Wednesday, February 29, 2012

American Idol Elevenses

Dem Boys, Dem Boys

It used to be that you needed to have survived the early rounds of voting to prove yourself worthy of singing in front of an actual audience on American Idol. Not no more. Right out of the starting gate these “kids” are given the full monty of a big spot lit stage complete with screaming fans whose hands they are encouraged to touch like seasoned superstars at real concerts, a full band, an orchestra if necessary, and standing ovations from the judges.

Luckily, this year’s crop of boys were mostly up to the challenge. Clearly the producers have shied away from one of the things that made Idol such a guilty pleasure —watching the abject failures strut their stuff, both during the auditions and in front of millions of viewers at home. Nowadays we only get the good singers it seems, even if some are more good than others.

This makes things easier for the judges, who only seem to want to say nice things. I miss Simon’s unsentimental calling out of less worthy performances. What would he have made of Adam Brock’s campy “Think” last night? He would have said something about it reminding him of one of those ghastly weddings / hotels / cruises / cabarets featuring some flamboyantly gay chef who thinks he’s somebody because some drunks applauded his efforts on Karaoke Night. And he would have been spot-on.

What a total lack of balls on the part of the judges means is that we, the audience, are free to make up our own minds who to vote for unswayed by any professional opinion whatsoever. This is a dangerous thing, for it leaves the tweens in charge. If it was about the music, the singing and sheer talent, we have some clear front runners from the lads after last night:

Reed Grimm, Joshua Ledet, Colton Dixon, Phillip Phillips and Chase Likens.

For entertainment value I’m hoping Heejun Han makes it through, but only because I miss his awesome playing to the camera during auditions. It seems that now it’s all gotten “real,” Heejun is taking himself a bit too seriously.

Did anyone think the surprise addition was going to be anyone other than Jermaine Jones after all that emotional turmoil last week? Seems like a sweet guy, but he doesn’t have a chance of actually winning — along with the forgettable Deandre Brackensick, Jeremy Rosado, Aaron Marcellus, Chase Likens and Eben Franckewitz.

The youngsters are right to be shy sharing a stage with Ledet, whose rendition of Jennifer Hudson’s “You Pulled Me Through” clearly blew the lid off and set everyone on notice that a star is in the house. Mind you, if you’ve got the pipes, that song is easy to shine on.

Not so Likens’s attempt at “Storm Warning,” which was utterly lackluster (Hunter Hayes can only just pull it off himself), or poor young Franckewitz’s woeful “Setting Fire To The Rain,” which someone should have steered him away from: it’s far too big a song for a boy with that thin and high a voice.  A backdrop of fire does not a barnburner make. Likens may claim he’s country but who in contemporary country is he basing this on?

Folks are predictably divided on Phillips’s “In The Air Tonight” but something about it turned what is a dark and predatory song into something startlingly sexy. The challenge for him is going to be in versatility, showing he can do more than be the coffee shop guitar dude. 

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