Like half of America, I have been suckered into this year’s American Idol. I was a very infrequent viewer up until last year, but got caught up in the show during 2006, as it had a nice variety of talent. This year I have kept watching the program, despite it having a very poorly constructed group of contestants.
While last season had the 2 best male voices in the history of the show, Chris Daughtry and Elliott Yamin, this year's "men" are a bunch of teeny-bopping eunuchs blathering their way through bad song after bad song. I can’t say that Kelli Pickler and Bucky Covington were good, but at least they brought some country feel to break up the Top 40 monotony. Katherine McPhee was inconsistent, but she did have some pipes, both inside and out, which made her appealing. Paris Bennett had a sweet appeal to her presentation and could really belt it out. Here’s a link to what I wrote about the show, last season.
This year the 2 front-runners are really good, but offer very little personality or sex appeal. LaKisha seems like a nice woman and has big voice, but I just don’t see her being anything but a footnote to the show, within a couple of years. Melinda is the clear favorite and does have a nice Gladys Knight/Dionne Warwick feel to her voice, but the aw-shucks style is starting to wear a bit thin. While Idol is still killing in the ratings, it has started sliding, which I think will continue until the last couple of weeks, as there is such little diversity in this year’s model.
The 3 most marketable people left on the show are Chris Sligh, Blake, and Jordin. Chris is the first contestant on the show I’ve seen who actually understands the show and has some self-realization of how ridiculous the whole spectacle is. I’m not sure he is a great singer, but he has a really unique personality, which should get him on VH-1’s Celebrity Fat Club. Blake has an okay voice, but the whole “beatboxing in every song” thing I can’t imagine will wear that well, after a couple more weeks. Jordin is my sleeper pick, as she is young, pretty, and has a lot of vocal style for a 17 year-old. If she had Haley’s body, this contest would be over.
Probably the most interesting thing left is to see how far Sanjaye will last. Looking like Bollywood’s Tiger Beat version of Leif Garrett , Sanjaya has become a cosmic joke to the show. The combination of Howard Stern and a website called votefortheworst.com have made him their pet project, imploring their fans to vote for him as many times as possible. Actually, as long as Sanjaya’s sister continues to show up, I will throw him a vote, myself.
Late last year I did a review of Taylor Hicks’ and Daughtry’s newest releases. In it, I mentioned that I was looking forward to hearing Elliott Yamin’s record, when it came out. Well, last week I picked it up and while it has its moments, Daughtry still is the best rookie release by an Idol contestant.
The biggest problems I have with Yamin’s new record is it is too ballad-heavy, and on most of the songs he seems to be singing over the tracks, instead of a more live feel which connects with the music. His first single, “Wait for You”, is in the R. Kelly vein. It is one of the best songs on his self-titled release, but I would have chosen for my lead single either “Movin’ On” or “Find a Way”, as they are 2 of the best funky jams of 2007. Both are definitely worth downloading. When Yamin is not overproduced and allowed to find his Donny Hathaway/Stevie Wonder groove, he really shines. His talent is truly missed on this year’s American Idol.
Oh and one last thing. Rockstar: INXS and Rockstar: Supernova have had far superior talent singing far superior songs. Simon Cowell is the one thing that these other talent shows do not have, but even his witty snark cannot overcome this season's lack of star power. I will TIVO my way through the rest of the season, as it's my duty as a tax-paying citizen, but I just don't see anyone from this season being a break-out star on the level of Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, or Chris Daughtry.