Top 9 Week: End Of An Era

Well, it’s official. For one year, at least, we will not have a WGWG winner. At the rate things are going, we may not have a guy, period, left for much longer.

It’s clear that Idol wanted a girl winner. That’s fine. But the lengths they went to to get a female winner… that’s another thing entirely. It may well have been the proverbial equivalent of burning the village to save it.

Let’s do it from worst to best. I said last week that Lazaro was getting ahead due to backstory than singing – and his version of In My Life proved it. Just look at what’s below Lazaro in the all-time list of Beatles performances. Those are some classics in the Idol Hall of Shame. He should have gone home. People of America – if you really care for Lazaro, don’t vote for him. He’s made the tour, and the longer he lasts, the worse it will get. This is like asking someone to race across America in a car that belongs in a junkyard.

Poor Paul. The Idol bus was really out to get him – and rolled over him again and again. It may well have been safe and forgettable, but there have been a lot of songs like that this year. It was karaoke, but not outrageously bad karaoke.

Burnell is not awful, but inexperienced. His song this week had the seed of a great performance, but it needed a lot of work. Yes, it was heartfelt, but vocally it was too rough to be good.  The positives? Overall, he’s the best of the three guys left. Not saying much, but there you go. 

What was completely karaoke was Devin’s Long and Winding Road. Wait, the song was an appropriate choice – because that was what it felt like. He sings decently enough, but he keeps bringing zero excitement to what he sings. He’s basically the male. slightly less competent version of…

Amber. Vocally, she was excellent. No one has any doubts about her ability to sing. But her ability to actually show emotion – yeah, we have a problem. It’s like she’s the Amazing Singing Robot – yes, all the notes and the runs are in the right place. But the emotions, the depth of feeling? Non-existent. Singing is about so much more than notes – and will only get you so far.

What happens when you get a frontrunner who forgets her specialty? You get Angie Miller. Vocally, this was a good performance from Angie. Yes, she connected with the song. And yet… it didn’t seem all that natural or comfortable. She’s kind of lost her way, hasn’t she? It’s like she’s not quite sure how to compete with everyone else. She’s good enough to be in for a while, but the Good Ship Miller needs to be righted otherwise the real frontrunners will run away with the show.

Surprise of the week: Janelle. It had me wondering: where did this come from – and in a good way. I didn’t think it was possible to countrify a Beatles song this much and work. The vocals were not perfect, but the arrangement brought out the best in her. Is it sustainable? I’m not sold yet, but it was good enough to keep her out of the bottom three.

That brings me to the top two: Kree and Candice. Kree’s great at putting her own stamp on songs, even if they’re not too overtly changed up from the original. Even when she’s singing, there is such a degree of nuance and effortlessness in her voice that makes you wonder: how did she do that? The one thing she next has to figure out is: how to blow audiences away. Her style doesn’t lend itself to the big, glory-note moments that Idol fans love. Still, there’s plenty of time – and she’s got a fantastic base to build on.

Candice is the opposite. There is very much an in-your-face, this-is-what-I-can-do aspect to everything she does. This  week showed that she’s just not limited to the ballads; she can go for more uptempo material as well. I don’t think it was as good as her previous songs, but that’s a pretty high barrier to cross.

Overall, it was a decent-to-good show. The song choices and arrangements were not as horrific as they were last week, and overall the show was not the two hours of tedium it was last week.

What about Paul’s boot itself? Well, the busing aside, he was doomed anyway. This early, you need to be either singing well or have something in your personal life/backstory to survive. Paul had… neither. The best he had was this vague vision of himself as the male Taylor Swift or Carrie Underwood. This vision, by the way, was never reflected in his song choices. He was the very definition of Idol filler and/or fodder.

So far, this season is turning out to be a very predictable one. Unless things change in a major way, the top three will be: Candice, Kree, and Angie. The Idol PTB may well get their female winner. But at what cost? This is why I’ve always maintained that it’s the quality of the midcard – the contestants who aren’t quite contenders, but not filler – who make or break seasons. And what do we have this year?

It’s a shockingly weak midcard. Burnell is maybe there, but it’s arguable. Amber’s midcard, but boy, she’s a weak one. There have been plenty of good-singer-but-no-emotion types on Idol, and Amber is not a particularly good one in that category. Angie is either a weak frontrunner or an exceptionally strong midcard – right now I’m inclined to put her in the former category, but she needs to change course.

Why does this impact the show so badly? Consider next week’s show. Let’s assume that Candice, Kree, and Angie all do well, again (not a safe assumption in the long-term: even great contestants have off weeks). The rest of the show is… a crapshoot. The midcard, unlike previous years, has a spectacularly hard time surprising us with good performances. Their track record involves predictable/overdone song choices (not entirely their fault), inability to connect to songs, and no ability to command a stage. In short: Idol watching becomes a chore, not entertainment.

By contrast, let’s look at last year. This is exactly what I said about the top nine show then:

Overall, though, it was as good an Idol episode as you’re ever going to get. Whole Lotta Love is going to be mentioned in future lists of “best Idol performances of all-time”. Even the “mistakes” were about song choice rather than bad singing. This year’s crop of contestants have an excellent idea of what kind of artists they are and want to be; given the opportunity to do so they are very capable of picking songs that play to their strengths.

Is this crop of contestants bringing the same kind of entertainment and excitement? Hell noIdol is always off to a slow start – the auditions stopped being entertaining years ago, and the Hollywood/Las Vegas rounds are mostly about drama. Unfortunately, that slow start is extending to the finals. How long will viewers have to wait for a good show?

One Response to “Top 9 Week: End Of An Era”

  1. Landon says:

    I remember being so excited for Idol last year…this year not so much. Idol really does run in 3s.