Friday, March 13, 2015

American Idol: Season 14 Arrives

I’ve told the story before, but I only started watching American Idol when of my wife’s co-workers tried to get on the show.
The irony was, he made it to the judges… but didn’t appear on TV. 
Mostly, at the time, this led me to two comments – 1) why show all those terrible auditions and NOT show his?  Isn’t that cruel?  2) So, are we done?
My wife stated that, no, now she was curious to see how it played out, and I spent most of the season stating that, essentially, I liked a lot of the performers, but I was never going to be their record.
This has proved to be mostly true.  Over the course of the last few seasons, I’ve bought both of Phillip Phillips releases, the second of which I should review here at some point, and a Kelly Clarkson Best Of that mostly taught me that even over the course of a bunch of records, she only released maybe four songs I actually want to hear more than once or twice.
I mean, nothing against her.  She seems nice.  But, I’m just not digging her scene.
(Oh, and here’s the capsule review of Phillips’ second record – it’s more consistent than his first, and the better record overall.  But there were exactly zero THIS IS A HIT songs on it, and I’m not surprised it vanished from the charts pretty quickly.)
At any rate, we’re three years away from Phillip x2 now, and the last two Idol records tanked.  People who lost the competition in the past came out and sold two and three and four times as many records as the actual winners of the last two years.
Oddly, Randy Jackson, who gave worthless advice and platitudes every year I watched him, correctly nailed the issue with those two records – it’s ALL about the songs.
With that in mind, I find myself watching the current season and thinking what I’ve BEEN thinking the last few years:
My favorites will eventually be swept away.
The person with the best voice will probably win.
And then make a record I don’t care about at all.  Even the tiniest bit.
I mean, let’s talk about last year for a second, wherein Alex made it almost all the way to the top.  And then got knocked out, which is fine.  I get that.
Idol didn’t release most of his performances.  And there were some very good ones that didn’t come out, and could have at least made for a fun collection.
And over a year later, he hasn’t released his own record.
And I ask: What is stopping him?
He’s got a lot of Idol money sitting around.  And he’s got YouTube.  The man doesn’t need a label, and after the sales of the last few Idol winners, no label is coming for him.  He could have a record out now.  Nothing is preventing it.
Instead, his web site is dead, and his YouTube channel has… a cover he released two months ago.
I think I’m more down on this year because I’ve come to realize that even if these guys can sing, it doesn’t mean anything for their career.  What they need are songs.  And those songs have to be something I actually want to buy.
They have made some wise choices for the competition.  A lot of the episodes this year were an hour instead of two, and I got SO much of my life back.
Plus I didn’t have to listen to the judges yapping.  That was GREAT.  They seem like they’re probably decent people, but when has anything any one of them has ever said actually made a singer better?  Or won them more votes?
So let’s crunch the show back down to an hour soon, shall we?
All that said, here’s how I suspect the show will shake out.  As always, my top five will be wildly wrong, but everything below that should come out within one or two steps.
Here we go, from bottom to top:
Quentin Alexander
The bad news is, I think Quentin might produce the most interesting record, if he ever got near a studio.  And he has a look, which means something.
The problem is, he just isn’t connecting with the audience in any way.   He might be able to fix that, but I don’t think he’s going to have enough time to make it happen.  He’s another guy who could really use a YouTube boost.
Adanna Duru
I’ll admit it, I think she’s got a great voice.  But she has pitch issues, which is death, and honestly something about the way she looks into the camera makes me uncomfortable.   No one else has mentioned it, so maybe it’s just me.
Daniel Seavey
This kid.  He’s super talented.  He is.  But he has no stage presence, and even though Tyanna is only about a year older than he is, he looks like he’s performing at a high school talent show and she owns the stage.
Rayvon Owen
This guy… I love his voice.  I do.  And he’s clearly worked a stage before.  Also: Check out his name on YouTube and pull up his song Sweatshirt, which is adorable.
He’s going to lose, because he’s just a wonderful old-school balladeer.  But I hope this gives him the push to get himself a full-time singing gig.
Maddie Walker
I admit it, I’m just not much of a country guy, and nothing she’s done blows me away.  I suspect the country contingent will pull for her (they put TWO country people at the top the year Scotty won, after all) but I don’t see her lasting forever.
Nick Fradiani
This guy.  I’m tired of people talking about how old he is already.  He gives good performance.  But I’m still waiting for him to just go out there and SLAY a song.  Instead, he’s onstage being the worlds most handsome street performer.
It’ll catch up to him, because there are other people who also do that, and DO kill their vocals.
Joey Cook
Too quirky to last, she’ll almost certainly drop out before this.  She’s Casey all over again, really.  But I’m enjoying her work, and even if she isn’t the one creating her arrangements, she’s been smart enough to be HERSELF so far, instead of doing something straight.
I applaud that.  And I’d totally think about buying her record…
Qaasim Middleton
What a nice kid.  Amazing dancer.  Great performer.  I am not yet convinced he can sing. 
Oy.  This could be troubling, actually, as up until now she did oddball little covers that emphasized a certain SOMETHING in her voice that clearly worked.
And then last night she sang and that tone was gone.
So does she fake the tone?  Or did she fake NOT having the tone?
Either way, she showed that she can, in fact, be boring and do karaoke way too early in the season.  So she could be a “surprise” elimination.
If it prevents her from doing more of what she did last night, I’d be fine with that.
Clark Beckham
This guy.  Remember when he auditioned, and he was good but kind of boring?  Who gave him performance lessons?  I can’t think of any time I was this shocked to watch someone come out and just nail his songs.
Tyanna Jones
She’s got winner written all over her.  She’s got the voice.  She’s got the moves.  At some point in this competition, she will whip out a gospel song and make a bunch of people cry.
Then she’ll release a record with no hit songs on a country label, and that will be the last we hear of her…
And so it goes.

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