American Idol How Do You Keep the Music Playing?

Everything about Wednesday night’s show made me nostalgic for the glory days of Idol’s past. The clips of Simon, Paula and Randy in action were more fun than the montages of the current judges telling us how much fun they are having. Clay Aiken’s takedown of a contestant wasn’t particularly humorous and highlighted how it’s not easy to replicate Simon Cowell’s vibe. Contestant Amelia Eisenhauer made me long for Crystal Bowersox and Kree Harrison. And don’t get me started on why you would even bring a sword to the auditions in the first place.

There’s not a lot of magic on American Idol so far this season. This episode seemed like a struggle, using the past to stay afloat.

How do you keep the music playing? How do you make it last? How do you keep the song from fading too fast?

I’m hopeful that when we reach the live shows, the energy will pick up and the season will get more exciting. There were a few promising contestants tonight:

Poh – I liked her jazzy sound. Poh seemed more conventional than sister Shi, until Poh revealed she took her name from a Teletubbie.

Jenna Renae – She has a lot of potential. They gave her the Kelly Clarkson edit by having her be charming while accidentally breaking the door.

Adam Lasher – I have no idea what kind of artist he is but he sure cleaned up nicely.

Emily Brook – Radio friendly voice and they are building a Kelly Clarkson worthy story of how hard work pays off.



Best in the World? Or just good?

This week, Harry Connick, Jr. told one contestant he was good, but that good wasn’t going to cut it. He said they’re looking for spectacular, the best in the world, not just average. That could have been it for that particular contestant, but this week the judges put him through as well as quite a number of others who didn’t strike me as much better than “good.”

Some of the contestants seemed to be getting through more on their stories than anything else. A lot of filler and contestants who don’t look like they have a chance of going beyond the Hollywood round.

Here are the contestants I liked best:

Jenn Blosil – She’s beyond quirky and makes Joey Cook look conventional. I’m not sure whose children she’s caring for.

Issac Cole – I’m gonna do my A Capella song on the guitar.

Tommy Stringfellow – McDreamy crossed with Jonathan Richman!

John Wayne Schultz – Keith Urban tagged him as the winner. Do you think Jax would say he has inside information?

Jordan Simone – She can saaaaaang – whatever age she really is.

What did you think of the talent levels of this week’s contestants?





Is Clay Aiken right? Are the Idol judges putting you to sleep?

Clay Aiken got a lot of attention for his tweets this season about the Idol judges. Basically he was saying that their comments are boring and that Simon Cowell’s mean remarks made the show entertaining. Is he right? Well, yes and no. Yes, it’s true that the judges no longer have the bite of a Simon Cowell. Simon had the advantage of being unknown. He didn’t start out with any fans so he had none to lose. He made his name as the mean judge. It’s what you expected of him and why you liked him. Subsequent judges had nothing to gain and lots to lose by making harsh comments. Ellen DeGeneres realized this immediately and got the heck out of there. The risk of hurting her image was too great. Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj turned on each other. That wasn’t great for their brands either, but it was better than attacking the contestants. Any judge with an existing career in the public eye (sorry Simon) can’t afford to be perceived as really mean. Even Harry seemed to have been asked to dial it back last season when there was buzzing that he was being too harsh. It’s a problem for a show that liked to play it both ways: building up some contestants as the next big thing while tearing down other contestants and mocking them. Given that the show seems to only want successful performers to serve as the judges now, they no longer have anyone who can do their dirty work. So they simply broadcast the auditions they want as comic relief, allowing the judges to make mild comments like “he has a good sense of humor”. I guess now it’s up to the viewer to make any cutting comments.

in comparison, the format of The Voice is pretty harsh. You’re up there singing and no one even turns around. The ultimate cold shoulder. You’re the kid no one wants to pick to be on their team. Ouch. But since it’s just a matter of passive inaction (not turning your chair around) and not a result of aggressive criticism, the judges on The Voice are insulated from appearing mean.

So yes, the Idol judges have no real bite and Simon was entertaining, but no, I don’t think it’s fair to say they’re putting everyone to sleep. Keith is amusing with his puns and singing of tv theme songs. Harry comes up with silly antics, sometimes teasing the contestants but in a gentle way. J Lo isn’t really there to be funny but we’re still interested in what she’s going to say. They’re doing the best they can in a situation where no famous performer is going to take the risk of calling people out in the manner of Simon Cowell. Well, no one other than Clay Aiken anyway. Maybe those tweets were Clay Aiken’s way of advertising himself as a potential reality show judge who’d be unafraid to say what he really thinks!


Bookend to Kelly

We’re looking for a bookend to Kelly Clarkson. Simon might have asked if that was supposed to mean someone wooden or inanimate. But we’re in a kinder, gentler era of Idol judges now. Well, sort of. I mean mocking some contestants as being undateable in J Lo’s phone app wasn’t nice, but let’s face it, we’re talking about J Lo and nobody here’s getting a date, lol.

What comes to mind when you think of Kelly Clarkson? I think of a big voice, but I also think of someone down to earth, humble and likeable. That’s who I think the show is looking for in terms of a bookend.

In past seasons, we often saw a few contestants who seemed very confident and they sometimes came across as abrasive. Some also came across as feeling entitled. In the second episode of this final season, we didn’t see anyone like this going through to Hollywood.

There were two girls who kept apologizing. One was self-deprecating and the other acted overly confident. Only one received a ticket to Hollywood. In this search for a bookend to Kelly, there will be no room for anyone who does not come across as down to earth, humble and likeable.



Nostalgia and Self-Loathing

The return of American Idol for its 15th and final season gave us a mix of nostalgia and self-loathing. It’s a fitting representation of the current mindset driving the show. They want to repeat their successes of the past, but don’t want to admit that they’re not the cool kid on the block, they are not cool at all.

We had returning idols interacting with the hopefuls. Taylor Hicks jamming, Ruben Studdard chatting. Harking back to the origins of the show, where the search for someone relatable was the name of the game. Contrast this with the awkwardness of Scott Borchetta. While STANDING NEXT TO last year’s winner, he states that this year they are not looking for another cookie cutter winner. Say what? Bet that made Nick Fradiani feel real good, huh?

Ok, let’s talk Nick Fradiani for a minute. Here was a guy who screamed pop/rock artist and yet at the end of the season, Borchetta started talking about how he saw him as a country artist. Why, you ask? Probably because he could then be plugged in as an opener for Borchetta’s Rascal Flatts. I think they are already setting the stage for a country winner this year. Probably the genre with the easiest path to success for an Idol winner. Speaking of country, isn’t it always funny how J Lo is always so clearly unfamiliar with the country songs? She seemed to be hearing Kacey Musgraves’ Follow Your Arrow for the very first time.

I’m not sure what J Lo meant when she said the contestant “sang like a heavy girl.” But I do know what she meant when she said “you liked me chunky” to the very large man. Ummmm…maybe that could have been edited out? And this ties in to how J Lo doesn’t really fit with this show. I like her very much as a personality and performer, don’t get me wrong. But J Lo is all about being cool, being fly, being hot. American Idol is none of those things and never has been. American Idol is about finding those Everyman and Everywoman contestants who are extremely relatable. The show was at its best when it embraced this identity. Idol is ending because they can’t accept that they are not hip and trendy.

This self-loathing was apparent with the appearance of Kanye and Kim. They are truly the anti-Idol. Not just the bleeped lyrics, but the fact that no one making the kind of music Kanye has had huge success with, will ever be on Idol, let alone win. So they ended their season opener highlighting that Idol has nothing whatsoever to do with the cutting edge of musical success today! Their self-loathing is what has hurt the franchise. Let’s hope that as they continue the season, they stop worrying about looking cool and get back to finding a relatable person who sings in a genre where they can have an easy path to success (ahem, country, cough, cough).