American Idol Is Scott Borchetta Picking the Winner?

What happened to America’s vote? This week we went from a Top 10 to a Top 8. I hate the double elimination. Contestants leave too quickly and we don’t get enough chances to hear them sing. I REALLY HATE that the vote is no longer in the control of the viewers. Here are your bottom three, but the judges/producers get to decide which ones actually leave. What?!! Why?!! Why? Because this season of American Idol seems like it’s the let’s pay Scott Borchetta back for his support of this show and let him select who he wants to sign to his record label. I really think Idol is ending this year not because of low ratings, but because there are no record labels who want to be forced to sign whoever the viewers pick. It’s been a losing proposition for the record labels the past few seasons, hasn’t it?

As I suspected, Avalon and Olivia were vulnerable this week. But the producers knew exactly who was in the bottom 3 right after the vote, so they had all week to decide who they wanted to stay and who they wanted to leave. They influence the contestants’ choice of songs accordingly. I read that Olivia Rox wanted to sing the emotional ballad Killing Me Softly, but was encouraged to sing something upbeat. Then when the judges are “deciding” who to keep, they criticize Olivia for not singing something with emotional lyrics. Do you see what they did there? C’mon, it’s not like the judges are really deciding right then. For whatever reason, they didn’t want Olivia to continue, so they took the opportunity to get her out of the competition. I don’t believe they want Avalon either, but they must have thought this might be their only chance to get Olivia out of the way – remember, they can see the vote totals so they have an idea of how things will be going. I think Olivia and Avalon are both great and these are just my opinions of how the show works. What do you think? Do you agree?

This week, I bet the show would most like to see Lee and Avalon leave. I think the Bottom Three will be Lee, Avalon and Sonika. Hmmm…what would be a theme that would disadvantage the two singers who are most comfortable singing current hits (i.e., Lee and Avalon)? Maybe this week’s theme: The American Idol Songbook – the most performed songs in Idol history. Yep, it sounds like it would hurt Lee and Avalon and favor Sonika, doesn’t it?  Of course since Avalon sang for her life so well last week, it’s also possible that she got enough votes to avoid Bottom Three. Dalton had an off week and if he happens to end up in the bottom, say bye-bye to whoever is standing next to him, cause he’s not going anywhere.

I’m not excited by this week’s theme and hearing songs we’ve heard a zillion times, but at least it’s a theme. In the earlier seasons, most of the really unique cover versions of songs were a result of the contestant having to fit into one of the themes (for example, what will the rocker sing on r&b night?). Now it seems to be change up the song just for the sake of changing up the song, J Lo always asking for the contestants to “wow” them. I liked when the contestants had to use strategy to pick the right song that fit the theme and best showcased their talents. Now it seems the strategy is all on the part of the producers and Scott Borchetta, in their efforts to get their choice signed to his record label.

 

 

 

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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).