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American Idol

The American Idol Grand Finale

And this… was American Idol…

I started writing this just after the American Idol: American Dream retrospective special, and finished up just after midnight a few days after the finale, so if I jump around incoherently, that’s why. Or at least it’s my excuse. But either way I’ve definitely been in the mood to type a bit about the most influential music show of the 21st century… This post may be ever-evolving too, as I sit back and think “And Another Thing! … ”

It actually might be a little bit tough to add to what has already been an hour and a half of “looking back.” But, I think I might have a bit to add. I’m gonna try not to say things like “as they said on the special…” because some of it obviously is going to be duplicate information. Other stuff, not so much.

Simon: The shock of the show

As much as I like to feel like a true fan of the show, it must be said that I wasn’t there from the beginning. Not the absolute beginning, anyway. I remember when I first started watching Idol. My brother had been after me for a couple of weeks to watch this new singing competition on television and the mean British guy who was on there. I heard him mutter names like “Tamyra” and “Guarini” and not have a clue what he was talking about.

You gotta hear what this guy Simon is saying to these people! They’re trying to sing and he stops them and tells them they suck!

I vividly remember sitting in my office chair at my previous house in Bridgeport and deciding it was time to tune in. It was the first episode of the top ten. I had missed what was probably the most entertaining and shocking portion of season one, the auditions. I did catch clips here and there to make up for this later, but this was 2002 and YouTube was yet to be invented. And there certainly was no “Fox on Demand.” Shoot. Idol didn’t even have americanidol.com at this point in time. They started out with idolonfox.com. At any rate, even though I joined the party a bit late, I was hooked.

Kelly Wins over a nation — But, how?

Of course, Kelly went on to win Season 1, and thankfully so.  I think, quite possibly, if Justin Guarini had gone on to win that first season, there’s a good chance Idol would never have had the chance to take off. But without Kelly’s success, Idol would have become just an average TV show. But ordinary people — viewers — felt invested in Kelly’s success. They came out in full force to support Kelly after her victory by snatching up CD’s and making her one of American Idol’s power stars.

One thing I will say about the early years of Idol, and the successes that came with it, is how American Idol took a relative “nobody” and turned them into a superstar virtually overnight. And something I never quite got in the first seasons is how the audience, especially the studio audience, can go so crazy over someone who, just last week was a relative “nobody.” The show works, but how?

I think the key, to be honest, is fake enthusiasm. That may sound a bit critical coming from a fan of the show, but I think, mainly in the first season, a lot of fake enthusiasm was manufactured. The eruptions and adulation in the stands worked as a visual cue to those of us at home that simply said “I’m crazy about this singer, and you should be, too!” So, one major factor to Idol’s success was the generation of fake enthusiasm, which is indistinguishable from genuine enthusiasm to a television audience. You can see it and hear it sometimes from the crowds of season one. The sudden, unnatural eruptions of cheers and the prodding of producers barely in camera range. This helped build a franchise, one fan at a time.

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American Idol

Moments LIke This (These?)

American Idol 15 – Top 10

I’ve always been a huge fan of American Idol. Back in the first few seasons of the show I would blog about episodes and do a bit of a review of each performance. In “celebration” of Idol’s final season, I present a season 15, episode 16 review

Olivia – she has shown some flashes of potential. Sometimes I like the tone of her voice, but it has to be “on point” for her to sound good. If she’s just a little off pitch it doesn’t sound that good. This song she’s doing pretty well. Sometimes I think maybe the judges see something that doesn’t come through on TV. So I don’t know if she’s really as good as they think or if I just am not hearing everything. That was probably one of the best performances I’ve heard from her though.

Gianna – She can have a powerhouse voice. Sometimes it’s too much drama with her mom… Her song choice tonight is really good. Major pitch issues here and there. She stays on key a bit better when she can hide it in her vibrato. When she holds out a note sometimes it goes flat. JLo hits it right on. Kelly is really funny, BTW. Kelly definitely gave her the “She’s 15” treatment. I think she’s right too… I think the polish will come to Gianna with time.

Lee – Lee’s got a much more mature voice than his 15 years. He sounds quite a bit older. I like to see him playing the guitar. He was a little pitchy in that performance. Harry is about right. I think if he does perform a story song he will blow it away. Something slow and melodic. Cool that Chris Medina was there to see him sing.

Avalon – Has been very tomboy-ish and informal since she’s been on. But the past couple of performances she’s shown a little more femininity – without losing her street cred. She’s doing pretty well but the arrangement’s not the best. I could hear her on Sirius XM Hits 1 though. I like Keith’s thoughts on her staying loose. This song may have been a little less her style. Kelly says “Sorry I beat Justin!“ That’s the LOLs.

Dalton – should’ve been on the Disney Channel. He’s a performer. I like what he did with that song. Good energy. #electricbarnyard I totally agree with Harry. I think his is the performance of the night so far. I like how he referenced David Cook in his piece, doing what he does with arrangements.

Tristan – a little low-key to start. Needed to start higher, especially with no blockbuster key change late in the song. A little awkward, like she was rushed and unsure. I don’t know why she sang it so low… she did reasonably well with what she had to work with. I agree with JLo about feeling comfortable in her song choice. She did have to stumble through her words and it seemed like she had to “work.” So many singers make it seem effortless.

Overall, I think a lot of it may be nerves tonight. Maybe some people are over thinking or just concerned about wanting to do well… these are all good singers and we get so nit-picky, forgetting we’re dealing with 15-year-old kids in some cases. Someone’s going to just breakout and be amazing, I can just tell.

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American Idol, Music, Television

American Idol Season 13 — It’s Finale Time

So, once again we are down to the final two on American Idol… It’s definitely true that Idol is not what it used to be but I think that’s got more to do with the oversaturation of music talent programs on TV at the moment, and not really to do with the talent that Idol still produces.  Although I think they’d be hard pressed to have another season finale like season two, when Ruben and Clay went head-to-head.

The only thing left to determine this year is who will come out on top.  Will it be the dark horse, “everyone-get-those-glow-sticks-up” Jena (not Jena) or will it be the rocker Caleb, who was finally reached the finals after trying out for Idol on three occasions? I honestly believe Caleb will win this evening because he will have the most supportive fans and there’s no doubt he’s talented enough to win.  But as far as being the next pop star goes, I think Jena has a better shot at success.  She certainly has the voice to take her far on radio, and she can command a performance.  

As far as Season 13 goes… well, I liked it better than last season, but that’s not saying much.  Last year was just a hot mess of freaks, led by Nicki Minaj. (Zoanette, anyone?)  I read that next season Idol will be cut back to one night per week.  Can’t really figure out how that’s going to work, when performances are one night, and results are the next.  What, are going to have to wait a whole week before learning the singers’ fate?  “Ten singers prepare to sing on Tuesday, but first, let’s see which of these ten is not going to have the opportunity to sing for America.”  I can’t imagine that…

Keith, JLo, and Harry have performed well as judges.  I had been rooting for Harry to be a judge since he mentored last season.  He knows what he’s talking about and provides constructive criticism.  Of the three, he is my favorite judge.  Keith and JLo both provide appropriate commentary and are entertaining on their own, and much more tolerable than.. “some past judges.”

So now all that remains is to announce a winner.  But either way, the Idol machine will roll on…

Listen to a preview of the final two’s first releases below:

 

American Idol, Music

American Idol Season 12: What Just Happened?

Okay, so…

We’re almost done with the latest season of American Idol, and, honestly, I can’t even say I understand what I just saw. The show they are about to wrap up on Thursday of this week looks nothing like the one that Kelly Clarkson ran away with back in season one, or that culminated in a Ruben vs. Clay showdown in season two. This season started out more as a freak show (thanks, Nicki!) and ended up with a top five that consisted solely of female contestants. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, in and of itself. And the final two, Kree and Candice, are probably the “correct” final two… at least of the top ten we were presented.

And that’s where I have to take issue with this season of Idol. Frankly, during the early audition rounds some of the people the judges were sending through were quite questionable. It seemed as if sometimes the judges were more focused on backstory, or even shock value, more than they were musical talent. And, let’s not forget: Although it seems on its face to be “just a singing competition,” American Idol has always been part “popularity contest.” We like our singers to be able to “sing,” of course, but we were always searching for a “triple threat.” Contestants who’ve shown true musical ability have always risen to the top on Idol. They didn’t always win (Jennifer Hudson, Chris Daughtry) but they found success. They were artists who just needed a platform, and American Idol gave it to them. There has always been (prior to this season) one contestant who was always a bit quirky, but talented. Think Clay Aiken, Casey Abrams, Taylor Hicks, even Adam Lambert. These were talented people who did the unexpected. Maybe they didn’t sing what you expected, and you certainly didn’t expect it to sound like that when they did… But you couldn’t wait to tune in and see what they were singing this week. Tell me: Who is that artist in season 12?

Instead, we were inundated early on with Zoanette Johnson, JDA, Charlie Askew, and…. Lazaro Arbos, who was, apparently, the most talented male in this year’s competition! Are you kidding me? Now… just to clarify a bit, I actually liked Lazaro and Charlie early on, and found their stories quite interesting, and their voices pleasant… But for a singing competition? Their existence late in the final rounds of Idol just shows that this season was about the backstory, not the voice. I like to see contestants like Lazaro, JDA, Charlie, and Zoanette early on in the competition, and maybe make it to Hollywood, but to advance as far as they did… I’m afraid some truly talented people went home early at the expense of story telling, and that’s where I think Idol season 12 failed.

I will still be watching the finale tomorrow night. Both Kree and Candice are very talented singers. I think I would have to pick Candice as the front runner heading into the last performance, but there may be one last surprise in this dysfunctional season of Idol. I wouldn’t be surprised.

American Idol, Music

Phillip Phillips: Home

So, it seems like the only thing I post anymore is music videos. LOL. Don’t know why that is lately. It’s not intentional, really, I promise. Though honestly I have spent an awful lot of time listening to Spotify… Maybe that has something to do with it?

Without further ado, here is the video of American Idol winner Phillip Phillips’ song “Home.”

This song has gained a lot of traction thanks to NBC’s Olympics coverage, being featured several times in bumpers for the women’s gymnastics team. I’ve also heard it featured on Sirius XM’s The Pulse recently. This is a song that speaks the month of May to me, since this is Phillip’s “coronation song” that he sang on finale night.

It’s nice to see the song get some airtime!

American Idol

Getting ready for Idol Season 10

So, I’m gearing up for the tenth exciting season of American Idol. One of my favorite Twitter pastimes is following former winners, contestants, and celebrities who have been on Idol over the years, including one @RyanSeacrest, who posted a behind-the-scenes video showing how the voice-overs are made for the show:

American Idol

Idol Blog, May 4, 2010

Originally titled:

Harry Connick, Jr. mentors the Idols. 

I’ve got a few of Harry Connick’s CD’s. I would have to say that my favorite is "She." I remember having that on repeat a few years back. I like some of his funkier stuff the most.

Why are we only doing one song this week? Shouldn’t we be at the point where we’re doing two songs a week…

Aaron – He did a pretty good job with that song. Probably one of his best performances. I like his look this week… Kind of fits the feeling. Yes, I was a little bit surprised. Kara has a good point about Aaron "commanding the stage." or lack of commanding the stage. Cannot picture him leading the rat pack.

Casey – a little bit shaky right off the bat… Or maybe that’s just nerves? Or his quick vibrato? That’s not Casey’s music. He did "okay" with that, but this is not what’s gonna be on his CD. "We like Casey, just not on this song." Thank you, Kara, for mentioning the vibrato, because it’s been bugging me all season. He’s gonna need his voters tonight because he is not safe.

Crystal – See, here’s the difference between Crystal and Casey: this song was not her style, but she made it work. Casey was genuinely uncomfortable up there; she was natural. Crystal is basically the professional of the group. Terrific job with that song, but still not gonna be on her CD. Well done.

Mike – Don’t need to change it up so much Mr. Big Mike. He did a good job. The arrangement reminded me of some kind of American Express commercial. Yes, he was smooth. 5 points for that. And the arrangement was good, but it still had a cheap commercial feel to it. Meh. What do I know? Not nearly as enthusiastic as the judges. But whatever.

Lee – now, this is Lee. This is what I knew he was capable of. You always knew he had it in him. He was on pitch the whole song (finally!) and he just sang! Best of the night! He actually kind of sounded like Harry singing that song. Ha!

Lee
Crystal
Mike
Aaron
Casey

This was relatively easy to work out tonight. Obvious who was best and who was worst (relatively) and pretty much everyone in between. It should be Casey’s time to go. Good luck with your first CD, Casey.

American Idol

American Idol Blog, April 27, 2010

Originally Titled:

A horse race? Maybe. Maybe not.

The music of Shania Twain… I don’t know this for certain, but I have a pretty good idea it’s true. She probably does feel like a woman. She certainly looks like one. Just sayin’. I think it should be interesting. How are some of the guys gonna handle singing her songs? Unlike Shania, I don’t think they are women….

Lee – You know, I really like Lee when he stays in key. He did a decent job tonight. A little shaky especially at the start. But the song built from start to finish, and that’s good.

Mike – Good song choice for Big Mike. Throwing in a couple of Rubenesque licks there toward the end. He’s turned that song into an R&B song. Good job. It worked. Still think Big Mike is a little too impressed with himself. As in: Big Mike is an excellent singer. Just ask him.

Casey – Casey is really growing into an artist on this show. Might have to look this one up on iTunes. I think this is probably Casey’s best performance since I’ve seen him. Thank you Randy. It’s so nice when Simon agrees with the other judges. It’s like peace and harmony on Earth. Yes, it looks like it might not be a guaranteed Lee-Crystal finale after all.

Crystal – She did a good job with that. I like seeing her strip it down, and make it simple. I know what Ellen is saying, it wasn’t my favorite performance of hers either, but this wasn’t really her specialty, so she did admirably well, and maybe good enough to stay on top as the favorite.

Aaron – Aaron can really hit the glory notes, that’s for sure. He did decent with that song. I think the other guys so far have done better with their performances than he did this week. I think he performed the song with feeling, but I don’t think he was fully in pitch.

Siobhan – A few cracks in her armor tonight. You can usually count on Siobhan to shake things up a bit, and this time she played it straight and I don’t think she should have. And, of course, it wouldn’t be a Siobhan performance if she didn’t belt out a half-hour long note toward the end. Nope, not buying it. If Simon is at all honest, he will not like that performance. Nahhhh… She was all over the place vocally early on and couldn’t catch her breath.

I think I’d rank ‘em like this:

Lee
Crystal
Casey
Mike
Siobhan
Aaron

Between Lee, Crystal and Casey… it’s all pretty close tonight. I am glad to see Lee and Casey step up their game tonight to start to catch up to Crystal. She’s been so far ahead all season long, and they are finally starting to catch up to her. I was not nearly as sold on Siobhan and Aaron as the judges. They were almost smitten with everyone tonight. I think it’s getting to the point where the judges want us to believe that it is a close race, and they prop up the ones who are falling behind in order to make the show appear closer than it really is. I’ve read articles where the journalists opinions pretty much echoed the ones of the judges. It’s almost like some of those writers don’t really have opinions. They just take what the judges (especially Simon) have to say and regurgitate it.

I don’t do that. But I’m not a journalist.