Idol Thoughts — 01.12.10

Seems to me, after this season, all American Idol winners will need to have an asterisk by their name. They didn’t have to face the judgment firing-squad of Simon Cowell.

The journey began last night to crown the last “real” American Idol, just one day after Simon announced that Season 9 would be his last.  The timing was not a coincidence. Might as well juice the ratings for this season (the first without Paula Abdul).

Last “real” American Idol? Okay, it might not be fair to dismiss future Kelly, Carrie and Krises like that. But there are big unknowns. What effect will Simon’s departure have on the show? Can it survive without him? Is American Idol the kind of franchise that will span the decades? Is it like the Tonight Show (56 years) or Saturday Night Live (35 years), able to continue and prosper even as it changes hosts and cast members? Or is this the beginning of the end for television’s number one show?

I have no doubt they’ll hire someone new and move forward without Simon next season. I have no idea how viewers will respond to that. But, hey, at least Idol’s not on NBC, whose current crop of execs have made a debacle out of the television institution that is the Tonight Show.

So, about last night. Auditions in Boston. Victoria Beckham guesting as “The Fourth Judge.” Beckham didn’t add much to the festivities, except to mix it up with Simon in a good ol’ fashioned duel of British accents. That’s probably why she got the call.

We know the formula for these audition shows. A whole lotta crazy and bad singing sandwiched between some talent and compelling back-stories. All of these were in play last night.

I’ve always said it’s hard to gauge too much from these auditions. After all, contestants come in with their best material, stuff they’ve practiced over-and-over. What separates the real talent is the ability to take on new material, rehearse it on a tight schedule, and sound great doing it. I defy anybody to re-watch last season’s auditions and declare, “Oh, yes! There’s the winner!” Only a few seconds of Kris Allen‘s audition aired, and none of his Hollywood Week solo performances made the cut.

But a here’s a few thoughts on some of the people who stuck out last night. Early on, 16-year old Maddy Curtis (Downs Syndrome brothers) nailed her audition, a mature-voiced version of Leonard Cohen‘s, “Hallelujah.” Unfortunately for Maddy, she wasn’t the best 16-year old female singer of the night. Enter Katie Stevens (with the Portugese grandmother) with the whole package–looks and personality, and unleashing a big voiced rendition of “At Last.”

Around the Idol water cooler this morning, people are probably mentioning “The Italian Dude,” Amadeo Diricco. Seems like a nice guy, great old-school Italian personality. Belted out some blues, brother. Fans of the show are going to like this guy. But I suspect there’s a wall. And if blues is his one trick, he gonna smack right into that wall. So here’s hoping he knows more than Muddy Waters songs.

Also notable were Tyler Grady (70s rocker looks, smooth vocals), Leah Laurenti (jazzy “Blue Skies”) and Justin Williams (NextGen Buble).

And finally, Ashley Rodriguez got major kudos from the judges. Great look, nice job on Alicia Keys‘, “If I Ain’t Got You.” Still, I wanted to hear more. So I did a search this morning. Turns out she’s got a bunch of stuff on YouTube. Search her stage name, “Ashley Makailah.” Here’s her version of a Sara Bareilles song called, “Gravity.” She’s the real deal. Definitely look for her to make the Top 12.

As always, I’m curious how you saw things. So lemme know your thoughts!

Greg Valentine
check me out on Twitter: http://twitter.com/gregvalentine

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