Posts Tagged Adam Lambert

What’s Wrong With ‘American Idol’? Maybe Its Viewers

Casey Abrams, American Idol, Smells Like Teen Spirit

Casey Abrams avoided an early exit when Idol judges saved him.

Ryan Seacrest hinted during the American Idol results show last night that there was a shocker on the way. And he was right. Haley Reinhart didn’t get sent home — wasn’t even in the Bottom Three. Shocking!

Who almost got sent home was Casey Abrams, the scruffy-breaded, sometimes wild-eyed growler. I’m not saying Casey could win, or should win. But an exit this early? Hardly just.

And the judges agreed, using their lone “save” to keep Casey in the competition.

Some of the water cooler talk surrounding Idol the last few seasons has been this basic question: “What’s wrong with American Idol?” I say, maybe it’s the people watching the show.

American Idol has developed a huge credibility problem over the last five seasons. An Idol winner hasn’t become a bonafide superstar since Carrie Underwood (Season 4). My theory goes like this. As the show got higher and higher ratings, voting by viewers became less instinctive at picking the next music superstar.

Taylor Hicks, American Idol, Season 5

Taylor Hicks

In other words, right about the time your grandma starting watching the show, we started getting winners like Taylor Hicks instead of Chris Daughtry. Oh, and I’m not blaming your grandma. ‘Cuz she’s awesome!

I’m blaming viewers? I’m a really saying this? Yep.

Have voters become extremely predictable, especially favoring guys over girls? I wrote about that last season Read it here — how around Top 12 Week we often see all-girl Bottom Threes. And right on schedule,  it happened again this year. Guys tend to find “supporters” quicker. And it’s clear that favoritism continues through the season.

Four out of the last five winners have been guys (Taylor Hicks, David Cook, Kris Allen, Lee DeWyze). Interestingly, the lone female Idol winner of the last five years, Jordin Sparks, has sold the most albums of those five winners.

So there ya go. It’s the voting. It’s clear viewers of this show prefer the Kris Allens over the Adam Lamberts. I think that explains why Casey Abrams nearly departed before his time.

Most of all, I miss the days when an Idol winner was someone who could be a superstar. When it come to winners, gimme more Kelly Clarksons. More Carries. Fewer Lee DeWyzes.

Greg Valentine
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Idol Thoughts — 05.26.10

Was the American Idol finale last night a sign of the diminishing returns to come?

Everything about Season 9 had a feel of “lesser-ness” about it. So I guess it’s not surprising the finale would go the same way.

Instead of last season’s kick ass finale teaming of Adam Lambert and KISS, last night we got one of those 60s variety show group-sings of “School’s Out” featuring the Top 12 in school uniforms and a crusty Alice Cooper. Not as cool.

Instead of the brilliant pairing of Idol winner Kris Allen and country superstar Keith Urban, last night’s eventual winner Lee DeWyze got stuck singing with the band Chicago. Lee’s from the Chicago area. Get it? Lame.

Instead of putting some thought into booking the show, it seems like they backed a truck up to the rock ‘n’ roll old-folks home and said, “Get on! We’re taking you to bingo!”

Hall and Oates. Joe Cocker. Bee Gees. Michael McDonald. I guess you can’t spell I-D-O-L without O-L-D.

Alright, so if it were up to me, I’d get a better generational mix of guests. Adam Lambert was scheduled to appear. But producers nixed his appearance after he missed his rehearsal time. For some strange reason, producers (and censors) would like to see what he’s got planned before putting him on-the-air. The “for some strange reason” is knowing sarcasm, in case that wasn’t clear.

My favorite moments last night? Crystal Bowersox performing “Ironic” with Alanis Morissette, which felt legit and relevant. Also Casey James doing “Every Rose Has A Thorn” in an emotional performance with Bret Michaels, who despite his recent health scares seems determined to not go quietly. Good for him. It was also cool seeing Janet Jackson (who’s gone natural with her new short haircut), who, despite having two microphones at one point, didn’t appear to be doing much live singing.

The tributes to Simon Cowell were entertaining, too. I’m sure some will say they were a bit overdone. But the fact is, Simon is, and has been, the show. His departure is a game-changer.

There’s a big question that needs to be asked today: Is Idol on a irreversible slide, destined to never regain the luster and pop culture focus it once had? Or will the culmination of a lackluster season be the inspiration for a rebirth and return to glory?

Right now, it’s hard to see how the later choice above would occur. The problems seem tied to the dismantling of the dysfunction family that was the judging panel: first adding the unnecessary Kara DioGuardi; then letting Paula Abdul get away; and now with Simon Cowell‘s departure.

Only time will tell. The same can be said of Season 9, the real test of which will come in the months and years ahead. Can Lee and Crystal sell music in comparable amounts to other Idol winners and high-profile runners-up? What about third-placer Casey? And will any others from this season’s Top 12 emerge from the pack to become successful recording artists?

Now, for the thing I wanted to put in the first paragraph–but wisely decided to stick with analysis of the entertainment last night instead of the following statistics.

There are a lot of people this morning under the false impression that Lee beat Crystal by two percent of the vote. Here’s what Ryan Seacrest actually said: “Coming into the vote last night, less than 2 percent separated the finalists.” Read those words carefully. What they actually say is that number (two percent) are the votes from every week BUT the finale. The two percent has nothing to do with the finale votes.

My gut tells me Lee beat Crystal by a margin much larger than two percent.

Once again, things seem to work out in the Idol-verse. Lee has a very recordable voice and will benefit more than Crystal from being “The Idol.” As for Crystal, she’ll have an easier time staying true her artistic vision as the runner-up. Both are in good spots. As always, it’s about what they do next with the opportunity they have.

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

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Idol Thoughts – 05.12.10

So, last night Michael Lynche was eliminated (again) on American Idol. Here’s a few thoughts this morning, to use Ryan Seacrest‘s careful wording from last night, “in no particular order.”

First off, those Seacrest words were kinda an important detail last night. If you missed them, you might’ve assumed Crystal Bowersox was in the Bottom Two. We really don’t know. The finalists were sent to safety (and the Top 3) one at a time, starting with Casey James, then Lee DeWyze, then Crystal Bowersox.

We don’t know who got the most votes. We don’t know who got the second least. All we know is Big Mike got the lowest amount. Some Idol fans might be frustrated by that. I’m not. In fact, I kinda like knowing that I don’t know. It adds an element of surprise to the two upcoming weeks.

This brings up another thought. Is a Lee-Crystal finale a done deal? They seem to have been the front-runners for a while now. Is there anything Casey can do next week to change that? I don’t know the answer to that. I’d be curious what others think.

I see two sides. On the one hand, yes, they’re the front-runners and it makes sense. Casey’s been in the Bottom Two a couple times. Lee and Crystal have never been. On the other hand, the last two seasons have had guy vs. guy finales, making it seem the block of females who simply vote for their favorite “cute guy” have taken over once and for all. (And c’mon, you know that block of voters exists. Don’t hate on me for pointing it out.)

And let’s not eliminate one other scenario. Casey delivers an amazing performance next week, and America responds with well-deserved votes, sending him into the finale. I honestly like all three. So whatever happens, I’ll be sad to see one leave, but happy for the other two.

Nevertheless (here comes another thought), I think I’m on board with the growing number of voices out there saying this is one of Idol‘s most boring seasons. No Paula Adbul. Simon Cowell seems like he’s already moved on mentally to his next show, the U.S. version of X Factor. And after a season featuring contestants with pipes and big-to-solid personalities (Adam Lambert, Kris Allen, Danny Gokey, Allison Iraheta), this season’s Top 12 are a bit dry.

But I think it’s too easy (and too “fashionable”) to say this is the most boring season. The fact is Crystal Bowersox is unlike any Idol contestant before, not unlike how Adam Lambert was in his way last year. In some previous seasons, the likes of Bo Bice and Diana DeGarmo made it into the finale. Heck, Taylor Hicks won the thing! I’d hope even the biggest Crystal hater would agree she’s more talented than the likes of them.

Another thought, what’s the real point of the “Judge’s Save?” Is it to give a performer another chance to win the show? I say no. I don’t think anyone who gets saved will ever win Idol. There’s some fundamental reason why people weren’t voting for that person that won’t go away just because the judge’s override America’s decision.

Clearly, the save is a ratings gimmick for the show, thought of in some brainstorming meeting as producers looked for ways to freshen the show as ratings began to dip. Whether it’s helping ratings remains to be seen. The one thing The Save does do is help a performers recording career. No doubt Michael Lynche will sell more music now then he would have if he’d gone home six weeks ago.

A couple other things we learned last night: winning American Idol doesn’t guarantee you’ll sound great my to ears six years later (Fantasia Barrino, who wowed me back-in-the-day, but not-so-much last night); Finishing fourth on Idol doesn’t mean you won’t go on to be the show’s third biggest-selling artist (Daughtry, my fave then…and now); And that Bon Jovi rocks. I guess that last one was never really in question.

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

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Idol Thoughts — 04.28.10

If Siobhan Magnus had the personality of Lacey Brown or Didi Benami, she would’ve been voted off American Idol weeks ago.

There, I said it. Somebody has to step up with a reality check.

In the blogiverse this morning, I’m seeing a lot use of the words “shocker” and “shocking” to describe last night’s ouster of Siobhan. Unexpected, yes. But hardly “shocking.”

If you were gonna make a wager, you probably would’ve felt safer saying it’d be Michael Lynche, Casey James or Aaron Kelly. But the here’s the deal. Siobhan’s performances have been uneven, self-indulgent, and have failed to show growth. These are all the ingredients that lead to someone getting voted off.

“Paint It Black” was Siobhan’s “Straight Up,” to compare her fate to this season’s Andrew Garcia. Her version of that Rolling Stones song was the shining moment that earned her the goodwill with voters that sailed her through the weeks that followed as she floundered.

In my opinion, “Paint It Black” also revealed the correct musical road for Siobhan, a road she seemingly didn’t want to travel. “Punky” and “rocker” is who she is a person. And that’s what she sounds the best doing. But for some reason, Siobhan sees herself as an R&B diva. I think. I’m a little unclear, because over the last several weeks, it’s been clear Siobhan herself is not clear who is she as a recording artist.

So, I’m OK with last night’s verdict. I won’t be joining the hysteria. This was not a “shocker.” It was just. Even so, Siobhan’s personality will be missed. She basically was the only finalist with one this season! She was an Adam Lambert “lightning bolt” in a cast of Kris Allen “nice guys.” Unfortunately, Siobhan didn’t have the vocal prowess or nuance of Lambert–or Allen. Or we’d be seeing her next week.

(Add unnecessary, self-indulgent, long scream to end blog here.)

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

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ldol Thoughts — 04.14.10

It seems like every time the judges on American Idol tell the contestants to “be an artist” and “take these old songs and make them contemporary,” the next night AI producers force the finalists to sing the cheesiest, Cheez Whiz medley imaginable.

We learned that again last night. But I’m guessing Elvis Presley wouldn’t have minded. He probably loved him some Cheez Whiz on those days when the provisions were running low for peanut butter and ‘nana sandwiches.

So, we found out the names of the two finalists heading home last night, in addition to learning that driving a Ford hybrid will actually lead to trees growing in the middle of city streets. Who knew? For that matter, who was the wicked genius that decided to call what’s basically another television commercial “the Ford Music Video?” Brilliant!

But I digress. Yes, it was two that had to leave, as result of “The Save” being enacted by the judges last week. And just minutes into the show, BANG! Andrew Garcia, you’re going home. Guess producers knew that viewers kinda sensed Andrew would be one of them–might as well get that out of way early.

They waited til the last minutes of the show to send Katie Stevens home. Katie was paired with Michael Lynche as they awaited news of their fates. We’re used to seeing them next each other as the “Bottom Two.” So for a moment, many people probably wondered if Big Mike had come up short in the voting again. He didn’t. Ryan Seacrest announced Big Mike wasn’t even in the Bottom Three this week.

Somebody lucked out last night. Because of the way the results were announced, nobody other than Andrew and Katie bears the stigma of being in the Bottom Three. We all have our best guesses who that third contestant might have been. But we don’t know for sure. So it’s a nice, clean slate for the remaining seven going into Idol Gives Back week, where the show may or may not eliminate another contestant. In 2007, they didn’t because of the charity nature of the week; but in 2008 they did.

Other than that, last night saw the welcome return of Adam Lambert to the Idol stage. Wearing a shiny silver suit jacket that The King himself would’ve worn, were it not for the pointy metallic studs, Lambert gave a smoke-and-laser performance of his hit, “Whataya Want From Me.”

And Season 7’s Brooke White returned for a duet with Nashville Star wannabe, underwear model and former Miley Cyrus boyfriend, Justin Gaston. They performed a version of Elvis’ inspirational tune, “If I Can Dream,” which is (apparently) available for free download on iTunes. Don’t all y’all run away from this blog at once to get that, lol.

Actually, I was wondering why none of the contestants performed “If I Can Dream.” Now I know. Too bad. Great song, well-suited for Siobhan Magnus‘ big voice. Even Katie Stevens could’ve done enough with the song to save her own butt this week. But hey, free download.

Those are my thoughts today. Yours?

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

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Idol Thoughts — 04.13.10

Tim Urban had the best performance of the night? Yes. And also in today’s blog, up is down, right is the new wrong, and we’re now encouraged to mix stripes and plaids.

It was Elvis Night on American Idol, and the contestants went last night where, well, Idol has gone several times before. Last season’s runner-up, Adam Lambert, was on hand, the first former AI contestant to mentor the finalists. Acknowledging to the contestants that he’s at the beginning of his own recording career, Lambert mainly focused on encouraging the contestants to make their performances more interesting both vocally and visually.

The case can made that Elvis Presley was America’s first idol. He was part rocker and part crooner, part rebel and part choir boy. Musically, there were a lot of flavors in the Elvis catalog to choose from–a little something for everyone. As usual, the finalists’ choices ranged from inspired to hackneyed.

Last  night’s performances ranked:

1) Tim Urban – “Can’t Help Falling In Love” – Yep. Tim’s breathy and tender acoustic take on this classic wasn’t perfect. But it was the performance most people will remember from last night. Tim’s tweaks were spot-on and he made the song feel “new.” Anyone who reads my stuff knows I haven’t been drinking the Tim Urban Kool-Aid. I’ve been pretty critical. That’s because I call it as I see it. Last night, what I saw was a guy with the most memorable and satisfying performance.

2) Lee DeWyze – “A Little Less Conversation” – I can’t help but say that I’ve always blamed this song for sending Chris Daughtry home prematurely because he performed this song that ill-fated week. Of course, Daughtry tried to play it straight up Elvis-style. Lee made it his own, giving one of his strongest, most confident performances.

3) Crystal Bowersox – “Saved” – Leave it to Crystal to stump me with her song choice. I thought I had a pretty good overview on Elvis tunes. But Crystal strayed from the hits most people have heard, and dove into his Gospel catalog for this one. It was something different and authentic from the woman who’s known for that. (Known for being different? That sorta makes anything “different” not different, yes?)

4) Michael Lynche – “In The Ghetto” – You had to think that this would work even before you watched him do it. And, it did. Nice, acoustic-driven interpretation of this classic, validating the judges decision to “save” Big Mike last week. Hey, maybe Crystal should’ve let Michael sing “Saved”!

5) Casey James – “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” – Another good vocal. But a missed opportunity. Felt similar to the blues rock he’s churned out in the past. This is one of those times I wish I could pick a song for a finalist. I would’ve suggested Casey do “True Love Travels On A Gravel Road,” a lesser-known Elvis nugget that Casey could’ve owned. But “Lawdy” was not interesting enough to make my iPod this week. I make a point to say that only because Casey performances the last two weeks have been showing up in shuffle.

6) Siobhan Magnus – “Suspicious Minds” – Loved her look again. Never a good thing when I mention looks before vocals. This was really two performances. The first half of the song stayed true to the original. It was okay, but she looked uncomfortable playing it straight. On a second listen, I realized I originally liked that part mainly because I love Elvis version. The second half of Siobhan’s split-personality performance had her slowing it down and pushing herself to some of those vocal histrionics we’ve heard in past weeks. This half actually worked better. But here’s the deal on Siobhan lately. She’s like a boxer who swings wildly and repeatedly, whose punches aren’t connecting.

7) Aaron Kelly – “Blue Suede Shoes” – Difficult week to be Aaron. He’s done so many ballads lately, he kinda had to go upbeat this week. But an Elvis ballad would’ve been the better choice (just ask Tim Urban). Aaron looked to me like he was in his high school’s production of “Grease.” And Aaron was shooting for Danny Zuko. But came up Kenickie.

8 ) Katie Stevens – “Baby, What You Want Me To Do” – After last week’s top-notch “Let It Be,” this uptempo, lesser-known Elvis song was the fall of the week. As a performer, Katie generally feels a little contrived–like every move had been carefully thought of in advance. I actually prefer her on the ballads, in part because she stays put. Overall, she hit some bad notes last night, and sounded to my ears a little weak-voiced.

9) Andrew Garcia – “Hound Dog” – Awful vocal. Horrible performance. I tried to listen a second time to verify my original reaction, and couldn’t even re-watch the whole thing. “You ain’t nothin’ but a…goin’ home tonight!”

So, thanks to “The Save” last week, tonight two will be packing their bags. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a complication–a “wildcard”–when it comes to predicting what’s going to happen. Predicting the one who’s the most likely to go is pretty easy (did it…see above). But that other is the harder one to nail.

Here what I’m feeling. The Bottom Three will be: Aaron Kelly, Katie Stevens, and Andrew Garcia. And heading off to Heartbreak Hotel: Katie Stevens, and Andrew Garcia.

Whatcha think about that?

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

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04.06.10 — Idol Thoughts

With 25 percent of the Top 12 gone, you’d think they could’ve taken care of business on American Idol last night in just 90 minutes. But nope. Two hours again.

I can’t help but notice they’ve been trying a bunch of new things on Idol this season. Kicking off the show last night from the control room. The backstage interviews with the contestant that just performed when the show returns from commercials. And a more casual exchange between Ryan Seacrest and the judges.

I welcome these tweaks. The show does feel looser and a little fresher. This is not a bad thing, considering the show’s nearing its tenth year. But these changes gave us a lot of filler last night. The guy whose been yelling loud from the audience all night? You’re bringing him up on stage and we get to see him? Oh, lucky us!!

So the theme was the Lennon/McCartney Songbook. The beauty of a night like this is the songs themselves. They’re some of the greatest written in the rock era. Beatles songs…at the very least, if you simply sing them as written, you have a decent chance of coming off good.

So, how did the Top 9 do? Here are my rankings of the performances:

1) Casey James – “Jealous Guy” – There’s always talk on Idol about having “a moment.” This was Casey’s. He connected with this John Lennon solo song in a way that was unmatched last night. Dressed in a white Bee Gees suit and black shirt, on acoustic guitar and accompanied by cello, Casey reached deep inside and brought out something believable and transcendent. Kudos on being the only contestant to pick a song from Lennon or McCartney’s solo material.

2) Crystal Bowersox – “Come Together” – Crystal operates on a whole ‘nother level. Her vocals are so strong, which was evident again last night. This time around, she seemed more infused with energy and had a little more fun then usual, accompanied by a guy on the didgeridoo.

3) Katie Stevens – “Let It Be” – Yes. Katie Stevens. That’s right, the same Katie Stevens that’s been in the Bottom Three the last couple weeks. She sounded great last night. Of course, the song was “Let It Be,” and she wisely stayed true to the original, while offering just the right amount of her own vocal stamp. Her best. So far.

4) Siobhan Magnus – “Across The Universe” – It’s a compliment to Siobhan that…I wanted to like this a little more than I did. She’s set the bar high for herself, with some of her previous performances and her personal style, and now I expect a lot from her. I think she made a good move restraining herself last night. No big scream. Yikes. That would’ve been a disaster on this quiet and beautiful song–which I like a little better each time I hear it. I’m looking forward to next week when Siobhan meets Adam Lambert, who’s mentoring. The rest of this season’s very “earnest” cast of contestants could learn something about “pizazz” from these two.

5) Lee DeWyze – “Hey Jude” – Wow. For me, this was a step backwards for Lee. I’m a fan. But this came off as a little corny. And ironically, not because of the bagpipes. Lee took some heat from the judges for that. But that was the best thing about it! It’s interesting. Lee’s needed to come out of his shell. And last night he did. But once out, you have to know where you’re going. And I just didn’t but into the whole “sing-along” vibe he was putting out. I wish Lee had pulled a Casey James, and looked at the solo material. I think Lee could’ve slayed with something like Paul McCartney‘s “Maybe I’m Amazed.”

6) Andrew Garcia – “Can’t Buy Me Love” –  Simon called this performance “not relevant.” Maybe. But I’d rather listen to this one again then the ones listed below. And that’s why I’ve ranked Andrew’s swing take on this Beatles uptempo pop song here.

7) Micheal Lynche – Eleanor Rigby – So “Big Mike” made the boldest changes of the night to a song. I wasn’t a fan of this arrangement. But kudos on the commitment he made to it. And there wasn’t anything necessarily wrong with the vocal. It was what it was.

8 ) Tim Urban – “All My Loving” – Tim’s not going down without a fight. He changed up the song a little, and crooned his way through this. I think the song lost a little energy with the alterations; Tim could’ve probably performed this one as written–and better achieved his goal of “having fun.” The sneaky thing that happened last night is the judges all found ways to praise Tim. I can guarantee this is no accident. As he smiles through each flogging he gets from the panel, Tim has  become more and more of a martyr with voters. So now the judges are taking away the abuse. The idea being Tim will have to live or die on the merits of his performances. We’ll see how this plays out.

9) Aaron Kelly – “The Long And Winding Road” – It saddens me to list Aaron way down here. His is still one of my fave voices. But song choice, song choice, song choice! This was a bad idea. The arrangement was old-fashioned. I’m guessing it was old-fashioned even back when it first came out. His vocals didn’t carry the song. And again, thematically, a young guy singing about a long and winding road simply isn’t believable–nor true to his life experience. If I’d have been consulted, I would have steered Aaron in the direction of the Paul McCartney solo catalog.

This week’s a tough one to call. Nobody really screwed up last night. I say there’s four guys (yes, guys) who could land in the Bottom Three. In any normal universe, Tim Urban would be going home this week. But this is the Idol-verse. So here’s my prediction. The Bottom Three will be Aaron Kelly, Michael Lynche and Tim Urban. Tim gets sent to safety. And between Little Aaron and Big Mike, Michael Lynche goes home.

What do you think?

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

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