Thursday, 25 March 2010

Kill Your Idols - Critiquing the Top 11

I need to make a confession:

I like American Idol.

There, I said it. Your mocking is full expected, but I just can’t help it. I don’t know what it is – maybe it’s the fact that the UK equivalents of this type of show are so mind-numbingly horrendous that just to be able to see a show of this ilk with some genuinely talented people on it is a genuine rarity.

Whatever it is, I can’t get enough of American Idol.

I’ve not always been a fan, and I’m by no means an obsessive but ever since I watched David Cook’s winning year I’ve tuned in for the live shows of this ratings phenomenon.

Since I started watching, the show appears to now be in the twilight of its success – judging panel changes (like Paula Abdul has anything better to do) format changes etc. it all smacks of desperation to remain fresh and relevant.

With Cowell now jumping from the sinking ship, it would appear American Idol’s days are numbered; especially now that Cowell is bringing the impossibly dire X Factor format to the US.

For an in depth study of American Idol’s pros against X Factor’s cons, check the archives for last year’s feature ‘American Idol Vs. X Factor’.

Regardless of what is in Idol’s future, we are currently in the midst of another battle to crown the latest American Idol and now we are into the real meaty part of the competition it seemed an opportune time to evaluate the remaining contestants.

I’ve seen many blogs and online features recently ranking the Top 12 (make that 11 now, following rooster wannabe Lacey’s elimination last week) but I’m not going to try and rank the contestants, this is a merely just an opinion piece on what has to be the least inspiring Top 12 since I began watching. With that in mind, purely in alphabetical order, here are my thoughts on the remaining American Idol season 9 contestants based on what I have seen thus far:

Didi Benami – I wasn’t sure about Didi for a couple of weeks, but she won me over with her Fleetwood Mac attempt the week before the big shows started and her effort with the Stones’ Play with Fire last week got a big thumbs up from me so she’s definitely winning me over.

With Lilly criminally not making the Top 12 there’s an opening for my favourite female remaining and if Didi keeps this up she might just be that girl, even if she does have a stupid name.

Crystal Bowersox – Speaking of stupid names, the girl with the greatest surname ever continues to set the early pace even if she isn’t your standard Idol fodder.

Bowersox is by far the most polished performer and in a way that might go against her, because Idol is often about the ‘journey’, needless to say she is now going to have a pretty successful career, but whether she goes on to win as many have already predicted remains to be seen. At present she is a worthy favourite in the betting though.

As for whether I like her, I do, but the type of music she likes is not really my cup of tea and her folksy leanings could potentially alienate many others apart from me, I’m waiting to see how she handles Michael Jackson week or something equally as out of her, I’ll say it even though I hate the phrase, comfort zone… urgh, I feel dirty.

Lee DeWyze – my boy, old nervous Lee. I’ve liked Lee from the start, my head said Casey was the top male contestant but the heart said Lee. Now, I think he has a cracking shot of being the guys’ best hope.

Of course I like Lee because he has the raspy, gargled with gravel rock voice, it also doesn’t help that he sang a Hinder song a while back. He even managed to make that dreadful Owl City song sound decent in the final semi-final week – an achievement in itself.

His nerves are a problem, but I don’t exactly remember David Cook owning the stage during the first couple of weeks, so all is not lost on that front. If there was strength in depth this year I’d be worried that Lee’s personality could see him eliminated earlier than he should be, let’s be honest though, there’s that much dead weight still there he’s practically guaranteed a top 5 spot.

At the moment this is definitely the person I want to see win, as unlikely as that may be.

Andrew Garcia – I didn’t see him perform Straight Up when he did that but my God it must have been the greatest musical performance since Hasslehoff was on the Berlin wall because Kara DioGuardi will just not shut up about it.

Talk about blowing your load too soon.

It’s a shame really, because I want to like Andrew and I get the feeling he has a lot of potential and I could eventually root for him, but he is never going to get out of the shadow of that song and as a result I would say his days are well and truly numbered. His performance of Gimme Shelter last week by the way was fucking heinous, so were he to go soon it would be deserved but I hope he sticks around longer than some of the other schmucks still remaining.

Casey James – I had Casey down as the last man standing a couple of weeks back, but now, I’m not so sure.

He just doesn’t seem all that special, it’s all very samey. I like the guy don’t get me wrong, it’s hard not to, and I have no doubt he’ll do well but he needs to ditch the guitar and switch it up a bit.

It helped that he did All Over Now last week – one of my favourite Stones songs, and he did it well which got him some points back in my eyes, but sooner or later he’s going to have to show some diversity and to be honest I don’t know if he’s got it.

Aaron Kelly – What can I say about this wet lettuce?

This guy is the first of the ‘no business being there’ bunch, how he got through is beyond me.

Zero personality. Zero stage presence. Zero talent. But hey, I suppose David Archuleta made the final on that CV so Aaron could probably win this whole thing.

For me though (channelling my inner Randy Jackson) Aaron is everything that is wrong with American Idol, talent shows in general and the world of entertainment at the moment. Tweeny idiots buying into and voting for talentless saps just because they’re cute – see the success of Justin Bieber, or the fact that Lloyd Daniels reached the top 5 on X Factor if you need further proof.

Michael Lynche – I don’t get the fuss with Big Mike, although I wouldn’t say that to his face.

I like the guy, it’s impossible not to, he was the only person during Hollywood week who had a remotely interesting side story and he is genuinely talented, he’s got bucket loads of charisma, has a great stage presence and a good(ish) voice but reducing people to tears!?

It was Kara DioGuardi who we all know is a moron, but really: tears? He’s not that fucking good and I just don’t get the hype. Again, he’ll do well, but he is that same type of shit R n B singer we’ve seen on this show a hundred times before.

Siobahn Magnus – At the present moment, realistically Siobahn is the only person who can possibly beat Crystal.

And right now, I think I’d kind of like her to… as long as she doesn’t scream again in any of her songs like she did at the end of her very theatrical but very decent version of Paint it, Black last week.

I made the connection to Adam Lambert before the judges said it and that sort of distinction can only help her continue to stand out from the crowd.

Siobahn has a lot going for her with me: she’s quirky (but in a good way), she’s a glassblower by profession which provides me with hours of material, she performed House of the Rising Sun, by choice, the other week and she likes Rob Zombie…

…I wonder if she’s seeing anyone…

Paige Miles – I didn’t see her perform prior to the semi-finals so I’ve missed this potential Cowell keeps talking about, based purely on her live performances thus far though, Paige needs to follow Lacey out of that door.

Laryngitis or not, she is dreadful. Each performance has been more excruciatingly awful than the last and the fact that she outlasted Lilly is a travesty.

My tip for the next one out.

Katie Stevens – not quite as bad as Paige, but equally as undeserving of this spot, Katie is another one just being voted for because she’s young.

Yes, she has a good voice, but she has the personality of a bucket of Horse sick and seriously needs to lighten up a bit. Her decision to sing the Susan Boyle version of Wild Horses was as lame as it was predictable, Katie really needs to sing an up temp modern song rather than dressing like she’s in an episode of Mad Men and singing songs that are about four times older than her.

At the moment, the only thing in Katie’s favour is how stereotypically preppy her brother and his mates are. Every week they show them in the crowd I laugh – I bet one of them is known as (something)-meister.

Tim Urban – Seriously? This guy’s still in. He didn’t even make the top 24 at first but now here he is in the Top 11.

He was fighting a losing battle to begin with, but his reggae version of Under My Thumb last week was just about the worst thing I’ve ever heard, and I heard that Diana Vickers song for the first time the other day.

If this contest has even a shred of credibility, Tim needs to be on the next train back to Texas ASAP, but I have a horrible feeling he might have a couple more weeks in him yet. I can only imagine what song he’s going to massacre next…

American Idol airs in the UK on Wednesdays and Thursdays on ITV2 sandwiched in between the latest Katie Price abomination.

Other Musings:

- If any of you actually listened to me with my Cheltenham tips last week, you might actually have made a small profit. I sadly didn’t listen to my own tips and lost a fortune with not a single winner all week.

Money toilet-flushing aside, it was a great week and for the neutrals and non-gamblers it must have been a brilliant spectacle as always, this was certainly the most unpredictable Cheltenham I’ve had the privilege of taking in.

It was sad to see Kauto Star crash out in the Gold Cup and even sadder to see Denman finish second to Imperial Commander, but to all those writing off the two great former champions I have a feeling they’ll both be back to fight another day and hopefully they both have enough left to come back and hopefully stick it to that pretender to the throne Imperial Commander, Paddy Brennan and Nigel Twisted-Bastard again next year.

I think I’ll just be watching the highlights next year though; you can’t lose money watching highlights.

- On Lost this week we got a Sawyer-centric episode, which is always good but this one was even better than we are used to.

Mainly due to the fact that in the flash-sideways, he and Miles are partners, in a cop sense not a gay sense. Miles has rapidly become my favourite character on the show and his relationship with Sawyer has been a major contributing factor so it was good to see the two of them verbally sparring and sharing some good moments again even if it was away from the island.

I don’t quite understand why they brought Rebecca Mader back as Charlotte to simply be a Sawyer conquest but maybe that will go elsewhere down the line, as I’m sure I saw an interview with Mader in which she said her return was “meaningful”, well that certainly wasn’t.

Another Lost observation was Jodi Lyn O’Keefe turning up. I didn’t even recognise her at first, but how the mighty have fallen. From a starring role on an admittedly steadily declining but no less popular show (Prison Break) to a pre-credits guest spot on Lost. Ouch.

- On 24 my prediction about Tarin was right as it was revealed he was in fact one of Hassan’s enemies, my head hurts from all the twists and turns but wasn’t he in the car with Hassan at the start of the season when Davros tried to blow it up? Was Farhad aware that Tarin was also in on this? There are so many gaping plot holes this season it’s like an Annabelle Chong movie.

Still, even without Almeida and with an impending cancellation looming, 24 remains one of the most enjoyable TV hours of the week.

Check in next week for the 2nd Annual Bill Buchanan Memorial 24 Mid-Season Review.

Speaking of 24…

24 Day 8 Death Counter:

Hour 11

Marcos Al-Zacar – his bomb vest was triggered by Ali and then Jack Bauer pushed him inside an oxygen chamber (sorry Jack, but I can’t give you this one!)

Episode Death Total = 1

Cumulative Season Death Total = 33

(Ongoing) Jack Bauer Kills (JBK) Total = 9

Hour 12

x3 NYPD tactical team members - Sgt. Amis, Martin & Faulkner [assumed] – shot by Tarin Faroush. (as is so often the case with 24 there was no concrete confirmation that I can recall that these 3 were dead, but it certainly didn’t look good)

x2 NYPD officers – shot by Hamid (aka generic terrorist number 4) as they held Tarin Faroush at gunpoint.

Gerrard + 2 other ‘red shirt’ CTU agents – killed in the explosion of the EMP at CTU, I guess this is attributed to Samir and the terrorists as they set the trap for Kayla Hassan to deliver the bomb to CTU.

Episode Death Total = 8

Cumulative Season Death Total = 41

(Ongoing) Jack Bauer Kills (JBK) Total = 9

All in all quite a bloody episode, but Jack Bauer hasn’t killed anyone now for over 4 hours – I’m starting to get worried.


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