In honor of the start of American Idol season, (like hunting, but without the
bloodshed violence shellshock orange vests license), The Inky Jukebox would like to draw your attention to some of the success stories that have emerged from this otherwise hideous exercise in entertainment mean-spirited voyeurism. True, in recent years the “winners” have consisted of average dudes whose names escape me and who, after their closing performance of the obligatory victory song du jour have never been heard from again. There was the dude who beat out Adam Lambert, for instance. Was it even a dude? Can’t recall. And the one the year before that, and last year’s one. The last time an obvious frontrunner actually won the thing it was back when voter fatigue and apathy was in its nascent, haunting youth: technology has made the ability to vote a hundred zillion times pointless. It used to be that when Ryan Seacrest announced the number of votes someone got, it drew gasps, because, like, wow—that many people watched the show and cared about the outcome?
Let's begin with hands-down the best Idol winning performance bar none. It don't get better than this. What a classy outfit. Oh, and at the time, she couldn't read. WTF!!!!
So it is that this year’s run opens with a good measure of even more virulent cynicism than before, especially now that the exceptionally prescient Simon Cowell is gone, leaving the judge’s table manned by a carwreck in the form of Mrs. Jenny Lo, Steven Tyler (mad as all-get-out) and Randy “The Dog” Jackson. So far, after the first two audition shows, I say new life has been breathed into it. I do not pretend to be anything other than a pathetic sucker for the show; I love watching the terrible auditions, get all caught-out by the red-herring focus on good-seeming but unlikely candidates (I too cheer them on despite their patently obvious unsuitability for the kind of fame being a contestant brings).
Ignore the sparkles. It's a singing contest, y'all.
Every time he came onstage, he came onstage.
I watch to catch the unexpectedly awesome performance that every so often crops up and restores my faith in highly-staged TV talent contests. (OK: this one of the only one I have ever seen.) These bright lights remain in the memory long after the drivel of an entire season has dissolved back into the dust from whence it came.
This is a masterclass in how to make a memorable exit. I couldn't do this at 17, could you?
Were there any good Idol winners? Sure: Kelly Clarkson. Carrie Underwood. Even Fantasia Barrino before she sort of imploded. Far more numerous have been the almost-rans: Chris Daughtry and Jennifer Hudson are obvious examples, but let’s not forget that Adam Lambert, who seems to be on tour permanently, and a whole slew of AI alumni who have found a home in country music: Kellie Pickler, Danny Gokey, Bucky Covington, Bo Bice, even Josh Gracin.
Up until this point the sly Carrie Underwood pulled the wool over our eyes with her Oklahoma farm girl schtick. Like this. Then this came out. It was the closest indication to the power diva she immediately became.
Here are some of those performances. Enjoy.
He kicked it every single time. Then, this:
Kellie Pickler. The girl is as backwoods barbie as you can get but Lordy, can she sing her ass off and command a stage! She's made herself a heck of a career in Nashville, and this was one of the early indicators why. (Watch till the end.)
And finally, the BEST SINGER THAT HAS EVER BEEN ON THE SHOW. The audition was the tip of Jennifer Hudson's incredible iceberg of glory. And you know what? She did, in fact, sing her behind off as predicted. Have you seen girlfriend nowadays? Weight-Watchers, aloha!
Kelly Clarkson setting the bar back in Season One.
Danny Gokey "I Will Not Say Goodbye" (I know he was one of the plain dudes, but listen at the end: this guy can sing!)
Clay Aiken: Had to pick this clip because it is the most genuine example of nerve-rattling puppy love you are ever likely to see! "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me." Also, it reminds me that Clay was SOOOO Broadway. How come we couldn't see that?
Bo Bice: "I Don't Wanna Be." The most overused song on Idol: the best version of it. Everything Bo picked was a great song. His new single is actually quite good. Like everything else, it's on Country radio.
Elliot Yamin: "Song For You." The best song in the world, he hits it! All these years later you forget how good Elliot was.
Finally, my favorite American Idol commentator is this guy, Joe Crisco, who goes by the name of HotelAngel. I've been following him for years. He is entertaining, even when he's not talking about Idol.