panel.

I also like Ellen, mainly because she makes jokes that are actually funny. Though allow me to throw out there that I detect some hate-vibes directed her way from Ms. DioGuardi. Interesting. Simon seems to be speaking the objective truth far more consistently this year, without any of those “For Some Reason I’m Going To Trip Balls About This” moments that he has had in seasons past. Maybe it’s because he’s already moved on?

But anyway, all things considered, the judges have kinda stepped it up this year. So I can only conclude that my gripe is with this season’s contestants, who up until last night hadn’t shown me one thing. Not a single thing. Okay, Siobahn’s “House of the Rising Sun” was pretty great, and BowerSox is one of those people who has proficiency and stage presence and a great voice. I believe we in the industry refer to them as “talented musicians.” I really like her, her whole vibe and her awesome baby and her super fun name. But even so, she towers above the rest of those amateurs like a killer whale in the world’s smallest, boring-ist pond.

So when last night gave us not one, but two moments of genuinely fun weirdness and filled the rest of the night out with some musically solid, charismatic performances, I was pretty happy.

The Didgeridoo was cool as hell. Though it was kinda musically distracting, and from what I could hear, lacking the ringing overtones that make the Didgeridoo sound like a Didgeridoo and not someone playing a tuba with no mouthpiece. But still, it was a great visual, Crystal sounded great, and regardless of how he sounded, I freaking loved when she brought the Didgeridoo player after the song. You can tell a lot from a singer by how she interacts with her musicians (and how they interact with her), and the mutual sense of fun and respect was quite apparent. DidgeriSox!

Everyone else was solid, too – Siobahn did a good job acquitting herself for last week (I had become all but convinced that she actually just can’t even really sing) and looked pretty cool in that weird dress with all the lights everywhere. Casey was absolutely the best he’s ever been, and though his hair is kinda distracting, I dug his performance. Big Mike bugs the crap out of me – I just can’t deal with his overwrought, over-mannered theatrics. I didn’t see Katie Stephens, but I heard she wasn’t bad, but whatever, she’s like eleven. Ditto Aaron Kelly. Andrew was okay, but shoulda stuck with the half-time groove for the whole tune, and might go home tonight.

And Lee, man. Lee is kind of a mixed bag for me (channeling my inner Randy for that one). I think that his odd, bashful demeanor is kind of endearing, and he has an okay voice, but he needs to get with a vocal coach and work out how to get out of his chest voice or he’ll never be able to sing anything that requires him to sustain pitches in his upper register. Also, he’ll lose his voice by the time he hits forty.  But dude, when that bagpiper came down the stairs for during the outro of “Hey Jude,” I just lost it. That was some inspired, hilarious shit right here. And Lee just didn’t even look at him, just kept strumming and singing, and then here was this piper next to him playing Hey Jude, and it was so strange and awesome. This is what I’m talking about, American Idol Contestants!

I recall Lennon/McCartney night being a hit last year, too – so much so that they called an audible and did a second week of tunes by the duo. Which wound up being a mistake that I doubt they’ll repeat this year, especially since Adam Lambert, a.k.a. The-guy-who-if-you-read-this-blog-you’ll-be-forgiven-for-thinking-I-think-he-is-the-greatest-musician-ever-but-really-I-just-think-he’s-a-very-good-singer-and-I-respect-him-a-lot, will be guest-mentoring. I think he actually might wind up being the most helpful mentor of the season, and not just because he’s gone through the Idol ringer before.

In many of the post-season interviews on Idolatry last year, there was this recurring theme of Adam as mentor, coach, and guide. Especially from Kris and Allison, a lot of talk about how Adam helped them with their arrangements, gave them feedback on their choices, and just generally helped them be better musicians and performers. I actually suspect that one of the reasons that last season was so much fun wasn’t just that Adam was such a great performer, but also that he helped many of the other singers up their game. That type of “catalyst contestant” is something this season has (apparently) lacked, so perhaps with some good, specific feedback, this current crop of singers can begin to pull themselves up out of the swamp of mediocrity in which they have so far been mired.

Last night was a good start, anyway. With the number of new shows starting this month, I need an Idol commitment like I need a hole in the head, but all the same, when it’s good, it’s good.

Just when I thought I was out…

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3 Responses to “Hey, Last Night’s American Idol Didn’t Suck!”

  1. The Sonia Show April 8, 2010 at 9:47 am #

    OK, here are my rambling thoughts …

    I think Aaron is a poor tween’s David Archuletta.

    I think Tim was enjoyable on Tuesday’s show, but in general he should have been eliminated weeks ago … Actually, he shouldn’t have made the top 24 at all.

    Katie didn’t impress me until Tuesday night as well, but like you said, she’s just a kid.

    Siobhan impressed me more during Hollywood Week than she has on the show, often confusing screaming for singing.

    I love the sound of hunky Casey’s voice, but I know he’s not going to win. But, I imagine he could have a nice career with a series of KFOG-style hits.

    In general, I’ve been really bored by this season of Idol, but I love Crystal. I think she’s ready to record an album now. She’s heads and tails above everyone else on the show. BUT, I’m worried that she is peaking too early (a la Melinda Doolittle), and she’s going to finish in third or fourth place. I’m surprised the judges don’t fear that as well, wasting their save on Big Mike this week.

    Speaking of … Big Mike is one of those contestants that everyone else seems to really like, but I’m completely indifferent, too. People say he is theatrical and entertaining, yet I am bored to tears by him. David said Big Mike is so theatrical that he keeps expecting acrobats to come out on stage and start performing while he sings. I was surprised that he got the lowest votes this week, and I was kinda surprised the judges saved him.

    One more thing and I’ll wrap up my long-winded comment … I still think Lee, even though he is pitchy, is a serious dark horse contender to win the whole thing. His aw-shucks personality and his rocker voice, even though it needs some work, appeals to a lot of folks.

    • Kirk April 8, 2010 at 9:50 am #

      Ha, I just noticed that I completely forgot to include Tim in my round-up. That fact says more than anything I could’ve written.

  2. Cole Treston April 15, 2010 at 4:26 pm #

    No surprise it’s the end of the line for Katie and Andrew after last night’s performance…

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