Tuesday, May 15, 2012

American Idol: Last Call

Here are a few thoughts to roll around in your brain:

In a couple of weeks, Kelly Clarkson will have been an American Idol winner for 11 years.  Probably 100 one-hit wonders have come and gone in that time, but Kelly stands firm.  Not bad for a girl who won a singing competition. 

What interests me most about this process is that when she auditioned, she was only up against about 10,000 people.  Now, contestants have to beat off more than ten times that amount to get to the top.

I remember someone joking, years ago, that everyone in the top ten would get a record deal.  I don’t think that was really true the first year, but it’s getting pretty close to that now, as record labels get more and more desperate for their artists to scratch and kick their way to selling a million units.  James, who was ejected last year, said with some pride that his album had sold about 100,000 units.

Something to be proud of?  Maybe.  But the guy had a national platform.  Millions of people voted for him to keep singing.  And in the end, despite getting a nice placement in Wal-Mart (a store that sells more CDs than any other in the country, I’d wager) he only moved 100,000 copies.

That’s kind of sad.  Par for the course, probably, but still kind of sad.

It also demonstrates one of the problems with the show, in that it doesn’t produce all that many idols.  Perhaps five people with any sticking power at all, many of whom lost the competition.

Which I guess brings me back to this year.

We’re down to the final three, which is nice because it means in two weeks the show will be over and done with and I can resume not thinking about any of these people.  It’s not that I hate them.  I just don’t care all that much.

As I stated some time ago, there has been talk of the show coming to an end, and I made an assumption and it appears I was wrong.  Turns out Ryan is making 16 million dollars a year on the show, which, frankly, seems a lot higher than it needs to be.  Apparently, Jennifer Lopez gets the same.

To which I must say: It’s strange how popularity feeds popularity.  Lopez’s movie career was pretty much at a standstill and her music career wasn’t much to write home about either, and then suddenly she’s on Idol and her records are selling and she’s on the cover of People and she gets a new show and so on and so on and so on.

Good for her, I guess. 

At any rate, here are the last three people:

Jessica:  I might have said this before, but it’s really been hitting me harder the longer I watch the show.  Jessica isn’t an artist, she’s a human jukebox. 

There’s a comedian who does a bit where he sings Bohemian Rhapsody in the voices of 24 different singers.  (Or more.  Or less.  I can’t remember off the top of my head.)  That’s Jessica.  She’s not up there feeding her emotions into the crowd.  No.  She’s offering up nearly note-perfect renditions of big hit songs.  It’s impressive, even kind of amazing.  But it’s also karaoke, and it’s not going to help her when someone hands her a new song and says, “Here, sing this.”

When I was in college, one of my singing teachers told me he’d had a student who didn’t want to learn how to pronounce the various languages.  He just figured he’d have his voice teacher read it off, and he’d learn it phonetically, and only use those songs for performances.

That’s Jessica, too.

She’s young.  That may change.  But my suspicion is that if she wins, and I don’t think she will, her album will tank, because it would be technically impressive and also very boring.

Phillip:  I know that Phillip hasn’t been well, having heard he underwent surgery.  But I heard, recently, that he’s been holding off having more surgery while he tries to make it through the competition.  That’s impressive, but it’s also a little crazy. 

To that end, I think it becomes very difficult to judge the guy.  It’s like watching a baseball player who broke his leg running the bases.  Do you applaud because he made it to second?  Do you complain because he didn’t make it to home?

Without seeing him at his best, there’s just no way to know.

He’s been hassled for not singing the melody, but when you literally can’t get your breath under you, it’s hard to fault you for being flat.

What most interests me now is, if he gets to release an album, what will it sound like?  I truly want to know.  Of the three, I might consider buying what he puts out.  But I’m not clamoring for it.

Joshua:  Jimmy nailed my thinking in three areas.  One: He doesn’t know who is going to win.  Two: Joshua’s version of one of James Brown’s signature tunes was amazing.  Three: And he doesn’t know what songs Joshua would record if he wins.

I suspect this is what kills a lot of people who just wanna be singers. Much the way a writers loves to write, a lot of singers just want to sing.  They don’t care all that much what, though they might have a few avoids.

So we’ll pretend, for a second, that Joshua really wants to be an old-fashioned soul singer, ala James Brown.

How do you sell that?  Who do you sell that to?  Jimmy said “maybe we’ll just record that song,” and okay, sure, you can, but putting out a string of karaoke-style tunes isn’t going to do much for your intended audience.

No.  It just isn’t.

So then what?

I dunno. I don’t have to sell the guy.  I think if they were smart, they’d let him be the next Reverend Al Green, and hope that his people find him.

In the end, I agree with Jimmy.  Any of these three could take it.  Phillip was in the bottom two last week, with Jessica already getting a save, and her and Joshua being so similar, I suspect Jessica is gone this week. 

Or perhaps I’m wrong.

As for the winner?  I’m going to give that to Joshua as well, only because I thought Phillip would have been gone long ago.

Best of luck, you silly little trio.  Hope you enjoy your upcoming obscurity…

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